Hanley Ramirez’s Brother From Another Mother…And Father

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Hanley Ramirez and Manny Ramirez are basically the same person with Hanley never putting up the numbers that Manny did to justify his self-centered and petulant behaviors.

Hanley, like Manny, forced his way out of his playing venue and wound up with the Dodgers. Manny did it with years of abuse and borderline acts that would’ve gotten him put into jail had they been perpetrated in society and not in the insular world of baseball. Hanley did it with constant tantrums and long stretches of lackadaisical play. Also like Manny, Hanley is going to the Dodgers and will go on a tear for the rest of the season, playing the part of the good teammate and leaving the team, fans and media members to wonder why such a wonderful, hard-working individual was so misunderstood by his prior employer.

Neither player has been misunderstood.

Let’s look at the trade of Hanley Ramirez and what to expect going forward.

Pennies on the dollar

Given his talent and that the Marlins were so resistant to trading him for this long, getting Nathan Eovaldi and a minor leaguer in exchange for Hanley and Randy Choate is a letdown and the equivalent of tossing their hands in the air and saying, “Get this guy outta here already.” Eovaldi has good stuff and that the Dodgers traded a member of their starting rotation is indicative of the confidence that Dodgers’ GM Ned Colletti feels in getting a starter (Ryan Dempster?) in the near future. Hanley was once a top ten player in baseball. Now, he’s not.

The problem a player has when he has a toxic reputation is that when he doesn’t play as well as he once did, the ancillary aspects are no longer explainable. With Manny, the phrase “Manny being Manny” was a term of endearment for those who didn’t have to deal with him on a daily basis; once he became unproductive and still behaved like it was his divine right to be an obnoxious, entitled jerk because he could hit, nobody wanted him around.

I didn’t think the Marlins were going to trade Hanley in-season and wrote that. That they did move him says there are serious structural changes coming to the Marlins and that they felt they had to get rid of him, period.

For all the incidents with Hanley (the ones that we know about), there was a constant circuit breaker in any attempts to discipline him: owner Jeffrey Loria. Loria treated Hanley like his son, enabled him and sabotaged his managers, front office people and advisers who either wanted to get rid of Hanley or do something significant to rein him in. Former players who confronted Hanley like Dan Uggla were dispatched while Hanley was the one Marlins star who was rewarded with a lucrative contract. Like Mike Tyson was coddled by Cus D’Amato with the refrain to Teddy Atlas, “This kid is a special case,” Hanley did what he wanted, when he wanted. Like Atlas, the Marlins had quality people tossed overboard in the choice between Hanley and anyone else.

When Loria had had enough and sent Andre Dawson and Tony Perez to discipline him, Hanley knew in the back of his mind that even if Dawson did as he threatened he would do and knock him out if he said the wrong thing, nothing was going to be done because he had the owner in his corner.

It was eerily predictable that Hanley was not going to be happy with the shift to third base in favor of Jose Reyes. Simple on paper, it wasn’t taken into account the macho perception stemming from where Hanley and Reyes grew up; that it would be seen as an usurping of Hanley’s territory for Reyes to be installed and Hanley moved to accommodate him; that Reyes got the money that Hanley didn’t; that the financial and practical idea of Reyes being “better” than Hanley would eat at his ego.

The Marlins bought a load of expensive baubles to decorate their new home without an interior designer’s input. The gaudy and cold emptiness is evident in the lack of cohesion among the roster.

How does this affect the Marlins?

Yes, they have quality baseball people in their front office in Larry Beinfest, Michael Hill and Dan Jennings, but there was very little in-depth baseball analysis put into practice when the Marlins Scotch-taped this team together. It was buy this, buy that and hope the team wins and the fans show up. The team hasn’t won and the fans haven’t shown up.

It’s not easy to run a club when there’s a mandate to keep costs down one year; to buy players the next; to do things that aren’t predicated on winning, but on the owner’s whims and needs to validate a new park built on the public’s dime. Beinfest has done the best he can under the circumstances. Don’t be stunned when it starts leaking out that there were significant members of the Marlins’ baseball operations team that wanted to trade Hanley two years ago and were prevented from pulling the trigger on better packages than what they eventually got.

The admiration for taking decisive action when the “plan” isn’t working is tempered by fan apathy. The majority of those in Miami aren’t going to notice whether Hanley’s there or not in a manner similar to them not paying attention to what the Marlins are doing at all. It’s easier to clean house when you don’t have any guests and the Marlins’ 12th place position in attendance is bound to get worse because the fans that were going to see baseball—and not get a haircut, visit an aquarium or ostentatious Miami nightspot—aren’t going to the park to watch a team that’s soon to be ten games under .500 and is, for all intents and purposes, eliminated from contention.

Like the Rays and A’s, the Marlins operate in an ambivalent vacuum where their ability to trade anyone and everyone is linked to the disinterest they generate. Nobody cares therefore nobody notices therefore it doesn’t negatively affect the business.

