Brendan Ryan is a fan favorite. A spectacular shortstop, he also has a fun-loving personality. He’s goofy, chatty, seems to genuinely enjoy interacting with fans and loves to entertain. Brendan doesn’t mind his life being an open book as was evident during Spring Training this year when he shared his home movieswith the FSMW audience – everything from his toe surgery to what he cooked for dinner. He’s not stingy with his interviews either, and seems to enjoy chatting with the reporters, joking around and giving them plenty to write about. It is no wonder we feel like we ‘know’ Brendan – and maybe that is why we are so troubled by his current ‘issue.’
We’ve been politely avoiding the elephant in the room for almost a month now. Our favorite shoulder-licker, Brendan Ryan, is really struggling at the plate. I’ve heard it described as his “Sophomore Slump.” Whatever it is, it isn’t pretty. His batting average was slowly recovering from an unspeakable low of 0.067 on April 9th to a meager 0.167 on Apr 27th, then falling again to 0.159 after striking out twice and flying out once on Apr 28th. But his presence in the box speaks volumes. Brendan is uncomfortable at the plate. His swing is awkward. He’s frustrated. Not a frustration that involves throwing bats or smashing Gatorade dispensers in the dugout, but more of a disappointment, the stuff that just eats at you on the inside. And that kind of internal dialogue is probably making it more difficult to overcome the mechanical issues. Lately every time Brendan steps up to the plate, Cardinals fans everywhere hold their breath…. will he finally break out of the slump?
What happened to the ‘new and improved’ batting stance that Mark McGwire helped him retool? Brendan was so proud of showing it off in Spring Training. Why now? Brendan had unexpected but successful wrist surgery in February (Derrick Goold wrote about it here). With the chronic pain cured, Brendan should be improving at the plate. However, as of today, we are 22 games into the season (about 14%) and our beloved shortstop is a virtual black hole of offensive production. So…when should we really start to worry?
I completely understand that 1) “It is still early” 2) “Everyone has slumps” and 3) “He will figure it out.” But, watching him battle through it is HARD. Luckily we are winning games and Brendan’s defense has been solid. So everyone is just waiting this out… and confidently repeating the mantra “Brendan will be ok.”
On Tuesday, for the first time this season, Tony LaRussa put Brendan at the 9th spot in the lineup (pitcher hitting eighth) in an effort to spark some team offense. While he was only 1 for 3 that night, Brendan did start off the 6th inning rally with a lead-off hit, and scored on Ryan Ludwick’s double. Looking back at how Brendan did in various lineup positions for 2009, there’s a slight advantage for him in the 9th spot. Could this be what spurs him out of his rut?
BJ Rains of Globe-Democrat.com has audio from his interview with Brendan about moving to the 9th spot in the order. Brendan is excited by the opportunity and the challenge of it, saying he “loves hitting in the 9 hole,” adding that “from the team standpoint it might be another opportunity to get some ducks on the pond in front of the big guys.”
Brendan needs his confidence back. It’s obviously eating at him, and it’s giving me an ulcer. Knowing Brendan’s tendency toward quirkiness, he’s probably trying just about everything he can to find his swing again. This gal’s just hoping the ‘fix’ doesn’t involve a comeback of last season’s crazy mustache.
It is no secret that Brendan is one of my favorites and I really dig watching his amazing talent for defensive acrobatics. But I am hoping soon we can all relax and celebrate his offense too. I’ve got no magic solutions to offer. I’m sure he’s heard it all: “Don’t worry. Don’t get frustrated. Be patient. Clear your head. Focus on the fundamentals….”
So, what do we do as fans while anxiously awaiting the recovery of Brendan’s bat?…… Blame? Pray? Drink?
If you need a further break from the worrying, check out these links from some of Ryan’s lighter moments:
Hopefully this write-up will be obsolete very soon. Until then, I’ll be nervously cheering on Brendan from my couch. GO CARDS!