So anyway, last year Brendan Ryan was probably the best-fielding shortstop in North America; he should have won a Gold Glove, but had to settle for the Fielding Bible Award. It was somewhat incredible that Ryan played enough to garner even that honor, as he finished the season with a .194 batting average. On balance, though, Ryan's sterling defense made him a good player, and the M's deserved some credit for just letting him play.
This season he's batting .143, and so manager Eric Wedge isn't going to let Ryan play much any more. Instead, Ryan's heading to the bench in favor of Robert Andino. Geoff Baker's got the whole story ...
"I've actually talked to both Robert and Brendan and I'm going to give Andino an opportunity to play a little bit more," Wedge said. "I wanted to be upfront with both those guys, I was, but I had very strong coversations with both of those guys because of the responsibility that goes along with playing more, with Andino. Of course, with Brendan, what I feel he needs to do to get to where he needs to go."
Just to clarify, I asked Wedge point-blank whether the pair were flip-flopping roles - Andino the starter and Ryan his backup.
"Yeah," he said. "What I'm going to do is take it day-by-day, week-by-week and month-by-month, quite frankly," Wedge said. "And I'm going to give Robert a chance to play and see where he takes it. I liked what I saw with his work and his approach this spring. I don't feel like it's been as good here in-season.
"But I feel like he's been a little bit better here the last week in the cage...
Better in the cage ... Hmmm. We'll see. Since Opening Day in 2011, Ryan's got a terrible 69 OPS+, while Andino's got a terrible 72 OPS+. They've been the same for three years, and they've been the same for their whole careers.
As hitters. As fielders, Ryan's been outstanding and Andino's started only 108 games at shortstop in his whole career. He's played mostly second base, and has been just decent there.
More from Baker:
I asked Wedge what the offensive tipping point was for him when it came to Ryan.
"You know, we stuck with him last year because we felt like we were going to give him every opportunity and quite frankly, we had every opportunity to give him every opportunity," Wedge said. "If that makes any sense. I'm saying it without saying it."
"But you can't expect change and then do the same thing every day," he added. "You've got to change your habits. And you've got to change the way you go about doing things. It's as simple as that. This is going to give him a chance to work with (hitting coach) Dave Hansen and take a step back to hopefully take two steps forward."
Look, if this is about work and habits and doing things, we might excuse the move. Sometimes a manager has to consider non-performance issues, and if Ryan's been unwilling to take instruction or extra batting practice or whatever, a move might be in order. But there is very little reason to believe the Mariners are better on the field with Andino than with Ryan. And there are good reasons to think they're worse.
Bottom line, it's moves like this that make the Mariners seem like one big mess. And so today it seems just a bit more likely that a serious housecleaning is coming next winter. If not sooner.
For more on this whole mess, please visit SB Nation's Lookout Landing.