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Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

December 13, 2010 at 12:44 PM

Brendan Ryan should strengthen, enliven Mariners

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(Brendan Ryan tries to turn a double play as Josh Wilson slides into second in a June interleague game last season in St. Louis. Photo by Associated Press)

The Brendan Ryan pickup is not going to magically turn the Mariners into contenders, and it’s hardly the sort of sexy move that’s going to enthuse an already jaded fan base. But it should make them better, and incremental improvement is what the M’s are about these days.

Ryan is not just a good defensive player, he’s a great defensive player, at least according to the UZR (ultimate zone rating) formula. If I’m reading the Fangraphs rankings correctly, Ryan has been the top-rated defensive shortstop in the majors in each of the past two years. He should be able to make a smooth transition to second base to keep that position warm until Dustin Ackley is ready, and will be able to fill in at shortstop if and when Jack Wilson is down with injury.

Ryan is not going to hit a ton, obviously — his offense last year was as bad as his glove was good — but that could be attributable to a wrist injury, as Geoff explained yesterday. Two years ago, he hit .292 with a .340 on-base percentage. If Ryan can approach those numbers, he’ll be a valuable player, indeed. Joe Posnanski opines here about the newest Mariner in a piece which is more about the Cardinals than Ryan, but has some interesting observations, as always.

In doing some research on Ryan, it seems that beyind being a glove whiz, he’s something of a livewire. Injecting a little more personality into the clubhouse wouldn’t be such a bad thing. In one feature I found from the Springfield News-Leader in Missouri (Jan. 19, 2008), Kary Booher writes: “Ryan, a seventh-round pick in 2003 from NAIA’s Lewis-Clark College in Idaho, has long been known to be scatterbrained and to never stop talking….In fact, in 2005, as Ryan hit .333 in his final month at Hammons Field, veteran reliever Joe Nelson taped a “Shut up” sign over his locker.

In a Sept. 11, 2009 feature in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Derrick Goold describes Ryan”s “kinetic personality, ” “effervescence” and “puckish zeal.” He tells about Ryan’s killer DiNiro impression and quotes manager Tony La Russa saying “He can be an asset, like he is now, as long as he is working on the basis of respect and trust and productivity. He’s playing well. He’s playing consistently. He cares. So when he does his Robert DiNiro impersonation, everybody laughs. If he was not respected, not trusted and not a productive player, then all he would be is a clown. That is not the case.”

Here’s a clip that Jeff Sullivan at Lookout Landing dug up, a Cardinals’ television commercial, that’s pretty funny. You might say it’s even puckish.

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