Someday, Marlins fans will regret seeing Hanley go

Today, Strip Club With Stanton posted an excellent piece on ESPN SweetSpot Network blog Marlins Daily regarding Logan Morrison‘s comments on Hanley Ramirez and his recent spat of injuries / attitude / lack of work ethic / any other complaint you can think of.

“What we don’t have is experience and a veteran who is in the lineup every day that can be an anchor for us. We don’t have it.”
Asked whether Ramirez could be that anchor, Morrison said: “I guess, but he’s not there every game. It’s 162 games. It’s not a 100-game season.”

But this is not about LoMo and Hanley and what goes on between the two in the media or locker room; SCWS did a great job covering that angle. What I am hear to do is lament that, as much as Ramirez claims that he wants to retire with the Fish and have his #2 jersey retired, there is a very good chance that all parties involved may want to part ways at some point in the not-too-distant future. Maybe it won’t happen this offseason, but I imagine that some time at or before his current contract expires, the Marlins and Ramirez will say goodbye.

And guess what? Years will pass, and when we look back upon the season when Ramirez leaves, we as fans will regret ever having pushed him away.

Remember this guy?

Does anyone remember this guy?

“Sometimes fame comes too quickly,” [special assistant Tony Perez] told the Post. “He has the ability; everybody knows that. He’s got a great future ahead of him, but that’s up to him.”

<snip>

“[Forget] the veterans,” he told the Post. “They haven’t told me anything and they better not come tell me anything, either.

“I don’t want to hear anything else. I want to play baseball, give what I have to give on the field of play, and win. That’s all I want. …

“Everyone here is a grown man,” he told the newspaper. “Everyone knows what he’s doing. And I’m not going to go crazy worrying about these things.”

This was in 2005, as the Marlins were fading in the playoff race and tempers were flaring. Players and coaches were not happy, and I am certain at the time that fans were not happy with that particular player and his comments. Of course, that player was Miguel Cabrera. And as we all know, Miguel Cabrera has still not turned out to be a model citizen, as evidenced by his most recent DUI arrest this year and his situation two years ago when he showed up drunk at a Detroit Tigers game critical to their playoff chances.

And yet when Cabrera was finally dealt, there was not a Marlins fan out there who could resist getting furious about dealing one of the best young hitters in the game at the time (example: Craig over Fish Stripes all those years ago). Years later, Marlins fans are still kicking themselves for trading Cabrera. Forget for a second that the players the team received, particularly Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller, did not pan out for the Fish. The gut reaction to a trade like that is disappointment or anger, especially with an organization whose fanbase is so constantly disappointed by its frugal ways.

Fast forward to right now. The words from that 2005 article could mirror anything that has happened with Ramirez and the front office. In fact, without the names or the link, it is difficult to tell whether that has anything to do with Cabrera and whether it’s not just another Ramirez response to an insult or a slight or a “talking to” by one of the team’s former ballplayers who are now special assistants. Andre Dawson and Tony Perez both took a stab at it. Jeff Conine took a less direct and more passive aggressive approach. Either way, it seems the team’s old-timey ballplayers are having a difficult time with Ramirez just like they did in the past with Cabrera.

When you make a trade…

Fans are clamoring for deal. They are sick and tired of Ramirez’s attitude or work ethic or lack of hustle. They want that bum out of there for good, and in some cases for whatever we can get. But Cabrera was traded too, and Marlins fans were all disappointed when we traded him. They were disappointed in the return as well, as Craig’s post points out. So what makes this situation any different? Both Cabrera and Ramirez have known “attitude” problems, and when the first was traded away, no one was happy about the move or the return despite those problems. What makes you think that trading Ramirez is going to make the fanbase any happier or the team any better?

Some might say that Ramirez’s problems are beginning to affect the way he plays, something that has never really been observed in Cabrera’s situation. It is not as if Cabrera and Ramirez were not of similar talent levels before their (possible) trade. Ramirez has totaled 3370 PA and 29.9 FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement (fWAR) in his first five seasons as a Fish. Cabrera, in comparison, was worth 22.1 fWAR in 3072 PA. Prorate Ramirez to Cabrera’s total playing time and you get 27.3 fWAR; in other words, the two were in the same boat statistically, and indeed Ramirez may have been a better player.

In addition, as I pointed in today’s NL East Divide & Conquer piece for Baseball Prospectus, Ramirez has been basically the Ramirez of old since June 21, the day Jack McKeon took over as manager.

Ramirez

AVG

OBP

SLG

June 21 – Current

.304

.385

.500

Career

.306

.380

.506

2011 PECOTA

50th percentile

.305

.383

.491

The Marlins have had the career version of Ramirez, which happens to coincide well with the projected version of the player, for the last month or so. That may not mean much ultimately, as we obviously want to see an extended streak of success throughout the rest of the year from Ramirez, but it does mean that within a season, so many things can go right or wrong that it is difficult sometimes to differentiate between an extended slump and a real change for the worse.

Imagine a future that is not so far-fetched, one which has the Marlins moving Ramirez for a gaggle of top prospects to a team willing to take a problem child off the Fish’s hands. Imagine that some of those prospects pan out nicely, and others do a bit worse than expected. Imagine though, that Ramirez goes on to have the career that the projection systems think he will have, the one in which he continues to play fairly well into his mid-30’s, the same sort of career that the ZiPS projection system is projecting will give him a 62 percent chance to end up in the Hall of Fame. In this future, Marlins fans will lament that they ever pushed Ramirez out of town. In this future, they will have regretted not heeding the words of fans like myself or SCWS or the Diehards, who have tried to see Ramirez as something more than just a troublemaking athlete who needs to be expelled.

I’m not saying that those #TeamHanley are right. What I am saying is that we have seen this story before, and the first time it did not end well. Let us not be so quick to judge once again this time.

Tags: Hanley Ramirez Miami Marlins Miguel Cabrera

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