Josh: "Sir, if the House successfully overrides the veto, we're gonna look weak."
President Bartlett: "If the House successfully overrides the veto, we ARE weak."
---"On the Day Before", The West Wing
For whatever reason, the above quote always leaps to mind when i hear people talking about Marlon Byrd.
I'm tired of Marlon Byrd. He's a 36-year old outfielder with a career slash line of .276/.335/.424 and an IPED rap sheet. And, yet, one of the current narratives permeating Reds Nation is that the failure to claim him off of waivers from the New York Mets will sink the season.
There are some who think the Reds should have claimed Byrd and paid the cost to acquire his services. There are others who think the Reds should have claimed Byrd just to prevent the Pirates from getting him.
The problem with the former is that the Reds may have lacked the assets, and the willpower, necessary to get it done. The problem with the latter is that it's damn hard to do.
Whether you can chalk it up to Dusty's loyalty to his guys, the organization's concern over upsetting locker-room chemistry, or maybe Walt being concerned that Byrd's late-career resurgence and power spike are due to something other than just clean living, the plain fact of the matter is that the organization simply didn't have any interest in Byrd. It's impossible to know why. This is a situation where the front office may be basing its decision on information that people outside the organization simply don't have. Or, maybe, like me, they just aren't that high on him.
As for claiming Byrd just to block him from the Pirates, that's not as easy as it sounds. It's common practice for teams to place the vast majority of their players on revocable waivers after the trade deadline. If a player of value is claimed, then the team simply pulls them back off waivers. So, there are a LOT of players on waivers, which makes the task of deciding which players to try to block a challenge. If you choose wrong, then you could get stuck with a player (or two) that you really don't want. That happened recently with the Giants and Cody Ross and more famously with the Padres and Randy Myers. It's obviously more damaging if the claimed player has a large contract, but even if the monetary hit is minor the team still has to clear up a roster spot for him. And, if you are trying to block multiple players, then you might end up needing to clear multiple roster spots.
Here's what MLB.com had to say about Waiver Trading:
Do teams often put in waiver claims simply to "block" a trade?
Once in a while it happens, but not very often. There is a risk involved, especially if the player trying to go through waivers has a large contract. By claiming a player, a team could prevent that player from being traded to a division rival. Of course, if a team claims a player and that player isn't pulled back by the team that requested waivers, the claiming team could get that player, contract and all.
An example of that happened in 1998, when Toronto was attempting to deal former All-Star closer Randy Myers late in the year to Atlanta. The Padres, in the midst of a pennant race, put in a waiver claim for the veteran left-hander to block him from being traded to the Braves. The Blue Jays let Myers go to the Padres rather than pull him back from the waiver process. Myers appeared in just 14 1/3 innings for the Padres, going 1-3 with no saves, and he did not pitch after the '98 season, leaving San Diego on the hook for the balance of his $13.6 million salary for 1999-2000.
From what I know of the waiver wire process, it just seems too messy for the type of blocking transaction that the fan base desperately wanted to see. If the Reds didn't actually want Byrd, then I find it difficult to fault them for not blocking the Pirates from getting him.
Or, maybe when Reds fans continue to argue that Marlon Byrd will be the difference-maker in the Reds and Pirates postseason showdown, I can't help but think that if we are too weak to bring down the Pirates because of our multi-layered Marlon Byrd "failure", then we were simply too weak to begin with.***
***Post-script -- I now fully expect Marlon Byrd to play an integral part in the Reds postseason demise, causing me to eat crow. It's cosmic. It's karmic. It's inevitable. Apologies.