It’s been reported that the Marlins aren’t tearing the whole thing down so I wouldn’t expect Reyes, Mark Buehrle or Giancarlo Stanton to be traded. They’ve gotten themselves two very talented young starting pitchers in Eovaldi and Jacob Turner. But Carlos Lee, Logan Morrison, John Buck, Carlos Zambrano, Ricky Nolasco and Heath Bell (if anyone will take him) should have their bags packed.

They’ve tossed in the towel on this season because it didn’t work and the “Hanley’s fine with the move to third; fine with the money others are getting; fine with the direction of the franchise,” turned out to be cover stories for the obvious truth: it wasn’t going to work. And it didn’t.

How does this affect the Dodgers?

The Dodgers traded for Manny and the Manny package. They got the good Manny and almost went to the World Series. In a mediocre, parity-laden National League, that could happen again this season. They re-signed Manny for a lot of money and watched as he got hurt and was suspended for PEDs.

Manny was being Manny.

They just traded for Hanley and the Hanley package. They’ll get the good Hanley from now to the end of the season and presumably for 2013 because he’ll be looking for a long-term contract. His current deal expires after 2014. By mid-2013, it he’s playing well, he’ll let it be known how much he “loves” Los Angeles and wants to stay there for “the rest of his career.” That’s player speak for “Give me an extension. Now.”

With their new ownership and that Hanley’s going to revert to the superstar he was three years ago, they’ll pay him and keep him. Whether he’s going to repeat the Manny-style downfall and the behaviors that got him dumped from the Marlins and cast out by his surrogate father—Loria—remain to be seen, but judging from his history it’s not hard to imagine Hanley wearing out his welcome with the Dodgers and being back on the trading block not because of his salary or that it would improve the team, but because the Dodgers will realize what the Marlins did and say, “We hafta get him outta here,” due to his overt selfishness and team-destroying antics.

It’s not difficult to foresee—like the failures of the 2012 Marlins.

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Hall of Fame 2012—Larkin and Raines and Pray for the Sane?

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Let’s talk about the Hall of Fame candidates for 2012.

I use every aspect of a player to assess his candidacy from stats; to perception; to era; to post-season performances; to contributions to the game.

Any of the above can add or subtract credentials and provide impetus to give a thumbs up/thumbs down.

Because the Lords of baseball, the owners, media and fans looked the other way or outright encouraged the drug use and performance enhancers, that doesn’t absolve the players who used the drugs and got caught.

Regarding PEDs, here’s my simple criteria based on the eventual candidacies of Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds: if the players were Hall of Famers before they started using, they’re Hall of Famers; if they admitted using the drugs—for whatever reason, self-serving or not—or got caught and it’s statistically obvious how they achieved their Hall of Fame numbers, they’re not Hall of Famers.

As for stats, advanced and otherwise, it’s all part of the consideration process; certain stats and in-depth examinations make players (like Bert Blyleven) more worthy in the eyes of open-minded voters than they were before; the era and what they were asked to do (i.e. “you’re here to swing the bat and drive in runs” a la Andre Dawson and Jim Rice) fall into this category of not simply being about the bottom-line. Their career arcs; their sudden rise and fall and other factors come into the equation.

In short, this is my ballot and what I would do if I had a vote. If you disagree, we can debate it. Comment and I’ll respond.

Barry Larkin

Larkin should wait a bit longer.

He was overrated defensively and only played in more than 145 games in 7 of his 19 seasons. Larkin was a very good player who’s benefiting from certain factions promoting him as a no-doubter with the weak-minded sheep unable to formulate a case against him and joining the wave of support.

Alan Trammell is in the same boat as Larkin and is barely getting any support at all.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? Yes.

Alan Trammell

Trammell was a fine fielder and an excellent hitter in the days before shortstops were expected to hit. He’s being unfairly ignored.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? Maybe, but not by the writers.

Jack Morris

Morris was a durable winner who doesn’t have the statistics to get into the Hall of Fame. To be completely fair, his starts on a year-to-year basis have to be torn apart to see whether his high ERA is due to a few bad starts sprinkled in with his good ones and if he has a macro-argument for induction. It was that endeavor which convinced me of Blyleven’s suitability and I’ve yet to do it with Morris.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? His percentage has risen incrementally but with three years remaining on the ballot, he’s got a long way to go from 53.5% to 75% and probably won’t make it. The Veterans Committee is his only chance. They might vote him in.

Tim Raines

Are you going to support Kenny Lofton for the Hall of Fame?

By the same argument for Lou Brock and Raines, you have to support Lofton.

And how about Johnny Damon? And if Damon, Lofton and Raines are in, where is it going to stop?

The Hall of Fame building isn’t going to implode with Raines, but it might burst from the rest of the players who are going to have a legitimate case for entry and going by: “if <X> is in, then <Y> should be in”.

Let Raines wait.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? Yes.

Jeff Bagwell

How does this work? Someone is a suspect so they receive a sentence of exclusion when nothing has ever been proven? Bagwell’s name has never been mentioned as having been involved in PEDs and the silly “he went from a skinny third baseman to a massive first baseman who could bench press 315 pounds for reps” isn’t a convincing one to keep him out.

