Hanley Ramirez, Fredi Gonzalez, and the jogging fiasco


Note: This is a long rant. It gets a bit unorganized near the end, because I was so peeved about the whole situation. Bear with me. Bear with the whole ordeal, in fact.

If you’re a Marlins fan, I’m sure you saw this yesterday. Hanley Ramirez fouled a ball off his foot earlier in the game and then booted a popup into left field, only leisurely jogging after it as the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks scored two runs. At the end of the inning, manager Fredi Gonzalez confronted Hanley, said a few quick words, and Hanley was heading into the back and out of the game. Afterward, Fredi had this to say (more or less) about Hanley’s lack of effort (courtesy of Joe Capozzi):

"“He got smoked by the ball in the ankle. Whether he’s hurt or not hurt or whatever it was, we felt the effort wasn’t there that we wanted. There’s 24 guys out there busting their butts. Cody Ross got hit by a ball 95 miles an hour that wasn’t thrown any less slower and he stayed in the game. And battled and got two hits.“You know what? There’s some injuries there but we expect an effort from 25 guys on this team and when that doesn’t happen we gotta do something.”What did you tell Hanley when he came into the dugout?“I told him he needed to go inside and we’re gonna run (Brian) Barden out there, who has a sprained ankle, by the way. And he battled eight innings with a sprained ankle probably killing him, but that’s the effort we’re looking for as any organization.”Gonzalez said Ramirez offered no excuse when he came off the field after the play.Will Hanley receive any further discipline?“You need more embarrassment other than being taken out of a major league game?”Will he start Tuesday?“We’ll see.”How disappointing is it to see that from your marquee player?“You guys call him a marquee guy. I got 25 guys all wearing the same uniform with the same Marlins insignia on the front. I thnik it’s disappointing if anybody did it, not just one guy.”"

Apparently, today Wes Helms suggested Hanley apologize to the team. Hanley wanted no business with any of that (again, courtesy of Joe Capozzi).

"Do you want some time to get past it?“For what?”To talk top Fredi“Who’s that?”Your manager.“Oh yea? Im just gonna play the game…”Did you lose respect for Fredi?“A little bit. We got 24 more guys out there. Hopefully they can do the same things I do. They’re wearing the Marlins uniform.’’Do you plan to apologize to the team?“To who?”One of your teammates suggested an apology might be good if you did that.“Do what?”Apologize.“For what?”They thought that you were dogging it chasing that ball.“We got a lot of people dogging it after ground balls. They don’t apologize.’’Are you playing today?“I don’t think so. I don’t know when I’m going to be back on the field.’’"

I’m not perfect. Once, in Little League, I dogged a play. I wasn’t paying attention in right field and a ball flew over my head. I hustled over and got rid of it to the closest cutoff man, but my team wasn’t happy. My manager pulled me aside and said, “Hey, pay attention out there. That could have hit you. Focus!” That was the end of it.

That was Little League. I probably could have used the lesson on paying attention, as I was ten years old (or something). Somehow I doubt major leaguers who have worked their butts off their entire careers to get to the bigs could use the same lesson from their manager. That’s part of my problem with how Fredi handled this situation. Let’s break the story down into multiple angles, so we can hit as many points as possible.

The Production Issue

Yes, that play cost the team some runs in that particular instance, there’s no doubt about that. There’s a good shot at least one run scores from that mess, and the boot gave up a second run plus the advancement to third on what should have been a single. That’s the fault of the error. What about the lazy jog? Well, maybe the jog got the runner to third instead of second base, a loss of maybe .25 or so runs. The second run would have scored anyway on the error itself.

So what are we arguing about? Errors happen, so that’s not the issue (it was a bonehead error, but it happens). The jog cost the team a quarter of a run or so. Fredi’s move of inserting Brian Barden for Hanley actually cost the team more runs! Based on career numbers, Hanley has been worth around 0.177 runs per PA, Barden around 0.067 runs. Over the three PA Barden got, the team lost an expected 0.33 runs. If anything, Hanley’s error and Fredi’s move were evenly detrimental to the team.

And what if he was dogging the play because he felt he may get injured? Then both Fredi and Hanley’s moves were right, provided the injury chance was high enough. There’s no reason to sacrifice two weeks of one of the best players in baseball for one extra base essentially. Either they are both right or both wrong. Your choice.

The Leader of Men

Why is everyone getting into a huff about it? Part of it is that some people seem to think that Hanley, as a veteran and superstar of the Marlins, should be a leader and lead by example. My counter to that is that most adults probably do not need to be inspired by strong work ethic to display strong work ethic themselves. I have never worked at a suboptimal level  because somebody far more talented than I am worked the same job at a suboptimal level. I’m not wired that way; I’m going to work at my pace in order to maintain my job. I’m fairly certain many would feel the same way.

So it is odd to me see Hanley get this “leader of men” label and be pigeonholed into leading by example. If it doesn’t work in the workforce, why would it work in baseball? It’s one thing to ask for advice and assistance on how to play, as I’m sure the young players have asked the veterans numerous times. But if young players are so impressionable that they would emulate what is clearly bad behavior, then they do not care enough about their major league career to maintain it. Hanley is not the manager of this team. He is not the GM of this team. He should have no say as to how any of the players play, and he should not be held accountable to them for anything but his production.

This idea that, as a “leader of men,” Hanley should never dog a play is preposterous too. Everyone dogs it at work occasionally. I should have had this article done a few hours earlier, but I was too busy talking about this on Twitter. I dogged it today. It happens. Is it a good thing? No, not really. Is it something that everyone in the Marlins blogging community should be up in arms about? Should Craig and Kelly of FishStripes or Dave and Ted at Marlins Diehards get on me for dogging today’s article and demand that I apologize to the Marlins blogging community? Probably not either. No, because it happens. If your boss catches you dogging it at work, you begrudgingly admit your fault, get mad that your boss caught you, and go back to work.

The Comeback

Except that this just isn’t happening, because Hanley is not playing the role of the worker who got caught. Instead, he’s  playing the whole thing off and being defensive, which I think all of us Marlins fans agree is the wrong thing to do. Maybe Hanley does not have to apologize; after all, he did not cost the team any more runs than Fredi did for pulling him. But by insulting everyone involved and making this into a “me against the world” issue, he is now hurting the team. Fredi might not start Hanley again until he apologizes to the team (heard it on ESPN Radio, don’t have a link to confirm; if anyone can help on this, that would be great), and it is at this point that both sides are now affecting production because of this spat.

There is only one thing I care about in baseball, and that’s entertainment. And the thing that entertains me the most is production. If Hanley’s attitude is going to get in the way of production, then we have a problem. If his attitude is going to prevent him from playing at a high level, then we have a problem. Perhaps if Fredi had dealt this in a more private manner rather than going to the media irate about the issue, this would have been resolved like last year’s Hanley/Dan Uggla tiff. But Hanley lashed out because Fredi openly undressed him to the media, and his attitude was such that his reaction was to defend himself to the media with harsh words.

Whoever was wrong at the start does not matter. The key now is resolving this issue and moving forward. Every game in which Hanley sits, the blame for the lost production lies on both Fredi and Hanley for the way they handled this mess. Neither did right, and both may cause plenty of problems in the future if the situation persists.