By Ryan Divish The New Tribune
SEATTLE — The Seattle Mariners clubhouse was unusually quiet on Wednesday.
Perhaps, it was the hangover of a 13-2 loss the night before, which prompted a closed-door, players-only meeting.
Maybe it was the day-to-day grind of the final month of a long, losing season.
Most likely it was the absence of Brendan Ryan. The talkative and affable shortstop’s locker was empty and his constant chatter and energy was missing.
The Mariners traded Ryan to the New York Yankees about an hour before Tuesday’s game against the Houston Astros. Ryan was in New York on Wednesday night, starting at shortstop in place of Derek Jeter, who had been shut down for the rest of the season with an ankle injury.
“It will be a little more quiet around here I guess,” first baseman Justin Smoak said. “But good for him. He’s going to get a chance to play every day and we wish him the best.”
Ryan brought a unique personality to the team. It was mixture of youthful enthusiasm and stinging self-criticism. His teammates found it amusing more than annoying. He was entertaining without trying to be.
“He definitely brought a different dynamic to the team,” said Brad Miller, who replaced him as the starting shortstop earlier this season. “It might be a little quieter around here. It was purely genuine with him. He was a great guy and teammate to be around.”
It was evident with the way Ryan handled losing his starting job to Miller on June 28. He never complained. He wasn’t a problem in the clubhouse. Instead, he worked daily with Miller on learning how to play shortstop at the big league level.
“I thought Ryan handled it like a pro,” Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. “When you talk about young kids coming up and taking playing time from you, it’s something that you’ve got to handle one way or the other. And I thought he handled it the right way. Not only that, he was working to try and help those guys. That’s says a lot about him.”
Before most games during batting practice, Ryan was with Miller at shortstop, instructing, teaching and demonstrating.
“He’s very passionate,” Miller said. “That’s the number one factor why he’s performed so well there, because he cares about it. And that speaks to me. If you put the effort in, then good stuff will happen.”
That effort and attention to detail on defense was before every pitch in a game. Ryan knew the pitches, the hitters and what a hitter might do with each pitch. He ran through every possible scenario in his mind each time. It’s why he got such great jumps on ground balls.
For Ryan, who has attention deficit disorder, the rhythm of that pre-pitch process in the field calmed him.
“I think there is a reason for his madness,” Dustin Ackley said. “When me and him were at second and short, he’d be talking the whole time about stuff that would happen. He’d say this is going to be a two or three hopper to me and sure enough it would be a three hopper to him. He could tell you based on pitches that were going in what would happen. I think he found peace there. He knew that the moment he stepped on the field he was going to make every play.”
It wasn’t the same at the plate for Ryan. He struggled to hit over .200 and it was something that bothered him immensely. He knew he wasn’t a .300 hitter, but believed he was better than sub-.200 hitter.
“I think it wore at him a lot,” Ackley said. “I don’t know if it wore at him more when he was playing every day or when he wasn’t. I know when he wasn’t’ playing every day, it would be like — this is a game I’ve got to do something or else I’m not going to get another chance for six or seven days.”
Team meeting talk
Wedge was aware the team called a closed-door, players-only meeting following Tuesday night’s loss and had no problem with it.
“I think it’s good,” he said. “I always welcome that. I’ve always been very consistent with that. When players take responsibility for each other and for themselves, I think it says a great deal.”
The willingness to call a meeting this late in the season was a good thing in his mind.
“I think it says more to have one with two plus weeks left,” he said. “They know every game means something. Whether you are in the race or out of the race, every game means something. This is the big leagues and it’s an honor to wear a big league uniform. People pay their hard earned money to come watch you play and you represent something. You have to appreciate the fact they call that meeting.”
Wedge wasn’t interested in what they discussed.
“I don’t know what they talked about. It’s between them, and I respect that,” he said.
The details of the meeting are fuzzy. Mostly it’s about playing games with more focus to detail than they’ve shown in the last few weeks.
“It was a closed door meeting, everything that needed to be said was said,” third baseman Kyle Seager said. “It was definitely a good thing.”
But can they put the message into action?
“I hope we can finish strong and show the flashes we showed in July when we were on a pretty good streak — that team is still there,” Miller said. “I hope we take it to heart.”
Outfielder Abraham Almonte was out of the line-up as a precaution with stiffness in his legs. … Staff Sgt. Ty Carter, who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor earlier this year, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. … The Mariners are off today and will travel to St. Louis where they will start a three-game series on Friday.