Bagwell’s a Hall of Famer.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? No. Bagwell is going to get caught up in the onrush of allegations of wrongdoing and people will forget about him.

Mark McGwire

Under my Bonds/Clemens criteria, McGwire wasn’t a Hall of Famer without the drugs, so he’s not a Hall of Famer. McGwire admitted his steroid use and apologized as a self-serving, “yeah, y’know sorry (sob, sniff)” because he wanted to work as the Cardinals hitting coach.

An apology laden with caveats isn’t an apology. He’s sorry in context and that’s not good enough.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? No.

Juan Gonzalez

Gonzalez won two MVPs and his stats weren’t padded by playing in Rangers Ballpark to the degree that you’d think because the numbers were similar home and road; Gonzalez has a viable resume but will get caught up in the Dale Murphy category and be kept out.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? No.

Edgar Martinez

I’ve written repeatedly in response to those who say a pure DH shouldn’t get into the Hall of Fame: it would’ve been more selfish for Martinez to demand to play the field for the sake of appearance so he’d have a better chance at the Hall of Fame.

He was a great hitter without a weakness—there was nowhere to pitch him.

Martinez is a Hall of Famer.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? Maybe.

Larry Walker

He batted .381 in Colorado with a .462 on base and 1.172 OPS. That’s going to hurt him badly.

But he was a Gold Glove outfielder who rarely struck out and had good but not great numbers on the road.

He was never implicated in having used PEDs.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? I don’t think so.

Rafael Palmeiro

In my book, arrogance and stupidity are perfectly good reasons to exclude someone.

Palmeiro could’ve kept his mouth shut or not even gone to speak to Congress at all—the players weren’t under any legal requirement to go. He didn’t jab his finger in the faces of the panel, he jabbed it in the faces of you, me and the world.

Then he got caught.

Then he piled sludge on top of the gunk by offering the utterly preposterous excuse that he didn’t know how he failed the test.

This is all after he began his career as a singles hitter…in Wrigley Field!!

Conveniently, he got to Texas and came under the influence of Jose Canseco to become a basher.

Don’t insult my intelligence and expect me to forget it.

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? No.

Bernie Williams

Combining his stretch of brilliance from 1995-2002 and his post-season excellence, he’s not an automatic in or out; over the long term he might garner increasing support.

He was never accused of PED use and is a well-liked person. Looking at his regular season numbers, he falls short; memorable playoff and World Series moments will help him as will his Gold Gloves (in spite of the numbers saying he wasn’t a good center fielder).

Will he be elected in 2012? No.

Will he be elected eventually? Possibly.

Larkin and Raines might get enshrined in 2012 by the “we have to have someone” contingent which pretty much proves the silliness of the way players are voted in, but it will only be those two.

Ron Santo is going in via the Veterans Committee and he’s dead; Tim McCarver is deservedly going in via the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcasting and a large crowd won’t gather to see McCarver as the only one speaking in August. So politics and finances may play a part for this class.

Raines and Larkin had better hope they get in this year because in 2013, Clemens, Bonds, Mike Piazza, Curt Schilling, Sammy Sosa and Craig Biggio are on the ballot.

I’m quite curious about Sosa to the point of supporting him because: A) I’d like to see the color of his skin now after a strange Michael Jackson-like alteration from what he once was; and B) I want to know if he learned English since his own appearance (alongside Palmeiro) in front of Congress.

It’s worth the vote in a non-linear sort of way.

Apart from that, it’s 2012 or wait, wait, wait for Larkin and Raines.

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Mid-Season Trade Candidates for 2012—Hanley Ramirez

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When considering how to approach this posting, something occurred to me: what are the Marlins going to do if they shift Hanley Ramirez to third base, he’s playing there for awhile—be it a week, a month or half a season—and new shortstop Jose Reyes gets hurt with, oh I dunno, a hamstring pull?

What will Ramirez say if he’s asked to move back to shortstop to replace the injured Reyes and then is asked to move back to third when Reyes returns?

If you pay attention to several of the Mets beat writers, Reyes’s hamstring issues aren’t prevalent; he had them early in his career, was completely healthy from 2005-2008, then tore his hamstring in 2010, in part, because of the Mets shoddy medical diagnosis and decision to play him while he was compromised; in 2010, he had a thyroid problem; in 2011, there were two stints on the disabled list because of his hamstring and he didn’t run all out when he came back after the second because he didn’t want to further diminish his paycheck as a free agent.

These are facts.

Reyes’s hamstrings are a weak point whether or not it’s admitted by those who lament the Mets decision to let him depart without an aggressive offer.

The Marlins haven’t found a utility infielder to play shortstop in case of such an eventuality. I suppose Emilio Bonifacio could play shortstop, but he’s not very good defensively at the position; then again, neither is Ramirez. Bonifacio is serviceable at third; the Marlins would be better off with Ramirez at short and either Bonifacio or solid defender Matt Dominguez playing third for however long Reyes is out.

