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The Brendan Ryan Chronicles

Beginning this afternoon, the Cardinals will host the Yankees for a three-game series at Busch Stadium. These two powerhouses are meeting for the first time since 2005 and only the second time since the start of interleague play. I, of course, am looking most forward to the return of Brendan Ryan.

The sometimes divisive, but always exciting former Cardinal returns to the Gateway City this afternoon.
The sometimes divisive, but always exciting former Cardinal returns to the Gateway City this afternoon.
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

b. ryan played in this st. louis town

(with up so fielding many balls down)

spring summer autumn winter

he spun his errors he danced his hits

some of the players (both little and small)

cared for b. ryan not at all

they ranted their anger they smiled their saves

win loss sometimes rain

the fans clapped(but only a few

and down they forgot as playoffs fell through

september october november seattle)

but we still loved him more by more

when by now and seattle by trade

we laughed his joy we cheered his play

bird by bat and man by sea

b. ryan’s glove was fit to shine

jeter spoke of leaving soon

fans there crying he did his dance

(sleep wake hope and then)he

said his farewell to end his time

ball by ball and stripe by pin

and more by more they heard his name

jeter and b. ryan share the spot

wish to be healthy and if then yes

players and fans (both catch and swing)

summer autumn winter spring

reaped their winning and watched their game

win loss sometimes rain

Ryan's Career In St. Louis

On The Field

Boog began his professional career with the St. Louis Cardinals.  The team drafted him in the 7th round of the 2003 draft and called him up to the Show in July of 2007.  After a brief return to Memphis, Ryan came back to St. Louis in August and stayed.  That season, Ryan batted a very respectable .289/.347/.406 in 199 PAs.  But the Cardinals were not ready to name him the starter.  He began the 2008 season on the DL and served as a utility infielder (and sometimes outfielder!) for the remainder of the year.

Ryan broke out in 2009.  A line of .292/.340/.400 supplemented incredible defense, and Ryan earned the starting shortstop designation.  He finished the season with 2.7 fWAR.  Unfortunately, offseason wrist surgery seemed to zap his power completely.  Offensively, Ryan has never been as good as he was in 2009, and I have ceased to hold out hope that he ever will be again.  Still, he is so good defensively that he remains a valuable player.  Despite an anemic .223/.279/.294 in 2010, he gave the Cardinals 1.2 fWAR.

Off the Field

As far as fans could tell, Ryan was a funny and light-hearted player.  He did DeNiro impressions, made home videos, and grew an amazing mustache WHILE SPINNING:

But the Cards' beat writers often hinted that Ryan's teammates didn't appreciate his antics.  The media pegged him as a hyper, distracted goofball who rubbed many in the organization he wrong way.  During an infamous Monday Night Baseball broadcast, cameras caught Chris Carpenter lecturing Ryan in the dugout tunnel after Ryan got on the field late and with the wrong glove.  (That the video is still available on kind of pisses me off.)

Many people, myself included, believe that Ryan's personality - and not his skills as a player - largely fueled the trade to the MarinersKyle Lohse suggested as much on The Morning After radio show:

He by no way is any reason why we didn’t take the NL Central but, I think just one little distraction that kind of rubbed some people the wrong way and it’s just one of those things that doesn’t help a team out and Brendan Ryan is who he is, and he’s going to continue being that guy and personally I like him. I just don’t think he’s ever going to change and the inability to get serious about things, I think, kind of makes people really tired of you, I think.

Life After Cardinals

The Cardinals traded Ryan to the Mariners following the 2010 season.  In return, they got Maikel Cleto, a flame-thrower who never really amounted to much.  After pitching briefly for the Royals, he fell to the White Sox, who designated him for assignment earlier this month.

Ryan played for the Mariners for over two seasons before the team traded him to the Yankees last September. Ryan's defense continued to impress during his stint in Seattle.  Although he batted only .248/.313/.346 his first season, he was worth 2.8 fWAR. His offense was truly atrocious in 2012: just .194/.277/.278 in 470 PAs.  Yet STILL, he was worth 19.8 runs above average - good for 1.2 fWAR.

To put this in perspective, other than Brendan Ryan and until Jhonny Peralta, the Cardinals have not had a 1.2 fWAR shortstop since David Eckstein in 2006.  Furcal, Izturis, Theriot, and Kozma were all worse, despite hitting significantly (or not so significantly) better.

After the trade, the Yankees signed Ryan to a two-year, $5MM deal in the off-season, ostensibly to serve as Jeter's backup this season, and perhaps (hopefully?) the starting shortstop in 2015.  The deal includes a club option and a player option for 2016.  Ryan started the season on the disabled list (seems to be a recurring problem for him) and has only 14 PAs this year - good for a .357/.357/.357 line.

Defense By The Numbers

From 2009 to the present, only five players - in any position - have had better defensive numbers than Brendan Ryan, according to the FanGraphs leaderboard. Yadier Molina (♥♥♥) tops the chart - he has been worth 99.3 runs above average - followed by Matt Weiters, J.J. Hardy, Evan Longoria, Alexi Ramirez, then Brendan Ryan at 72.7 runs.  Ryan's Ultimate Zone Rating of 46.6 ranks second among all major league shortstops (and was #1 going into this season).  In case you were wondering, Jeter ranks second-to-last during that same time period.


Ryan has some impressive company on this list.  At only 32 years old, and with perhaps a chance to win a starting job after this season, his numbers may continue to grow.

I'm not sure if Boog will get any playing time during the series in St. Louis, but I certainly hope so.  And I hope he gets some appreciation if he does.  He had a short, but memorable career here.  I ask for one favor, VEB: if you find yourself at a game during this series, and Ryan comes up to bat, give him a standing O for me.

I leave you with some of my favorite on-field Brendan Ryan moments (there are so many to choose from!):

Happy Memorial Day, everyone.  Have fun and stay safe!