I had the dream again last night. It always ends the same way. I bolt awake in a cold sweat, eyes wide but unseeing, my legs kicking out with fury, and I scream, “Nooooooo!”
“Shhhh, shhhh,” my wife consoles me. “It’s just a dream, a bad dream. It’ll be okay, promise.”
I wish it were so easy.
But this is a dream from which I cannot wake. I’m haunted by the same visions, day after day. It got worse yesterday.
First at-bat against Stephen Strasberg, Marlon Byrd — the consummate singles hitter — launches an opposite field double into the gap between center and right. He chugs into second base, smiling, looking fit, looking like a major leaguer.
In his second at-bat, Byrd notches another base hit.
That’s when reality morphs with dreaming, for next I see Terry Collins dab the corner of his eye with an index finger. He is wiping away a tear. Three words scroll across Terry’s skull like the bright neon feed at Times Square:
PROVEN VETERAN LEADERSHIP!
And later, in his office, that’s the conversation that plays in my imagination. Terry with a big smile, shaking his head in wonderment at the Mets good fortune, “I’ll tell ya what,” he says to a gathered group of reporters, “you’re looking at a guy who can make a huge difference. We might have found ourselves a right fielder.”
Or was that real?
Because the frightening part is this: Terry is falling in love. I know this guy, I know his vulnerabilities. Marlon Byrd is exactly the kind of player who — zing! — zips an arrow through Terry’s aorta. Birds sing, cherubs flutter, harps play.
Like a father watching helplessly as his teenage daughter rides off on the back of some ex-con’s Harley, I want to cry out, “He’s no good for you, Terry. He’s no good!”
For a while, like so many relationships, things look swell in the beginning. Marlon hits .320 over the first few weeks in April. He strokes a few clutch hits, bounces a walk-off grounder through the hole, gets his face filled with pie on SNY.
Then it all turns sour. Why? Because water will always find it’s level. Because you can’t turn dross into gold. Because Marlon Byrd sucks.
Across enough games the BABIP will even out. That extra juice that comes during an old player’s last chance — putting that bounce in Marlon’s step — it will all dry up. He’ll return to being Marlon Byrd. A single here and there, just enough to keep the numbers almost respectable, but little else. He’s not going to help the Mets win. And he’s surely not going to contribute in any way to the team’s success in 2014.
I don’t want to see the Mets give this guy 400 ABs before coming to that realization. Because those ABs are an investment not to be squandered.
It would be like playing Justin Turner at 2B while Flores and Valdespin watch from the bench.
In 153 PAs in 2012, Marlon Byrd got 3 XBH for a slash line of .210/.243/.245. If we are looking for a replacement for Jason Bay, this is the guy.
He did this while taking performance-enhancing drugs.
Some will say:
“But he was an All-Star in 2010!”
“But he slugged above .450 three seasons in a row in Texas!”
“But . . . PROVEN VETERAN LEADERSHIP!”
Okay, maybe he’ll be okay-enough for six weeks. I’ll concede that. But it’s still a waste of time, because Marlon Byrd gives us nothing as the Mets move into the future. He’s not a kid establishing value in the marketplace, he’s not a guy who might turn into something. He’s Marlon Byrd, hanging on. He’s that saddest thing of all: a corner outfielder without pop. And then his curled, tired fingers will lose their grip and he will plummet to the ground like Wile E. Coyote. Poof. A cloud of dust. It won’t be pretty.