But would they do that?

And would Ramirez get more aggravated than he already is about the shifting back-and-forth?

The Yankees made it a point not to move Alex Rodriguez to shortstop whenever Derek Jeter was out for a day or two when it would’ve made sense. A-Rod was a better defensive shortstop than Jeter’s ever been, but as a conciliatory gesture to Jeter, they didn’t do it. It was silly, but understandable.

Would the Marlins do the same thing? If they do, they’d better get themselves a backup infielder who can play short.

With Ramirez, the silence has been deafening since the public pronouncement that he didn’t want to move to third. The team has successfully tamped down the drama, but it hasn’t been settled. It’s clear they’re not going to trade Ramirez unless he out-and-out demands it and he’s an important part of their offense; for all the flashy moves they’ve made, they’re still flawed at the back of their starting rotation and defensively shaky.

If it gets messy during the season, the Marlins might put Ramirez on the market. He doesn’t have a no-trade clause; he’s signed through 2014 for $46.5 million; if he’s hitting and healthy, he’d bring back multiple pieces—big ones.

The Marlins have shown no mercy in making trades and in spite of Ramirez’s status as a favored son of owner Jeffrey Loria, Loria needs the team to win next year; he’s not going to sacrifice the season and mitigate this winter’s spending spree to placate any player, even one he thinks so highly of and has enabled since his arrival.

There are already people around the Marlins that have had enough of Ramirez’s selfishness and laziness and felt he should’ve been traded away before now.

He’s not being selfish now because he’s not wrong. The Marlins have spent so much money on outsiders while not taking care of Ramirez as the Rockies and Brewers took care of their cornerstones Troy Tulowitzki and Ryan Braun with extensions on top of similar extensions as the one Ramirez had signed in 2008.

But he was wrong in the other instances and allowed to get away with his behaviors; he won a power struggle with Fredi Gonzalez; he survived being threatened by Andre Dawson. Is it so farfetched to think that the opposite can happen in 2012 if the world is crumbling around a disappointing Marlins club in need of a spark?

No.

Ramirez is a name to watch at mid-season because there are all the ingredients in place for a blockbuster.

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Hanley Ramirez—A Tantrum We Can Get Behind

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As much of a diva and malcontent as he can be; as many tantrums as he throws and pushes his ostensible “superiors” around with his status as the favorite son of owner Jeffrey Loria, Hanley Ramirez isn’t wrong if the stories of him being unhappy with the concept of shifting positions to accommodate Jose Reyes are true.

Can’t you picture Ramirez’s sour face? Hear him utter the words concerning Reyes, “Why do I hafta move? Why can’t he move?”

Already he’s supposedly said, “I’m a shortstop” when asked about his feelings on a position shift.

For all the behaviors that have drawn the ire of everyone in his clubhouse and with the organization—apart from Loria—this isn’t a situation where Andre Dawson can go down to talk to Ramirez—with Tony Perez in tow to make sure Dawson doesn’t hurt the young star—and “straighten” him out.

He’s been the highest paid and best talent on the team for years; he signed a reasonable contract extension without a no-trade clause; so now that the Marlins are heading into a new ballpark and are putting forth the pretense of spending big money and pursuing high-profile free agents Reyes, Albert Pujols, Mark Buehrle and others, Ramirez is supposed to sit by quietly with his current contract and shift positions to boot?

It’s not fair.

And if the Marlins play the Marlins “thing” of being hard-liners with team president David Samson as the hatchet-man when it suits them, and they tell Ramirez that he signed the contract and there’s no connection between his contract and the deals they’re inking to new players, he has every reason to squawk.

There’s a perception that the Marlins chasing name free agents is only a ruse; that they have little-to-no intention of spending the cash required to sign the above-mentioned players.

I don’t believe that to be the case.

The Marlins have no choice but to get at least two of the players they’re pursuing no matter what they have to do to get it done. That includes Reyes, Pujols, Buehrle, Francisco Rodriguez, Ryan Madson, C.J. Wilson or anyone else.

It’s probably not going to do much good for the recruitment of fans in the football and basketball-oriented city of Miami, but they threw themselves out there and must follow through.

There are multiple precedents in recent years of teams extending players when they were under no mandate nor any obligation to do so. The Rockies gave a super-long-term contract to Troy Tulowitzki that guarantees he’ll be in Colorado for his entire career; the Brewers did the same thing with Ryan Braun.

Ramirez’s current contract has $46.5 million remaining through 2014; if the Marlins suddenly have this stadium windfall and he’s that close to the owner, why can’t they extend the extension to keep him happy?

If the Marlins won’t do that with Ramirez, whatever happens will be their own fault and it won’t be as simple as rolling their eyes at Ramirez being a brat.

Because he’ll be right.

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What Price Friendship?

