Oh Hanley! Still

When I saw Hanley Ramirez appear to get seriously hurt in Friday’s Marlins win at Houston, my reaction was a disappointed ‘oooh Hanley.’ Ramirez was off to a slow start and now this. The feeling was, ‘this guy’s not our Pujol’s, he’s our Linus.’

“Oh Hanley!,” was the catchphrase the Marlins likeable TV play-by-play announcer Rich Waltz used to describe the excitement about Hanley Ramirez when he first came on the scene. That was then, Mike Stanton is now. By far, the player Marlin fans can’t wait to see perform in 2011 is Mike Stanton. From afar, it must seem like an good example of how fickle fans can be.  After all, 21 year-old Stanton, for all his potential, has only 100 games in the big leagues coming into the year, whereas Ramirez is considered by some to be the best all-around shortstop in MLB and is only 27 himself.

Here’s what those who watch from a distance may be missing. In between Ramirez’s great debut in 2006 and now; he earned financial security in 2008, earned a 2nd place MVP in 2009, earned the public criticism of some his teammates, a reputation for surliness [the Miguel Cabrera Syndrome], and had a statistically disappointing 2010. Beyond disappointing, Ramirez became the 4th player [see the others here] in major league baseball history to be removed from a game for literally lollygaging.

So that’s how ‘Oh Hanley!’ morphed into ‘oooh Hanley.’ But when we fans start thinking we know what makes someone like Hanley tick [or not], we should consider how many of us can relate to being a can’t miss prospect since the age of 15.  The can’t miss tag carries even more pressure when succeeding was his family’s best [only?] chance to escape poverty back in the Dominican.  Poverty is a great motivator, and when combined with great talent, it equals riches in today’s MLB.

Once players like Ramirez achieve financial security for their families, we expect the transition in motivation — from a desperate need to succeed to a Ripken-like self-discipline — to be seamless.  It’s not that easy.  If it were David Allen would not be wealthy and playing on my iTunes in the background for encouragement.  As an aside, I thought that Ramirez’s signing in 2008 was a good example of how to quantify risk vs reward [see here] when it comes to professional athlete’s salaries.

Maybe what we Marlin fans need is a little distance in in the case of Hanley Ramirez. Someone who has a little distance and is considered one of the best writers covering major league baseball, Joe Posnanski, put together a list of the 32 best players in MLB and listed Hanley as #7. More important than the ranking, which is arbitrary [he had Hanley at #3 a couple of years ago], Posnanski makes the follow undeniable points in Ramirez’s favor:

Last year was a harsh season for Hanley Ramirez. He seemed to be settling in nicely as the most amazing player in baseball that nobody ever talked about, a proud tradition that went back many years. From 2007 to 2009, Ramirez hit .325/.389/.549, banged 86 homers, stole 113 bases, played an ever-improving shortstop and basically did things so remarkable that few believed them and fewer still saw them. 

Then, last year Ramirez got caught on camera loafing, got into a spat with his manager about it, and suddenly people in the mainstream KNEW Hanley Ramirez, but what they knew was that he was, in the famed words of the Bull Durham manager, a lollygagger. His numbers fell off quite a bit, and he got hurt toward the end of the year, and all in all it wasn’t too great. Based on perception, you would think Hanley Ramirez turned into Yuni Betancourt overnight.

And then you look at the season — .300/.378/.475 with 21 homers, 32 steals, 92 runs scored — and you can’t help but think that for a lousy season that doesn’t seem like too lousy a season.

At the time of the lollygaging incident, Posnanski offered up one possible explanation, but not an excuse, for Ramirez’s actions [see here]. When you factor in that we Marlin fans have that player locked in for the next 4 seasons at a reasonable salary — momentary time-out from hating on the revenue-sharing money-hoarding owner — I’m back to Oh Hanley!

Click at end of post to see Posnanski’s complete list of the 32 best players in MLB.

The 32 Best Players in Baseball for 2011 as per Joe Posnanski:

32. Mark Teixeira, New York Yankees
31. Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants
30. Ubaldo Jimenez, Colorado Rockies
29. Zack Greinke, Milwaukee Brewers
28. Matt Cain, San Francisco Giants
27. Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees, or Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers
26. Carl Crawford, Boston Red Sox
25. Shin-Soo Choo, Cleveland Indians
24. Brian McCann, Atlanta Braves
23. Justin Verlander, Detroit Tigers
22. Jon Lester, Boston Red Sox
21. David Wright, New York Mets
20. Matt Holliday, St. Louis Cardinals
19. Kevin Youkilis, Boston Red Sox
18. Ryan Zimmerman, Washington Nationals
17. Josh Hamilton, Texas Rangers
16. Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies
15. CC Sabathia, New York Yankees
14. Miguel Cabrera, Detroit Tigers
13. Tim Lincecum, San Francisco Giants
12. Chase Utley, Philadelphia Phillies
11. Troy Tulowitzki, Colorado Rockies
10. Ryan Braun, Milwaukee Brewers
9. Robinson Cano, New York Yankees
8. Evan Longoria, Tampa Bay Rays
7. Hanley Ramirez, Florida Marlins
6. Felix Hernandez, Seattle Mariners
5. Joey Votto, Cincinnati Reds
4. Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
3. Adrian Gonzalez, Boston Red Sox
2. Roy Halladay, Philadelphia Phillies
1. Albert Pujols, St. Louis Cardinals

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About Jorge Costales

- Cuban Exile [veni] - Raised in Miami [vidi] - American Citizen [vici]
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