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The annals of Spring Training lore are full of stories about guys showing up “in the best shape of [their] life.” That’s not to say it isn’t legit when it happens – when better to be in the best shape of your life, no? It’s just that being in the best shape of your life doesn’t necessarily translate to performance on the field in the upcoming season.

Marlon Byrd – and, by extension, Cubs fans – hopes that it does.

We’ve already heard about Byrd’s extensive offseason diet and training regimen, the result of which was an incredible 40-pound drop in weight (it’s visible). He looks good, and, even at age 34, it isn’t inconceivable that he could have a career-best year – or at least bounce back to the very good .293/.346/.429 line he put up in 2010, his first season in Chicago.

And he’s got some inspiration leading him there in the form of a veritable book now tattooed on his right arm.

Byrd had a large portion of a Teddy Roosevelt speech, ‘The Man in the Arena,’ scripted down his arm, as you can see in this picture from ESPN’s Doug Padilla:

Photo: Doug Padilla

The portion of the speech on Byrd’s arm is probably the most famous bit of the speech, which goes something like this:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

I guess I’ll need to be more careful before criticizing Byrd this year.

For his part, Byrd is optimistic about not only himself, but the Cubs as a whole this year, with a particular emphasis on the pitching.

“Everyone’s counting us out so I’m sure they’ll have us down with the Astros, Pirates, whoever,” Byrd said to the media this weekend. “That’s fine with us. We got a lot of guys who can throw it,” Byrd said. “With [Travis] Wood and [Chris] Volstad, those guys, you have guys you’ve faced and you’ve seen the talent they have and you’ve seen what they can do. You hope the change of scenery really helps them big time. At the same time, we have competition. We have a lot of guys here — Andy Sonnanstine, Rodrigo Lopez — to push guys. It’ll be fun and nice to watch those guys compete and develop at the same time.”

  • Packman711

    Has he switched dietitians/supplement advisers per the MLB’s request yet?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Hasn’t been discussed since. Would be an interesting question to ask.

  • rbreeze

    I always liked the guy even before he came to the Cubs.  Great attitude and good club house guy.

    But what bugs me about a lot of athletes and the owners and GM’s that give them the big money is that sometimes it takes a contract year or an injury or some competition in camp to get them motivated to get in the best condition ot their lives.  They are professional athletes and they should be working on conditioning all year round.  How many games has Soriano missed in his time here due to a pulled muscle?  Don’t the team trainers follow up with these guys during the off season?  Brett Favre had one of his best years with the Packers when the Packers hired a trainer to live with Favre in the off season and got him ready physically and mentally.  How can you spend what these owners spend and not stay on top of these guys year around?  There is accountability on both sides.

    • hogie

      I agree with the sentiment, but Byrds issue was due to a food allergy, gluten I think.

  • rocky8263

    Byrd was always in “great shape”. The difference this year was the discovery by a new dietitian that he was allergic to dairy and wheat. I believe this was all reported on BN. The new diet and avoiding certain foods led to the weight loss.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      It’s all in the post that’s linked in this one. It was both diet and exercise.

  • MichiganGoat

    He is the toughest SOB on the team, I was in pain watching (and hearing, I swear I could hear the bone break) him take that pitch to the face and honestly thought there was no way he could return last year and not pull away from every inside pitch. I hope he has a bounce back year and becomes a trade deadline move to a contending team.

  • BD

    CLARIFICATION: I understand Byrd will almost certainly not be a ranked FA next offseason.

    But hypothetically- if Byrd were ranked (A or B) and got traded at the deadline, the Cubs would likely receive a lesser deal than in years past because his new team won’t receive compensation picks unless they offer him a huge arb number, correct?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Doesn’t work that way anymore. There are no rankings. Only way to get compensation is if you offer the player a one-year contract for an amount equal to the average salary of the top 125 players in baseball (it’ll be about $12.5 million). He’s not getting that offer, thus, no worrying about compensation. (Also, guys traded midseason don’t qualify for compensation anyway anymore.)

      Just clarifying for others.

      But, yes, won’t be as much of a return as would have theoretically been possible.

      • BD

        Thanks Brett! I couldn’t remember the specifics of the new system.

        A player has to be on the new team for the whole year to be eligible to receive that offer, correct?

      • ferrets_bueller

        So, wait…is that just for getting another teams pick, or getting any pick, supplemental round or otherwise?

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          The only comp that exists anymore is the signing team’s pick (first or second round, depending on where they pick) AND a supplemental pick. So, if you lose a big-timer, you get two picks. And that’s the only comp that exists.

        • Spencer

          here’s the language:

          A. Only Players who have been with their Clubs for the entire season will be subject
          to compensation.
          B. A free agent will be subject to compensation if his former Club offers him a
          guaranteed one-year contract with a salary equal to the average salary of the
          125-highest paid Players from the prior season. The offer must be made at the
          end of the five-day free agent “quiet period,” and the Player will have seven days
          to accept the offer.
          C. A Club that signs a player subject to compensation will forfeit its first round
          selection, unless it selects in the top 10, in which case it will forfeit its secondhighest
          selection in the draft.
          D. The Player’s former Club will receive a selection at the end of the first round
          beginning after the last regularly scheduled selection in the round. The former
          Clubs will select based on reverse order of winning percentage from the prior
          championship season.

