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Brendan Ryan: Play it again, Ernie

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ZDURIENCIK: Everything in order?

LA RUSSA: All except one thing. There's something you should know before you leave.

ZDURIENCIK: Mr. La Russa, I don't ask you to explain anything.

LA RUSSA: I'm going to anyway, because it may make a difference to you later on. You said you knew about Brendan and me. But you didn't know he was at my place last night when you were. He came there for the letters of transit. Isn't that true, Brendan?

RYAN: Yes.

LA RUSSA: He tried everything to get them, and nothing worked. He did his best to convince me that he was still ready to give 110%, but that was all over long ago. For your sake, he pretended it wasn't, and I let him pretend. Here it is.

ZDURIENCIK: Welcome back to the fight. This time I know our side will win. Because you just gave us Brendan Ryan, I mean.

[BRENDAN RYAN and JACK ZDURIENCIK board the plane.]

MOZELIAK: Well, I was right. You are a sabermetrician.

LA RUSSA: I don't know what you're talking about.

MOZELIAK: Tony, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful—well, you're going to have less to annoy me about, now.

#

I've thought about it for a while, and this is the only explanation for Brendan Ryan's being ridden out of town on a rail that doesn't make me a little embarrassed for Tony La Russa: That, as a secret but disillusioned UZR partisan, he sent Ryan away with Jack Zduriencik. He knew #6org was doing valuable defensive work, and that Mozeliak's fetish for undersized white scrappers would eventually bury a vital piece of the defensive resistance in the organizational doghouse. Here's looking at you, Boog.

It's—it's the greatest love story of all time. 

If it's not that, it's embarrassing, because unlike a lot of the previous clubhouse engineering that was supposed to be Tony-inspired—J.D. Drew, Ray Lankford, Scott Rolen—it can't be justified at all in a quantitative way. It's the difference between Dave Duncan saying he can fix Chris Carpenter and Dave Duncan saying he can fix Todd Wellemeyer.

I'm fine with managerial input on moves like this, and I think you have to be if you believe a manager has any role on a 21st-century team. But this kind of input, if this really is a Tony move, is completely out of bounds. These moves need some kind of rational component to them, the Adam Wainwright to Tony La Russa's "Drew's soft and he doesn't play hard enough", or else he's just doing the GM's job, badly. 

So now the Cardinals come into Spring Training—it's good to think about spring right now, I've had enough cold already—with Tyler Greene, Daniel Descalso, and Allen Craig filling the various utility roles. In different circumstances that would be pretty cool; I'm excited to see if any of these three has value beyond the bench in the future, and at this point I'm ready specifically to see whether Greene will float or sink. 

Of course, I wouldn't mind the Cardinals going after an Edgar Renteria type, either, now that shortstop's thinner than it needs to be. Except that at this point the Cardinals' machinations to replace the value they're costing themselves have become so elaborate, so Rube Goldbergian, that I'm not sure I can take another move. 

Here's what could have happened: The Cardinals could have gone into the season with Brendan Ryan and Skip Schumaker at shortstop and second base. 

OR: They could trade for Ryan Theriot, put him at shortstop, trade Brendan Ryan for nothing, sign Edgar Renteria or somebody in hopes of making up some of the value, put Allen Craig back in front of third base, et cetera. 

All these post-Ryan-calisthentics, meanwhile, could have contributed to an actual upgrade in the infield. 

I feel like there's a frustration loop here—it's frustrating for something so ostensibly venial as the identity of the utility infielder to be so frustrating. I'm glad this happened in December, if nothing else, so that I'll tire myself out of the loop by the time everybody's in the best shape of his life.