Brendan Ryan moving forward
Oct 27, 2011, 12:06 AM | Updated: 8:29 am
I intended to write about this at the end of the season but I put it off to the point where I felt it was probably too late. Luckily I held on to the interviews because now I have an excuse to revisit them.
Yesterday in my post about the return of the coaching staff I gave Robby Thompson credit for working one-on-one with Brendan Ryan and helping him to evolve from “a kind of young energetic idiot not well tolerated in St. Louis to a calmer, more team focused veteran on the Mariners.” I hit on this in a radio piece for the pre-game show at the end of the season but I never wrote it up for the blog. I would like to do so now because I think the development of Brendan Ryan was an interesting and important story for the Mariners.
When Ryan first came to the team from St. Louis he had a reputation that preceded him. He had boundless energy and a laser like focus that at times actually worked against him. Sometimes he was too bouncy. Sometimes he was too talkative. Sometimes he obsessed too much over his failures. Sometimes he was late, something that is just not tolerated in baseball.
I talked to Eric Wedge, who laughed when I mentioned how some of his former Cardinals teammates characterized him, about this. He saw some of it but knew that it was something he could work with. He also saw in Ryan something that could not be taught. Something he wanted to see on his ballclub.
“He brings great energy every day,” Wedge said. “He wants to win. He wants the ball hit to him. He wants to be up in key situations at home plate. I think he is a difference maker at shortstop and he is still learning. But the energy and the life that he brings to the ballclub is what stands out to me.”
As for the other stuff, Wedge acknowledged with another chuckle that there were times when Ryan could be a handful. Rather than fight it Wedge and Thompson found a way to work with it.
“There were a few moments,” he said. “But what you love with Brendan is that it comes from a good place. The most important thing for him coming to the ballpark is to win a ballgame and he needs to do a better job handling failure, channeling that energy to his next at bat, to his next game, and he has gotten a little better with that. But yeah, there have been a few moments this year when we have had to have a little talk.”
The key was to channel the energy rather than squash it. Ryan himself appreciated this.
“This coaching staff has been unbelievable,” he told me. “They have taken me in and understood that I am a little bit different. I am silly at times but out on the field it’s all business and it is about winning. I think they have understood that and I think they have handled my personality and embraced it all.”
Perhaps because he was embraced and welcomed by the club Ryan took on a leadership role, something new for him coming from the more veteran Cardinals team. This was something Wedge said he had hoped to see.
“He understands now that it is a leadership position when you are in the middle of the diamond and I think he has enough confidence in himself to where he doesn’t mind standing up and saying what needs to be said in regard to this ballclub and I love that.”
On the field, after a short adjustment period, Ryan proved to be one of the best shortstops in the league. What he is at the plate is still a bit of a mystery.
“I think he is better than what we saw this year at the plate,” Wedge said. “He is still learning, he has a lot to offer. I can see him as a guy I can put anywhere in a lineup, and as we move into next year we are going to be a little more settled but we are still going to need someone who is capable of bouncing around. To have some flexibility with him is important.”
Wedge mentioned that handling failure at the plate could be an issue at times for Ryan, who could take one bad at bat into another. Ryan himself said that he was guilty of trying to change too much if he had any measure of failure at the plate.
“You can’t try to come up with something mechanically to fix every day,” he said. “This offseason will be about developing an everyday routine, something that puts me in a right place consistently and gives me more mental ease or comfort. I just don’t want to have that roller coaster feel, I want to be Steady Eddie. You see [Dustin] Ackley at the plate and he is very consistent with where he starts and where he finishes and you want to get to the point where all you are focusing on is what that guy is doing and swinging at good pitches. Easier said than done, but when you are in that place and your swing is right and you have groomed it correctly and you are not changing something every day you are making it easier on yourself.”
As for being moved around in the order, Ryan is up for it. He likes hitting near the top of the order and promises more stolen bases next year. Why so few this year? He’s figured that out.
“I think I was less aerodynamic because of the mustache,” he answered somewhat seriously.
With or without the mustache, Ryan has a good chance of improving on this year. He has learned the league and trusts his manager and coaches. A good part of last year was an adjustment period for him and if he can stay healthy and commit to the consistency at the plate he says is his goal he could take a much needed step forward offensively for the Mariners.