Hearing Eric Byrnes talk about the Oakland A's was quite the treat. Despite the chat over the phone, I could hear him beaming through the speaker.
"I'm unapologetically biased toward the A's," Byrnes told NBC California. "I've rooted for both them and the Giants when I was a kid."
The former Oakland big-league outfielder turned MLB Network analyst sees the promise of an organization that has everything in its possession to be in the hunt. And despite a personal rooting interest, he knows the trials the team's had to deal with. And it all began when they were racking up frequent flier miles before the rest of the league had even begun to play.
"They were traveling all over the world," Byrnes said. "The Japan series that started off -- I did a break down a couple of weeks ago when they went on that winning streak and won 10 in a row. It's incredible. We charted their travel -- they were still second to the Mariners as far as miles, but it's insane the amount of trips they've been taking."
The team arrived back in Oakland this week to begin a 10-game homestand -- a 6-4 record was left behind them including taking a series from the Rays in Tampa -- a good Rays team in Tampa I might add.
But that wasn't the case previously -- the A's weren't steady.
"It's just one of those things where I think eventually they got comfortable with it and they end up winning their ten in a row and on the brink of that they lost five in a row -- they've just been inconsistent."
But Byrnes has faith.
"I see them being in the hunt for the Wild Card just like they were last year. One of these years -- if they can figure out a way -- this team is going to win."
The team also had some unique pressure heading into the season, long road trip and insane time changes overseas aside. It was those 97 wins last year, and while great, that created almost a burden heading into 2019.
"I think the A's shocked everybody by winning 97 games last year so they came into the season with all sorts of expectation where they came into the last season with no expectation."
Those expectations aren't too out of reach for a team that Byrnes loves to talk about.
He called what pitcher Frankie Montas is doing "absolutely filthy," and complimented Chris Bassitt who is sensational when "he's on it."
And that lineup -- boy does he love that lineup.
"I think Matt Chapman is one of the best players in baseball," Byrnes said. "Matt Olson -- when he gets going, he's one of the best power threats in baseball -- there's so much to like -- Ramón Laureano in the outfield ... "
"I just think that there are organizations where they're going to have to catch lightning in the bottle and you're going to have to have a lot of guys overperforming or at least performing better than what their projections would be in order to win. I mean, you look at Minnesota right now and why they got off to such a hot start -- it's like you have a bunch of dudes that are playing above their means. At least above the average of what they normally do."
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That's what the A's need to do. They're good -- very good, but they need to be great. Then amazing things will happen.
"When I look at them as far as what they're capable of doing, it's getting to the playoffs and from there ... Unfortunately, the A"s haven't had the best luck in the playoffs I think one of these years we just gotta get Lady Luck on our side."