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New Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen said in a conference call that he would consider shifting Hanley Ramirez to another position. Presumably that position would be third base. This set off speculation—that has been advanced in the past—that a Ramirez shift would coincide with the Marlins making a big move on Ramirez’s close friend and current Mets free agent shortstop Jose Reyes.

A big move would have to include many, many zeroes on the check Reyes receives for signing the contract.

In prior years, the Marlins would never have been involved with trying to sign a marquee free agent such as Reyes; but with their new ballpark and new manager, it’s been said that they’re going to be heavily involved in bringing recognizable star players to Miami to try and win with payroll rather than finding players on the scrapheap.

I do believe it’s possible that Reyes is courted by the Marlins; I also believe Ramirez would move to another position to facilitate the signing.

Talent-wise, it’s a terrific move to have two dynamic, offensive forces on the left side of the infield. Reyes is a far better defender than Ramirez; Ramirez would be able to play third base.

Financially, one would assume the Marlins can do it.

Logistically, it might draw a number of fans who would ordinarily find other avenues of entertainment in Miami.

In practice, I don’t know if it would work.

Reyes’s injury history is what it is. If, in his contract year, he was injured twice with the recurrent hamstring woes that have plagued him forever, it’s a warning sign for when he’s assured of $120 million.

Regardless of whether the Marlins and others begin to decry the Mets medical protocol as substandard and imply that they’ll keep Reyes healthy, he’s continually gotten hurt with the same injuries—the Mets didn’t make mistakes every time with Reyes; it’s not an issue to be discounted amid a celebratory gala to introduce him as the newest team star.

Ramirez is another matter.

Apart from 2011, he’s been durable and ultra-productive; he’s also been a nuisance by using his status as the highest paid player; the star of the team; and the pet of owner Jeffrey Loria to be the alpha-male in the clubhouse and try to bully colleagues and ostensible superiors. When Andre Dawson has to venture down to talk to Ramirez about his attitude (and bring Tony Perez along with him to prevent him from strangling Ramirez), it’s not a good sign.

The friendship between the Reyes and Ramirez is legitimate and not a made-for-public-consumption golf outing between two players like Curt Schilling and Randy Johnson who were said to detest one another; Ramirez is the godfather to Reyes’s daughter and they would undoubtedly love to play together if circumstances are right.

Before automatically believing said circumstances are “right”, the Marlins need to calculate all the probable eventualities.

If the Marlins sign Reyes to a contract worth $120 million, where does that leave Ramirez?

Hanley Ramirez is signed to a super-team friendly deal that, when he signed it, was worth $70 million through 2014. He’s set to make $15 million in 2012; $15.5 million in 2013; and $16 million in 2014.

A signed contract is relatively meaningless in today’s sports world and that agreement doesn’t mean he won’t want an extension commensurate with what Reyes would be paid; with what Troy Tulowitzki and Ryan Braun received from the Rockies and Brewers respectively to essentially set in stone that they won’t suit up for another club for the rest of their careers.

Am I the only one who can picture Ramirez grinning happily at the Reyes press conference not only because his friend is joining the Marlins, but because he thinks he too is going to get a similar contract as a matter of course with the club’s new free-spending ways?

The Marlins aren’t exactly the warmest and fuzziest of organizations; they’re ruthless bordering on brutal and—Loria’s prodigal son or not—won’t be automatically predisposed to compensating Ramirez to keep him quiet and happy.

With Reyes, he wasn’t malingering through his injuries and this is both a positive and a negative; if he couldn’t stay on the field in his contract year when the talk of him making a Joe Mauer-style killing in free agency was at its height in June while he was scorching hot, what are the chances of him getting through a 6-7 year deal on his aging, fragile, meal-ticket legs without the requisite hamstring problems popping up again?

And with Ramirez, his attitude has always been questionable; he’s gotten away with transgressions because of the reasons elucidated above. If he walks up to Larry Beinfest, David Samson or Loria himself with wide eyes and an expectant nod regarding an extension on top of his current contract, they’re more likely to tell him to take a hike than they are to acquiesce to his demands.

That’s where things get dicey; that’s where things can blow apart before they’re completely constructed.

Hanley Ramirez’s demeanor has always tended more toward the Manny Ramirez than the Jose Reyes.

Manny was well-known for letting his displeasure with whatever it was that irritated Manny at that particular moment seep into his on-field play. He would not hustle; he’d throw tantrums; he’d try to force his employer’s hand. The Red Sox ignored him (while trying to dump him repeatedly) because he was one of the most productive players in the history of the sport and because they needed him. It was only when he was in the final year of his guaranteed deal and set to have his contract options exercised—and was outright demanding that they not do so—that the team said enough was enough; they were able to bring back a reasonably comparable bat in Jason Bay, and they finally traded him.

It all looks good now and will look better if the Marlins do pursue and get Reyes. They have Guillen, an established manager with a long-term deal who won’t be under and mandate to tolerate Ramirez’s act; they’ll be talented enough to make a run at the playoffs if Josh Johnson returns healthy. But if Ramirez thinks he’s being slighted, that close friendship could turn into jealousy and anger before spring training is over.

