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These Things Happen December 13, 2010

Posted by Christine Coleman in Baseball.
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Brendan Ryan

Photo by Chris Lee/STLToday.com

Baseball is a business.

Yes, of course, it’s a sport too, and entertainment to those of us who are fans, but it’s a business first – particularly to those who are employed by a team. And, like any business, personnel decisions don’t have to be based on what’s smart or what’s “right” or what the customers think or the talent of the employees, or on anything other than what a boss wants. And that boss doesn’t necessarily have to be the CEO to get his or her way.

All of which brings me to yesterday’s trade of Brendan Ryan from the Cardinals to the Mariners. The trade was not a surprise. Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak said going into last week’s winter meetings that “exploring the Brendan Ryan market” was one of the team’s goals, following the trade the week before for Ryan Theriot, who essentially was publicly anointed as the Cards starting shortstop for 2011. Reasons were given for possibly trading Brendan, which were expected things like his defense not being enough to make up for his offensive inconsistency. Ozzie Smith spoke out on keeping Brendan a Cardinal, which to me seemed like a sure sign that he would be out as soon as possible. Because, as I said above, decisions are made on what the boss wants. For the Cardinals, that means decisions are typically based on what Tony La Russa wants.

Like any skilled politician, La Russa didn’t explicitly say he wanted Brendan gone. But he certainly made some interesting comments about him, particularly last week at the winter meetings. From an article by Derrick Goold from last Wednesday:

“First of all, this is a team sport. If you play one of the team sports, if you’ve got your head on straight, if your representatives are talking to you correctly, if your family is keeping their — you know, they’re caring about you doing the best they can for you, you’re part of a team and an organization. The organization has an obligation to make the best team. You just can’t cater to one guy. I worry about that. You care about things like that, but you don’t change your decision. I mean, it’s up to the player to understand the organization or the team’s responsibility to put together the best team. In Brendan’s case, I think he’d prefer to be an everyday player, but if he’s with us next year, I think he loves the Cardinals and he’ll make the adjustment. Just handle it.”

Telling comments, especially “if you’ve got your head on straight” and “it’s up to the player to understand.”

As a Cardinals fan for eleven seasons now, La Russa is obviously the only manager I’ve known. So I never had the “he’s not Whitey” bias nor distrust against him that my long-term Cards fans friends (plus uncle) did. Their bias and distrust seemed to soften a bit in 2002, following the death of Darryl Kile and La Russa’s handling of the team in its wake. But that was a very long time ago. The 2010 season was definitely a disappointment for everyone and, for the first time, I was ready for him to move on and preferred that someone else manage the Cardinals for the upcoming season.

But it’s nothing I can control. My own approach to fandom seems to be different than others. I don’t spend the off-season dreaming and debating and wishing for this guy or that guy to become a Cardinal (or even the Cardinals manager), or plan what season I can expect my favorite players from this year’s River Bandits team to take the field at Busch Stadium. Personally, I know that I have no influence over what happens and what the roster looks like. So I’ll let those who do have that authority go about their jobs. The 25 guys who leave Jupiter, Fla., in March for St. Louis are the guys I will root for when opening day arrives – even if they were past villains to me, like Theriot and Lance Berkman. Same goes for the manager. It’s La Russa for 2011, so I’ll support him.

In other workplaces, there have no doubt been employees who shine in certain areas, fall short in others, and get on the nerves of a boss and peers for being late or being hyper. And those employees have likely been dealt with in similar ways to what Mozeliak did yesterday, even though it’s not exactly like Brendan Ryan is looking for a new job today as other such employees would be. Still, one constant remains: business is business.

And that’s always the bottom line.

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Comments»

1. Michael - December 13, 2010

And if the Cardinals decide that if one employee’s salary demands are out of line of the budget, then it’s a rational decision based on business concerns to part ways rather than one based on the emotional reactions of the fans. Even if that player is Albert Pujols.

2. linda - December 14, 2010

If I were a baseball fan, I know I’d be the same kind of fan (even if I could never put it into words as well) – “I know that I have no influence over what happens and what the roster looks like. So I’ll let those who do have that authority go about their jobs. The 25 guys who leave Jupiter, Fla., in March for St. Louis are the guys I will root for when opening day arrives….Same goes for the manager. It’s La Russa for 2011, so I’ll support him.”

It seems sport fans struggle with that one.

Well said.


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