When spoken in the same sentence, the words “Eric Byrnes” and “bicycle” can still cause an involuntary eye twitch in Mariners fans of a certain age. For those fans, there was before 2010 and after 2010. Before, there was hope and trust in the Jack Zduriencik front office and after that fateful season there was nothing left but betrayal, hurt feelings, and nihilism (editor’s note: we’re still talking about baseball, right?).
For a season as disastrous as the 101-loss campaign of 2010, it’s impossible to point to just one moment as the thing that caused the train to derail. Oh no, there were many, many actions and non-actions along the way that made 2010 such a spectacular and fascinating failure. It would be unfair to pin it all on Eric Byrnes and yet, this moment persists in my memory.
I honestly would love to know if this event really registers for many Mariners fans these days. Looking back on it now, it seems rude to single it out. There have been so many failed signings by the Mariners of absolutely washed players looking to revive or extend their career a bit. We witnessed a ungodly amount of failure in the last decade, but Byrnes failed so spectacularly in this moment (after playing poorly in limited innings throughout April 2010 and rocking a .094 batting average) that he pulled the “You can’t fire me, I quit!” move and famously rode a bicycle out of the clubhouse without talking to the media, coaching staff, or Zduriencik and then played in one (1) more game before being released by the Mariners. He never played played for another MLB team.
I honestly think MLB has purposefully buried the video of the failed bunt because I cannot find it anywhere. The official highlight on MLB’s site does not actually play. If this is out of respect for Ichiro, who was out by a mile and a half, then good for you, MLB. Thankfully(?), I found this video shot by Brian Larsen, who I believe used to comment here, and bless his heart for captruing this moment (and several others from the game) in slow motion and posting it on YouTube. Behold, y’all, the beginning of the end of Eric Byrnes’s baseball career.
Listen, I know I’m being pretty harsh here and it’s not really his fault it ended like this. I mean, it’s definitely his fault for not making contact with the pitch, even though it was fairly outside. But, Eric Brynes should not have even been there in the first place. This was a team that was TRYING to win. This game was Cliff Lee’s Mariners debut after missing the first month of the season due to an abdominal strain. The team was 11-11. They’d survived the first month and now it was time to let it rip and win some games. Lee pitched a 3-hit gem that night through 7 shutout innings with 8 strikeouts. All the Mariners had to do was score some runs and the pitching and defense would speak for itself. Of course, scoring runs would prove to be extremely difficult for the 2010 squad, who finished the season with 513 runs scored, the lowest total for an AL team since 1973.
So, yes, it’s unfair of me to be so fixated on one instance of failure by a player that had absolutely no business even being there. Our own John Trupin further detailed Jack Zduriencik’s cascading failures that led to his firing in 2015 here, but suffice to say, the sucking chest wounds of negativity and dysfunction that were created during his time in the front office have taken years and years to even partially dissipate. Given that they were compounded on the previous 3 plus decades of failures and dysfunctions, it’s no surprise why there is still so much general negativity about the Mariners and their future chances.
Sure, I was mad as hell when it happened. I was there for it, enjoying Cliff Lee’s debut, hand-wringing over the offense’s struggles, and then screamed many a profanity when the sacrifice bunt was botched and Ichiro was hung out to dry. It’s honestly embarrassing how mad I was in that moment. It was the last time except for maybe the Night Court game that I got that viscerally upset at a Mariners game. Looking back on it now, I can only laugh at the absurdity of it all. At how silly we were to think that lineup could win games. At how insane it was that Eric Brynes was even on the team as a bench player. At how that was only the beginning of one of the least enjoyable decades of baseball by the Seattle Mariners.
It’s not too outlandish to say that the 2010 team fundamentally changed the Mariners blogging community. A lot of folks never really got over it, and I guess I’m one of them in some ways.
Here’s to hope for better days of baseball ahead. If you’ve stuck around this long, you might as well keep going, right? Happy New Year, LLers.