Players go where the money is, not where their friends are; and after the heady excitement from childhood of “imagine if we played together in the big leagues” wears off, all that remains is reality.

The reality is almost exclusively about money.

On paper, getting Reyes and making Ramirez a third baseman would be a brilliant strike; but they’d better think long and hard about the signing and potential reverberations before jumping in with both feet because the aftermath could be disastrous if it doesn’t go according to the blueprint.

And these things rarely go according to the blueprint.

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Jim Riggleman Shouldn’t Have Quit…

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…he should’ve waited for the Nationals to fire him.

When the news first broke that Riggleman had resigned, it was obvious that it was contract-related. I immediately thought back to two similar situations in which managers wanted their status defined one way or the other and wound up issuing ultimatums that cost them their jobs.

Don Zimmer won a shocking NL East title in 1989 with the Cubs and was named Manager of the Year. In 1990, the Cubs fell to 77-85 and spent a lot of money that winter for outfielder George Bell, closer Dave Smith and starter Danny Jackson to join Ryne Sandberg, Greg Maddux, Andre Dawson, Mark Grace and Shawon Dunston for a club that was expected to contend.

Struggling at 18-19 and with Zimmer angry about his uncertain contract status, Zimmer was fired. Apart from a stint running the Yankees while Joe Torre was recovering from prostate cancer, Zimmer never managed in the big leagues again.

Charlie Manuel also wanted his contract addressed by the Indians in 2002.

Having won 181 games in 2000-2001 and making the playoffs once, Manuel had a case for an extension. But the Indians were transitioning from their years of contention. Mired in 3rd place with a 39-47 record and heading in a different direction, they fired Manuel.

In a sense, you can say that Zimmer was better off having been fired by the Cubs. Had he remained as their manager, would he have eventually become Torre’s right-hand man in the Yankees dugout during their dynasty? Doubtful. His lovable reputation belies the feisty and fearless competitor he’s always been; it was Zimmer’s public rebuking of George Steinbrenner that sowed the seeds of his Yankees departure.

Manuel got the Phillies job because he was an agreeable choice for their veterans. His personality—on the surface—is the opposite of the manager he replaced, the fiery and intense Larry Bowa. Manuel’s success as Phillies manager speaks for itself. He comes off as laid back until you cross him. That’s when you discover that Cholly’s in Charge.

In short, Zimmer and Manuel landed on their feet.

Riggleman won’t.

Resigning because his option for 2012 had yet to be exercised was an act of self-immolation from which there’s no recovery.

For all his faults as a GM, Mike Rizzo was under no obligation to deal with Riggleman’s contract now.

The spinning by Riggleman and his agent, Burton Rocks (Burton Rocks?) borders on the farcical. Riggleman said he didn’t issue an ultimatum, but if he didn’t issue an ultimatum, then why’d he leave so abruptly with the team streaking and playing well? Riggleman’s agent said his client “will manage again”. Unless said agent pulls a Moorad and purchases a club of his own and hires Riggleman, that’s not happening. Even Rocks might look at Riggleman and say, “Jim, you quit on the Nats.”

It was always known that Riggleman was a caretaker whose job it was to rein in an out-of-control clubhouse, enact club edicts on the use of Stephen Strasburg, deal with the media and be the “veteran baseball guy” to bridge the gap from rebuilding to contention.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Worst-case scenario, if he did a good job and was fired, he’d be in the mix for another big league job as manager. Now he won’t. Not only does it look terrible for him to throw this brand of tantrum, but there’s a very good chance of him being blackballed for this ill-advised, not-entirely-thought-out fit of pique.

In a lukewarm defense of Riggleman, there was never a clear mandate as to what the Nationals are; what his job description was.

Did they want to win immediately? The signings of players like Jayson Werth indicate that was the goal.

Did they want to develop young players with winning secondary? Letting Drew Storen close and the rules enacted to protect Strasburg (they worked really well) implied otherwise.

It’s difficult to function without a stated objective.

Had he let this play out and gotten fired, Riggleman would’ve been on the side of right and possibly gotten another managing job. He’s not a great manager, but he is a good baseball man and a respected person. There are worse managers in baseball than Jim Riggleman.

Being fired is better than detonating bridges and setting oneself on fire.

He had no leverage, but he did have the perception of fairness to support him.

This was a colossal blunder.

Riggleman wanted security and he sure got it.

He’s secure in the fact that he’s never going to manage in the big leagues again.

And he’s got no one to blame but himself and whoever gave him the lamebrained advice to quit.

//

Regarding Hanley

Games, Management, Media, Players

There’s no definitive way to deal with Hanley Ramirez so I can’t criticize Marlins new/old manager Jack McKeon as he, in one of his first acts, benched the star shortstop for being late to the clubhouse and because McKeon “didn’t like the way (Ramirez) was running” on Sunday.

He’s been babied, enabled, threatened, fined and benched and he still has these lapses—personal and professional; it’s hard not to view them as intentional in the adolescent-style of pushing the parents’ boundaries.