  • die hard

    Agree that hes the toughest Cubs since Ron Santo. Would be nice if he could end career as Cub LF batting 6th hitting .285 with 20 HR and 75 RBI per year over next 3 yrs. But I dont see it happening as he thinks hes still a CF and wont accept anything less and he doesnt have anything left in swing to catch up to fastballs. I fear that it could get ugly around June 15 when hes hitting .225 with 1 HR and not getting to fly balls in left center and right center. And he could have tatoos up and down his body but those wont help.

  • Katie

    I’m sorry but I love Byrd. Every game I’ve been to at Wrigley, he shows the fans in the bleachers a lot of love and they go crazy. It’s cool to see. Still love the great play he made in the All Star game.

    • Levo

      I agree. I met him at Kerry Wood’s foundation party. He’s a great person, and plays the game hard. I’d love to see him and Reed play the outfield.

      • B_Scwared

        I like Byrd too, but I’ll like him even more if he plays great and increases his trade value by the deadline.

        • die hard

          may have more value if has good spring and a team’s CF goes down…Adam Jones for instance

          • B_Scwared

            Baltimore – Where Cubs go to die.

            • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

              No, its where dead Cubs go to get beaten…

              Get it…

              Beat a dead Cub instead of beat a dead horse…

              HAHAHAHAHAHHAAHAHAHAHAHAHA…

  • Bric

    Good gravy- Byrd’s a way more patient and intense individual than me. I couldn’t even get through the 3rd sentence of Brett’s translation before skipping down to the rest of the story. And I was just reading it, not sitting through 2 hours of seering pain and boredom to have it carved into my arm.

    • BetterNews

      Bric- Not sure were’re coming from? You like the “tattooed” new “boxer” or not?

      • Bric

        No preference. If you want to ink yourself up, have it. I just think it was a strange quotation to choose. As I said, I lost interest in reading it after the 3rd sentence. Kind of like these actors that have to keep coming up with crazy names for their kids. People with too much money keep thinking of ways to “out strange” each other. Whatever happened to a go old “Mom” in a heart?

    • BetterNews

      Why do I see cuffs around Byrds wrists in the near future?

      • ferrets_bueller

        Really, dude?

        REAAAAALLLLLLYYY???

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        What in the hell is that supposed to mean?

        • ferrets_bueller

          He’ll try to pass it off as “they’ll make him wear sleeves, like Felipe Lopez. Sleeves have cuffs,” but we know what he was really insinuating…

          • Bric

            I didn’t mean to start this big issue, I just thought it was a really strange and boring quotation to turn into a tat.

      • ogyu

        Why do I see BitterNads in a straitjacket in the near future?

      • Katie

        Stay classy!

        • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

          This coming from someone who once typed the phrase:

          “sans banana”

          • MichiganGoat

            Not to mention her desire to *ick people in *ick

            • Katie

              Ha! Two of my greatest hits! The stay classy comment was directed at BetterNews.

              • BetterNews

                U2!

                • Katie

                  U2? I saw them in concert a long time ago. Groovy band.

                  • BetterNews

                    One of the best, all time, for sure.

        • ogyu

          I am reminded of the old Three Stooges bit in which a judge or other authority figure calls out to the Stooges, “Gentlemen!” To which they respond by spinning around and saying, “Where?”

  • http://www.baseballrealitytour.com/ Bobby A

    He still shouldn’t bat 3rd. He stinks, and so does Darwin Barney. (Sigh, I think I feel a little better.)

  • ty

    Better news–I say some things on here that later I am not too proud of but there is a apology in order here! –

    • BetterNews

      To whom?

      • Richard Nose

        How the hell am I supposed to get anything done at ‘work’ when I have to read this shit!?!?!?! I can’t stop laughing at the ridiculousness!!!

        • MichiganGoat

          Silly Richard, don’t you know that BleacherNation has decreased productivity by 15% and growing.

          • butlerdawgs

            pretty sure it has decreased my productivity much more than that

          • BetterNews

            How do we decrease productivity and grow, Goat?

  • Dave H

    I think Byrd should get that printed on shirts for the rest of the team.

    • Deer

      Yeah, better now then “fu*k the goat” when you’re 20 games under

    • Cheryl

      Not a bad idea! I wonder if Byrd is more valuable now as a backup. He’s a presence with the cubs and I’d hate to see him traded. But at the same time he cannot continue in his present role as center fielder. If they offered him a deal where he could eventually coach at the major league level he’d be an asset.

  • keith

    apparently all the cubs problems the past few years were fat related. out of shape players and fat contracts.

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