You can’t miss the “singles suck,” placard, which hangs outside Marlon Byrd’s cubicle.
But does losing suck more than singles? During the first week of spring training, the steady right fielder made a surprising proclamation.
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“This is the best team I’ve ever been on,” Byrd said. “There’s a lot of talent here. I really believe that I’ve never been on a better club.”
Well, the numbers say otherwise. The Phillies are mired in last place. Ryne Sandberg’s team is closer to posting the worst record in baseball than coming within sniffing distance of first in the NL East. The Pirates, who made the playoffs last season, have more going for them than the Phillies.
“I’m not surprised that Marlon Byrd said that,” an NL scout said. “Byrd has become a leader and he’s going to be attractive to teams that can use a corner outfielder.”
Byrd is Ruben Amaro’s best trade chip. He’s been as productive as he was last season. The relatively inexpensive Byrd doesn’t just lead the Phillies in the clubhouse. At the All-Star break, he led the Phillies in homers with 18 and OPS (.795) and he’s been their best defensive outfielder.
Any regrets joining the Phillies?
“I love being here,” Byrd said. “When I came back here I was returning to a bunch of guys, who are close friends.”
During spring training and for the first two months of the season, it was evident how much fun Byrd was having during his second tour of duty with the Phillies.
“I never lost track of what these guys were doing when I was gone,” Byrd said. “I would stay in touch via text. I’ve never stopped being friends with them.”
However, the mood in the clubhouse has changed with mounting losses. Since the team has been a fixture at the bottom of the standings, it’s been quiet in the Phillies sanctuary.
“I still hope things can get better,” Byrd said. “I think this team can make a run.”
Byrd echoes what Sandberg said just before the team hit the All-Star break. Sandberg waxed about key reinforcements returning to bolster an incredibly inconsistent team. Sandberg hopes that Carlos Ruiz can provide some punch and that Cliff Lee approximates himself after missing a quarter of the season due to an elbow injury.
But is it too little, too late? “I think this team has what it takes to rebound,” Byrd said. “We have guys that have been through it and made it to the playoffs.”
Sure, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Ruiz helped lead the team through the greatest era in franchise history. But it’s been two and a half seasons since the Phillies have fielded a contender.
Byrd isn’t the type of player, who would ever say that he wants to leave ala Jonathan Papelbon. However, it appears that it would be in the best interest of the team, which is fading fast, to deal a solid and affordable chip for the future, and for Byrd, who would have the chance to play for a contender.
“There will be teams after Byrd,” a NL scout said. “It’s just a matter of the Phillies working out the best deal possible. A good prospect or two would be huge for the Phillies since it’s about the future, not the present for that club.”