They’re not isolated nor relegated to any one individual authority figure.

Former manager Fredi Gonzalez openly chastised and benched him for lazy play last season. It was part of the reason Gonzalez lost his job.

Andre Dawson threatened him; Tony Perez was with Dawson to make sure he didn’t start choking Ramirez if Ramirez said the wrong thing.

Former teammate Dan Uggla publicly criticized his double play partner in 2009 as the Marlins, still in the playoff chase, endured Ramirez sitting out several late-season games with a groin injury that teammates felt he should play through.

Uggla’s gone too.

Ramirez is still there.

Now McKeon is trying his hand at reining in Ramirez. Owner Jeffrey Loria treats (and enables) him as if he’s a wayward child whose abilities trump any efforts to get him in line.

Given all the Marlins have riding on the controversial decision to hire McKeon and that McKeon is also close to Loria, there won’t be any undermining of the manager as he makes a new effort to get through to the player.

What makes matters worse is that Ramirez’s behavior isn’t something to be shrugged off because he’s performing on the field—he’s been horrible this season.

So you pretty much have the highest paid player on the team, acting like a diva and failing to perform on the field.

They’ve tried everything; eventually they have to do something that’s going to work with their superstar.

The only thing left is to trade him.

I have to wonder if that possibility has entered the minds of the Marlins front office because there comes a time when enough is truly enough and something drastic—no matter how painful—must be done to send a message.

I don’t know what else they can do.

On another note regarding McKeon, I got an email from a Florida realtor with a livable space for McKeon as he takes over (again) as Marlins manager—link.

My one question is whether they’ll let McKeon smoke his cigars. That’s the deal-breaker.

//

The Son To The Father

Books, Games, Hall Of Fame, Management, Media, Paul Lebowitz's 2011 Baseball Guide, Players

It’s not uncommon for a spy to be sent in to a situation to assess and report.

Could that be the case with Eduardo Perez taking over as the new Marlins hitting coach?

Could it be that notoriously impatient owner Jeffrey Loria is thinking of making a managerial change and wants to know what’s going on in the clubhouse before pulling the trigger?

That perhaps the insertion of Eduardo Perez is a signal that Marlins special assistant to team president David Samson, Hall of Famer and former Marlins manager himself Tony Perez might be in line to take over for Edwin Rodriguez if the team continues to stumble?

While a bit too conservative for my tastes, Rodriguez has done a fine job with the Marlins since he took over for Fredi Gonzalez a year ago; the players seem to like and respect him; he has a quiet, understated and professional way about him and this team has been overrated repeatedly by the owner.

Rodriguez is working under a 1-year contract.

The Marlins have glaring flaws that can’t be covered by the hiring of a new manager, but that appears to be where things are headed with the essentially meaningless, warning shot firing of hitting coach John Mallee in favor or Eduardo Perez.

The hitting coach is only doled credit when things go well, blame when they don’t; in reality and unlike the pitching coach, the hitters take what they want from the disseminated advice and use it when it suits them. For the most part, it’s cosmetic.

The Marlins have never shied away from making managerial changes. In the case of Gonzalez, it was ridiculous to fire him considering the job he’d done; in fact, it appeared that Loria was taking sides with his star player and prodigal son Hanley Ramirez over Gonzalez even though Ramirez was disciplined by Tony Perez and Andre Dawson for lazy, selfish play and power-mad arrogance.

Loria fired Joe Girardi because of purported insubordination and he fired his close friend Jeff Torborg and replaced him with Jack McKeon.

The Torborg/McKeon change is relevant in this case.

On May 10th 2003, the Marlins were floundering at 16-22 and in 4th place in the NL East; 9 games out of first place and 7 games from the Wild Card lead.

Loria fired Torborg and replaced him with the savvy, cigar-chomping 72-year-old veteran baseball lifer (and part of the Marlins front office at the time), McKeon. The team went on a tear, won the Wild Card and eventually the World Series over the heavily favored Yankees.

Tony Perez is 69. A widely respected baseball man, he’s part of the Marlins front office; managed the club in 2001 and there’s long been the perception that he’d have liked to give it a legitimate try and not be a caretaker.

In a Cincinnati Reds, Big Red Machine clubhouse that housed Johnny Bench, Pete Rose and Joe Morgan the true leader was the understated Tony Perez.

Given the way the Marlins have done business in the past, there’s a precedent for a move of this kind.

I had speculated in my book that the Marlins would be struggling around .500 into June and the on-again/off-again flirtation with Bobby Valentine would lead to Valentine taking over as manager.

It’s still possible I suppose, but the easiest thing to do now would be to give Tony Perez the job.

That might have been the idea when Eduardo Perez left ESPN to take the job as hitting coach.

It’s not fair to blame Rodriguez.

Like the concept of existence, it just is and fair has nothing to do with it one way or the other.

Keep an eye on it.

It could be coming any day now.

