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Miami Marlins: Time to let Hanley be Hanley?


If you ask a lot of experts around baseball about the key for the Miami Marlins, they would tell you, “The Marlins will go as far as Hanley Ramirez takes them.” A lot of the same analysts would say that same about Giancarlo Stanton, but what he will provide the Marlins with has been more consistent the past two seasons than what Hanley has provided the Marlins with.

As you all have heard by now, former Marlins star Gary Sheffield told The Michael Irvin Show Tuesday, that the struggling Marlins should give some thought to trading struggling star, Hanley Ramirez. He is not the first one, as Jeff Conine suggested the same last season. Marlins special assistants and Hall of Famers Andre Dawson and Tony Perez have called out Hanley’s immature behavior in the past. Ramirez has had issues with his managers and his teammates in the past as well.

Fredi Gonzalez had to bench Hanley a few seasons ago, because Ramirez was “dogging” it on the field. Dan Uggla mocked Ramirez in front of the media because he thought Ramirez was sitting on his league leading batting average. Most recently, Logan Morrison called him out in a clubhouse meeting. This is not like it’s been media members or non-baseball people calling out Ramirez

A Marlins official was asked Wednesday if Hanley’s been better this year.

"“Well, he moved to third base fine. It’s not his attitude that’s the big problem — it’s his game.”"

That quote actually somewhat contradicts what Sheffield had to say about Ramirez.

"“Inconsistency, lack of leadership. That’s what I see with this team. I’ve said it before and I’m going to say it again…Hanley Ramirez is a good player. I just think he thinks he’s great and he hasn’t done anything yet. When you have a monster year people start expecting this every year and he hasn’t delivered. Somebody needs to sit him down and get with this kid and say, ‘Look, you’re not a .250 hitter.’ Unless [he] gets it together I think they need to start looking at moving him and kind of  bringing in more players. He’s the one player than can bring in a lot of players.”"

Sheffield’s comments came a couple of days after Hanley Ramirez initiated a players only meeting for the first time in his career. “And he said all the right things,” said one veteran player. “I was impressed.”
The difference between the past times when Ramirez has been called out and this time when Sheffield called out Hanley, well, Hanley was a star shortstop that was producing. Ramirez was arguably a top five player in all of baseball, and that was with his “negative” attitude and lazy play at times. That was an attitude that turned people off from Ramirez, as they felt he was better then everyone else.

I am still writing last season off as a fluke, as I believe that Ramirez’s shoulder was actually worse off then we were led to believe, but the struggles have continued this season.

Maybe Hanley Ramirez has started to decline when he should actually be peaking, in the prime of his career.

What is the reason behind the struggles? I cannot tell you for sure, as I do not have the opportunity to be around Ramirez or the team, but I do have a theory on his struggles this season.

Does Hanley really need to be a team leader?

Last season, the New England Patriots went out and signed now Miami Dolphin wide-receiver, Chad Ochocinco. Ochocinco has been known as a diva, star wide out in the NFL. A lot of people did not believe that the relationship between Ochocinco and the Patriots would work out, as the Pats are seen as a first class organization that does not tolerate the nonsense that Chad often brings out.

As a result of that, I felt Chad played out of character last season, and in turn, that seemed to affect his game. Ochocinco’s game thrived off of his star diva attitude. When the Patriots decided he needed to be quieted down, his mouth and his game went south.

I believe the same applies with Hanley. Ramirez’s level of play has been at superstar level when he has been cocky and confident. Yes, Ramirez felt he was privileged to some plays off on defense and not run out all of the ground balls he hit. He also felt like he was too important to show up on time for team meetings or for practice. Yes, these did cause rifts with his teammates and hurt “team chemistry.”

But honestly, none of that mattered, as Ramirez was able to produce on the field. His talent was able to cover up all of his shortcomings. The Marlins were best off with Ramirez being a cocky, self-absorbed player. Team chemistry is an overrated thing in baseball anyways.

The problem that has persisted has been that the Marlins have continued to try and change Hanley Ramirez and his “attitude.” Maybe the Marlins need to let Hanley be Hanley.

If Ramirez is hitting over .300 and providing you with 25-30 home runs, is there really a need for him to step up and be the team leader? Does he even need to get along with his teammates, as long as he is getting the job done? This is what Ramirez told reporters a day after he called a players only meeting:

"“I don’t like to talk too much. I joke a little bit but I don’t like to speak. But sometimes there’s a time when you have too many things in your heart and you just want to say it.”"

Talented players like Ramirez do not come around often. He is arguably the best Marlin of all-time, statistically. Yet, in the eyes of Marlins fans, he is as big of a villain as Lebron James is to Cleveland fans.

Yes, it would be ideal for your star player to be a leader, but that is not necessary to win ballgames. Miguel Cabrera is still not a vocal leader with the Detroit Tigers, but you do not hear people calling him out on that.

The case for trading Ramirez can be easily made, and for the most part, fans would not be opposed. Sports is a “what have you done for me lately” type of business. If you do not produce, the fans will be on you right away. Sure, the Marlins could get some prospects out of Ramirez and replenish a farm system that is starved for top prospects.

But the problem for the Marlins right now is, Hanley’s trade value cannot be lower. Yes, a team would still buy low on him and hope that the 28-year old could figure things out and return to his former self. But the Marlins would not be attaining fair value for their player. The Marlins would not necessarily receive the type of package that they would like right now.

Prospects are also not sure things. Marlins fans can attest to that, as the Miguel Cabrera trade to the Detroit Tigers is still fresh on everybody’s minds. Cabrera has continued to blossom into one of the games best players, even with behavior that gets him into trouble with the law, time-to-time.

The Marlins return, none of the six players are with the team anymore. One of them has become a disposable bullpen arm, the other is struggling to find the Mendoza line this season.

Neither player has found much success in the Major Leagues, even though most experts thought that the Marlins received great value in that trade.

In fact, most trades for superstars do not pan out. Just ask the Seattle Mariners and the Minnesota Twins about their recent deals involving Cliff Lee and Johan Santana in the past few seasons.

When you factor that in with the Marlins recent promise to keep a decent payroll, the outside media would look at the Marlins trading Ramirez as a contradiction to that promise. The Marlins image is very fickle with the media, one wrong step, and reporters will be ripping the Marlins apart. ESPN seems to thrive on their analysts picking apart Miami teams.

The Marlins are not trading Hanley, the official said. Especially not now. Certainly not this first year at the new ballpark. Even with the teams June struggles, the team is currently 4 1/2 games out of the wild card. The Marlins have bigger issues then Hanley Ramirez and his struggles this season.

The Marlins are a team full of obvious flaws. Gaby Sanchez has still not found his way to the new ballpark, John Buck has been a major disappointment for the Fish in the first 1 1/2 years of his 3 year contract. The starting staff that carried the Marlins the first two months of the season has come crashing down to Earth.

In order for the Marlins to turn things around, they will need a lot to happen. Maybe the first thing the Marlins need to do is turn their third baseman loose. Stop holding him accountable to be the team leader and step up to guide the team when they are struggling. If they do, the results should follow. If not, then you can cut your losses and trade him away.

Either way, the Marlins 2012 playoff chances hinge of the success of Hanley Ramirez. As Logan Morrison said, “We need him to get big hits and step up and talk the talk and walk the walk.’’

The Marlins do not need to hold Hanley accountable for being the team leader, they just need him to produce on a nightly basis and lead the team on the field with his play.

The Marlins need to let “Hanley be Hanley.”