More than 1,100 visitors to the SnakePit yesterday - that's more, even than we got when we suddenly became the go-to guys for the D'backs new uniforms. Indeed, might be an all-time record, though I think that's probably still held by the time we somehow ended up as the #1 result on Google for "2006 MLB draft". But to put the one-day figure into context, it's about 20% of what we had during the entire month of April - y'know when there were actual baseball games going on, and Arizona was fighting for the NL West. So, what provoked this torrential flood of interest? My playoff coverage? No. The review of the Diamondbacks season? Uh-huh. Not even my debut as a football analyst. It was, of course...
Eric Byrnes and his freakin' hair.
The flood was largely thanks to a reciprocal link from Deadspin, after we mentioned them in our story on Eric's hair, and his righteous fury about the reaction online. Must confess, I don't know if Eric was directly referring to them in his comment about "degenerates" who surf the Internet - the site just happened to show up near the top, when I typed "Eric Byrnes hair" into Google News. [This is what passes for research here. Hey, it's good enough for ten million college kids.] However, if every time I mention Deadspin, I'm going to get 1,100 visitors, then believe me when I say, I blame them for the war in Iraq, reality television, my expanding waistline and global warming.
Ah, sod it - added Deadspin to the sidebar permanently, as much for my own convenience as anything. Must confess, to having become somewhat addicted to the site - at least, since discovering I could surf it using Firefox, though get an "unresponsive script" error. For some reason, accessing deadspin.com through IE crashes my browser. Yeah, I know IE sucks, but since I maintain sites, I use it to test pages (it's still the most popular browser) and that carries over through force of habit. They've even received the ultimate accolade, getting blacklisted by ESPN. Yeah, the network that uses John Kruk as a commentator - in between showing paintball, poker and trick-shot pool - can really afford to refer with sniffy disdain to "underground web sites" as far as informed opinion goes.
This will, however, be the last word you will find on this site as far as Eric Byrnes' on-screen appearance goes. Though, I must confess, the idea of dressing up as Byrnes for Halloween, two weeks tonight, has a certain appeal. But I don't know whether to go as center-fielder Eric - diving round the back yard in a Diamondbacks shirt for half an hour should largely take care of that - or television pundit Eric. Though actually, the latter wouldn't be much fun: trying to speak intelligently, only for everyone to ignore me and go, "Hahaha! Look at his hair!", would quite take me back to my school days...
Huge win for the Cardinals tonight, which has sent New York right onto the ropes, even with the last two games at Shea. The Mets know now that they first have to beat Carpenter in Game 6, and then work out who, of a suite of hugely deficient options is going to pitch Game 7 for them. From teetering on the edge of not even making the post-season, the Cardinals are now on the brink of making the World Series. It seems to have been the case all year: I've lost count of the number of teams who have seemed unstoppable or sucked totally for two weeks or so, and then suddenly reverse the trend.
The obvious example are the Dodgers, who went 1-13 after the All-Star Break, then immediately went 17-1. But they were far from the only team to do that: even in the NL West, the Padres had a 14-1 streak, book-ended on both sides by a pair of 3-8 ones. The Giants went 3-16 from late July, then followed up with an 11-3 run. And, of course, our Diamondbacks went 14-5 at the end of May, and collapsed to lose seventeen of the next nineteen. Now, streaks are in the nature of baseball, but it seems there were a lot more notable ones in 2006. The Cardinals are merely the most recent beneficiaries: they were 5-12 from Sept 8th-26th, but 9-5 since that point - and ten of those latest fourteen games were against other division champions. Such is the nature of the playoff system, I guess: whoever gets hot in October will win it all.
Do you think that is a good thing? While it undeniably adds a whole level of excitement to proceedings, is it the fairest way to decide the "best" team in baseball? Or, indeed, any other American sports - for it is a curiously American way to do things, unlike, for example, the methods used to determine European soccer champions, which are more or less just straight round-robin tournaments: whoever gets most wins, wins. There have been rumblings about handicapping the playoffs in some way - largely, I suspect, triggered by the Yankees' exit at the hands of the wild-card Tigers. Do you think this makes sense, and if so, how would you go about doing it?