//

Check ‘Ya Self

Hall Of Fame, Hot Stove
  • The NFL banned excessive celebrating for a reason:

The reason, I think, is that it starts fights. Mostly. But there are other cause-and-effect responses to one side or the other “winning” an argument; a game; a turf war and overdoing it with the taunting.

We saw the logical conclusion of the stat zombie “revolution” in Moneyball; and it’s going to start up again once the ridiculous—and altered—movie from the twisted bit of literary skills displayed by Michael Lewis in selling snake oil to the masses.

With every small victory (perceived or real), they’re emboldened to push a bit further, harder and with more false bravado from their afterglow of victory.

One such victory was getting Bert Blyleven elected to the Hall of Fame after his candidacy seemed dead early in the cycle.

To be fair, without the proliferation of stats and deeper analysis, Blyleven would’ve been left out completely; he’d have fallen from the ballot and treated with a Mike Francesa-like, “Bert Blyleven is not a Hall of Famuh!!!” as a dismissive end to any and all debate.

But such pomposity isn’t relegated to the Francesas of the world; it extends everywhere and that includes those who think that winning one round means winning a fight; that getting Blyelven elected will result in their way being taken as the template.

And it won’t.

Nor should it.

Like any religion or belief system, it has to be taken with nuance and put in the proper context.

Blyleven deserved to be inducted, so the zombies are justified in strutting for the time being. But, like with Moneyball, this too is going to reach it’s logical conclusion; since many of them run when confronted as individuals it’s going to cause the group dynamic to try and exert what will they have on those who see things differently and aren’t afraid to say so.

What we’ll see as this evolves is what we saw with Moneyball; there will be an attempt to take over the world with like-minded individuals. Like something out of George Orwell or the Twilight Zone, the mysterious “they” that generally makes up any supportive mass of humanity will rise and recede; only courageous enough to take a stand when they’re among their brethren, they’ll retreat to safety when faced alone.

Watch.

Tim Raines—a borderline Hall of Famer in my eyes—will be supported by the numbers. Well, I think Tim Raines was a fine player who has a legitimate case for enshrinement, but a slam dunk Hall member? No, he’s not. And I don’t care about the statistics suggesting he is.

Barry Larkin? We again get into the “if he’s in, then why isn’t he in?” with comparable players like Alan Trammell.

When debate is stifled by shouting of one group over another; when the excessive celebrating reaches the proportions as it did during the heady days following Moneyball (and degenerated into the predictable disaster soon to get worse), we all lose.

Just as those who relentlessly drove Blyleven’s Hall bonafides up until his election, do they truly want to have their “movement” stifle anyone who dares disagree with them on a player like Raines? For years, the stat zombies tried to keep Jim Rice and Andre Dawson from the Hall when they were deserving members. They failed. They claim that the inductions of Rice and Dawson diminish the quality of the Hall itself.

It doesn’t.

Much like the Blyleven election and the Raines support, I suppose there are viable and logical tenets upon which to base the disqualification of Rice and Dawson. That doesn’t make either side “right” like it’s a math equation.

This is the problem the stat obsessed encounters when coming to any of their conclusions: they think people can be boiled down to their statistical parts.

And they can’t.

  • Viewer Mail 1.7.2010:

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE the Orioles:

For me, personally, watching the decline of the Orioles over the last decade has been a real downer. Growing up they were one of the most consistently awesome teams in the game. I have always had great respect for the “Oriole Way” and hope that that way is found again with these new additions. They can only go up from here… so that’s a good sign.

You’re a little younger than me, so you probably don’t remember what a disciplined, well-oiled machine they were under Earl Weaver. They and the Dodgers were the template of how to do it right—building a team correctly and winning consistently.

Buck Showalter will get them back, but it’s not going to be as fast as the burst over the last two months of 2010 suggested.

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE the Hall of Fame:

I’m glad for Alomar and Blyleven. They deserved entry. What I’ll never understand about the HOF voting, though, is why someone doesn’t get in one year but gets in the next. Were they less worthy last time around? Or is there a message sent: “You’re good but not first ballot good?”

I disagree with many of the justifications certain voters use to explain themselves (if they’re at all competent in their baseball analysis to start with), but the first ballot is reserved for the no-brainers.

Tom Seaver, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle—players who even non-baseball fans know around the world fall into that category. Even players I support like Dawson and Rice didn’t warrant first ballot election.

To me, John Smoltz isn’t a first ballot member (he’s going to have to wait, I’ll guess, 3 years); while his Braves brethren Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine will walk in on the first ballot. And they should.

Matt at Diamondhacks writes RE Curt Schilling:

“Unlike Blyleven, [Schilling’s] a guy who’s going to lose support the more he talks.”

I laughed, because it’s true.

I’ll see your laugh and raise it with a near-spitting out of my water when I read the opening of your latest posting:

Jeff Bagwell, a decent minor leaguer with a future in bodybuilding, who eventually hit 449 MLB homers, didn’t enter the Hall of Fame on his first try.”

Future in bodybuilding!!!!