Thursday, December 24, 2015

Was he really here? The scary Christmas ghost story of Brendan Ryan

Yesterday, the Epstein Cubs designated for assignment Brendan Ryan, only hours after he was designated as the "Player To Be Named Later" in the Yankee deal for Starlin Castro. If anybody out there is keeping score - (and if so, I sincerely suggest you stop now) - that means the Yankees gave up Adam Warren and an air sandwich to get Castro.

You can see this in either of two ways:

1. Again, we witness Brian Cashman's genius for acquiring players, and giving up next to nothing. (See Dustin Ackley!) As they say in Manhattan court: Cashman isn't perfect, but his actions always meanwell.

2. Again, we see that the Cubs really, really, really wanted to be rid of Starlin Castro. And - gulp - maybe the Yankees got schlonged.

Between mouthfuls of Christmas cookies, I spoke with a longtime Cubs fan the other night in a loud, man-cave basement. His take: Castro came in as a lion, looked destined for Cooperstown, and then went flat, but maybe it's not Castro's fault, maybe it's just the Cubs, and let's drink. The guy had no animosity toward Castro, but it didn't ruin Christmas to see him go. The Cubs will turn 2B over to Ben Zobrist - who played about 35 games there last yea and is on the Beltran side of 35, and some rookie. So Castro brought them Adam Warren and nothing else. It was a straight-up trade.

The weird part here is Brendan Ryan. I'm wondering: Did he ever really exist? Was he a dream?

We got Ryan on Sept. 10, 2013 - 9/10/13 - in a trade with Seattle for a player to be named later, which - according to Baseball Reference - never was named. That's right. Ryan just appeared out of nowhere, like a plate of steamed clams that nobody remembers ordering. He came with a good-field/no-hit reputation. He was 31. He played the last three weeks and delivered some clutch hits, prompting the Yankees to do what now seems inexplicable: That December 2 - 12/2/13 - we gave him a two-year, $2 million-per deal, with an option for a third year. Why did we do this? He was cheap. I'm sorry, but in two years of watching Ryan, that magical mystery glove wizardry never showed up, though his bat was "as advertised." Now we send him to the Cubs, and they don't even want him. Nobody wants to try a steamed clam.

Was he really here? Did we spend two years playing a ghost? Because that's the new Yankee norm: We sign specters, lost aimless spirits, who are only passing through our nightmares.

Will anyone (but us) remember Vernon Wells as a Yankee? Will anyone (but us) recall the Lyle Overbay period? The era of Pronk, of Eduardo Scissorshands, of Yangervis, of Brian "Mr. Orioles" Roberts? These are names worthy of the Danny Tartabull/Bob Shirley period of the 1980s. Folks, the Yankee Unraveling isn't starting. We are three years into it. We are elbow-deep in the another long, loud, meandering, gut-emptying, Yankee barf.

By the way, this seems to be an historically significant, Steinbrennerian rite of passage. It's all part of the plan: We shall be mediocre for several years, while the rest of baseball slowly re-learns why it was financially beneficial to have one NY team play the super-villain - and while our Boy Owner toys around with his rather infinite amount of money. Someday, this will end. I'm thinking around 2020, though. (Yes, it is a lost decade.) My guess is that in about three years, Hal will empty his entire war chest on Bryce Harper, refusing to sign other free agents, and then go for five or six years blaming Harper for second place finishes. That will be his re-enactment of the Rickie Henderson era. At some point, we will fall into dead last place, and we will draft or sign an 18-year-old player who can lead us from the darkness.

This Christmas, my message of hope: I believe that future Yankee has been born, and he now walks the earth.

So, in the year 2025... (if man is still alive, if woman can survive, they might find)... we will ask the question: Was Brendan Ryan really here?

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