Eric James Byrnes
(Crash Test Dummy, Pigpen or Captain America)
- Bats Right, Throws Right
- Height 6' 2", Weight 205 lb.
- School University of California, Los Angeles
- High School St. Francis High School (Mountain View)
- Debut August 22, 2000
- Final Game May 2, 2010
- Born February 16, 1976 in Redwood City, CA USA
Outfielder Eric Byrnes got the nickname "Captain America" while playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic for his throwback style of play. He was Dominican League MVP in 2001-2002; no American would win until Tyler White. An outstanding campaign with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2007 earned him a large four-year contract, but, bothered by a series of injuries, he failed to repeat his production. Before that, he was a center fielder with a knack for making spectacular plays and who had some power. He hit 20 home runs and 39 doubles for the Oakland Athletics in 2004, then almost washed out of the major leagues in 2005 when he played for three teams and only hit .226. He had a resurgence in 2006, hitting 26 home runs for Arizona, then had his career year the next year, when he hit .286 with 21 home runs and 83 RBI, while stealing a career-high 50 bases. The D-Backs won the NL West title that season and Byrnes signed his big contract during the course of the year.
Byrnes only played in 52 games in 2008, hitting .209. In 2009, he played 84 games, but only hit .226. These low averages were especially problematic as Byrnes had never been one to draw many walks, and even in his best hitting years, had an on-base percentage barely at league average.
Arizona released Byrnes after the 2009 season, eating up the remainder of his contract. The Seattle Mariners took a chance on him in January 2010, as they only had to pay the minimum salary to sign him, with Arizona assuming the remainder of his contract. His stay in Seattle was not a happy one, however. He went 3 for 32 (.094) over the first month of the season. On April 30, he was at the center of a controversial play in extra innings against the Texas Rangers. With the score at 0-0, he was asked to lay down a squeeze bunt, but pulled away his bat at the last moment, leaving baserunner Ichiro Suzuki high and dry. Suzuki was tagged out easily by catcher Matt Treanor; Rangers manager Ron Washington argued that Byrnes should be called out on strikes as well, since he had lunged at the pitch before pulling back, but home plate umpire Jim Wolf had apparently been as surprised as everyone else to see Byrnes pull back and missed the call. Byrnes struck out anyway, and then left the clubhouse on his bicycle, refusing to speak to anyone about the game-turning play. He was released on May 2nd and announced his retirement on May 5th.
Byrnes resurfaced in baseball in an unusual role in July of 2015, when the independent Pacific Association put on an experiment to leave the calling of balls and strikes not to the home plate umpire but to technology. The system used three cameras to track the flight of the ball across home plate, attached to a computer monitored by Byrnes in the stands. He was connected to the public address system and relayed the decisions of the computer to inform the crowd. Byrnes had long been an advocate of an automated strike zone, which explains how he became involved in the experiment, which went rather smoothly. It was little different then the systems used by various television networks for a number of years, with the difference being that the system's decisions were ow final and not simply indicative of whether the home plate umpire made a correct call or not.
- 20-Home Run Seasons: 3 (2004, 2006 & 2007)
- 100 Runs Scored Seasons: 1 (2007)
- 50 Stolen Bases Seasons: 1 (2007)
- Associated Press: "'St-riike!' Ex-OF Eric Byrnes calls computer balls, strikes", USA Today, July 30, 2015.