The 89th Greatest Royal is Paul Byrd
Paul spent almost two decades portraying Dr. Frasier Crane on "Cheers" and "Frasier"
Paul Byrd is a native of Louisville, Kentucky and attended St. Xavier in Louisville before going on to pitch at Louisiana State University. There, he was part of the 1991 College World Series champions. That June, he was selected in the fourth round of the draft by the Cleveland Indians. After five seasons in the minor leagues, the Indians dealt him to the New York Mets in a trade involving Jeromy Burnitz.
Paul Byrd was pretty much a replacement-level pitcher for the first seven years of his major league career. He bounced around the NL East from New York to Atlanta to Philadelphia, only once making twenty starts in a season. In his one full healthy season, he was an All-Star, but won just four games after the All-Star break and ended with a 4.60 ERA. In 2001, his injuries and ineffectiveness got him exiled to the Siberia of baseball - Kansas City.
The Royals acquired the thirty-year old Byrd in a mid-season trade for oft-injured reliever Jose Santiago. He had gone just 2-10 with a 6.69 ERA with Philadelphia since his 1999 All-Star season, so there was little reason to think he'd be much of an improvement over the existing rotation of Jeff Suppan, Chad Durbin, Chris George, and Kris Wilson.
But he did pitch well, giving the Royals quality starts in eight of his fifteen starts. He finished 6-6 with a 4.05 ERA, and if you take out a six run, one inning appearance in Houston, his ERA drops to 3.51. Most impressive was his pair of consecutive one run complete games in July on the road in Seattle and Chicago.
His strong finish to 2001 gave Byrd a leg-up on a rotation spot in 2002. He had an awful spring training, but manager Tony Muser stuck with him, mostly because the other options were not appealing. He rewarded the manager's faith by giving the Royals victories in his first four starts, all quality starts, capped off by a complete game shutout against Detroit. By Memorial Day, Byrd was 8-2 with a 2.88 ERA with quality starts in eight of his eleven appearances. He had also developed a cult following with some fans donning beaks and wings to form the "Byrd's Nest".
Byrd was a free agent at the end of the season, and was a sought-after commodity for contenders at the trade deadline. The Braves, Giants, Cardinals, Mariners, Mets, Blue Jays, Red Sox, Reds were all rumored to be interested. Some of the trade rumors included:
* Byrd to Cincinnati for P Dustin Moseley
* Byrd to Atlanta for 2B Marcus Giles
But in the end, no deal was made.
"I can tell you we explored every avenue," Baird says. "We tried to be creative. We tried all sorts of things. But the bottom line is, we weren't going to just trade Paul Byrd without getting an impact player who could help us opening day next year.
"Could we have gotten low-level prospects? Yes. Could we have gotten a couple of backup infielders? Yes. But the value that Paul Byrd brings to the ballclub, the value that Paul Byrd brings to the fans, I was not going to do that."
Byrd's performance tapered off after his great start, but he still managed to finish tenth in the league in wins with seventeen. It was made all the more impressive considering the Royals ended up losing 100 games that year. He led the league in complete games with seven, led the league in WHIP (walks plus hits per inning pitched), was second in the league in fewest walks per nine innings, and finished second in innings pitched.
During the season, Byrd indicated he might be willing to sign an extension with the Royals for less than market value.
"If my market value is, say, around $6 million, I'd take a third off of that and start there...Put some light incentives on it on a three-year deal and go from there,"
However, Allard Baird was not authorized to give Byrd a contract extension, and was instead ordered to trim the $47 million payroll. Byrd signed a two year $10 million deal with the Atlanta Braves, but made just nineteen starts in two seasons due to injuries.
In the end, all the Royals received for losing Paul Byrd was a free agent compensatory pick in the 2003 June Amateur draft, which they used to select Mitch Maier.
The acquisition of Paul Byrd was probably the best trade in Allard Baird regime. Unfortunately, his failure to trade the pitcher was one of many bungles during his stay that caused the Royals to become perennial 100 game losers.