Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Do the hustle

By now you've probably seen the Hanley Ramirez embarrassment — how the Florida Marlins' superstar shortstop kicked a ball into the left field corner during Monday's loss to Arizona and did a slow trot after it. If you haven't, click on the link.

The embarrassment isn't the error. It's the sloth. I guarantee you, there will be people running faster in the Mankato Marathon this summer than Ramirez was going after that ball.

Ramirez then heightened the crisis by complaining that manager Fredi Gonzalez doesn't respect him, and added, by way of indictment: He never played in the major leagues.

Nothing good is going to come of this. Ramirez is a supremely talented and productive player, but no manager can tolerate that lack of effort. Gonzalez had to pull him, and has to bench him.

But ultimately, Gonzalez is going to get the ax over this. He's not particularly beloved by owner Jeffery Loria anyway — Loria, perhaps spoiled by the 2003 Fish's surprise World Series win, thinks the Marlins, flawed and low-budget as they are, should be a playoff team — and if this continues to be a superstar vs. manager power struggle, Ramirez will win. Loria needs Ramirez more than he needs Gonzalez.

And if Gonzalez doesn't have the respect and support of his best player, maybe he should go. There's a story about Joe McCarthy, the great manager, who had been hired to skipper the Boston Red Sox. McCarthy had a dress code with the Yankees; Ted Williams notoriously hated to wear ties. Friction was anticipated. And McCarthy diffused it immediately by showing up at spring training tieless. A manager who can't get along with a .400 hitter, he explained, isn't much of a manager.

Of course, dress codes are one thing and loafing on the field another.

I remember some 30 years ago a young, egocentric superstar shortstop who one day decided it would be a good idea to jog to first base on a grounder. The fans booed; he gave them the bird — and his manager ran onto the field, grabbed him and dragged him into the dugout. That winter, the young superstar was traded for a good field, no-hit shortstop. It looked like horridly one-sided trade. It turned out so.

The manager was Whitey Herzog. The superstar was Garry Templeton. The lesser talent was Ozzie Smith.

Two of those three are in the Hall of Fame today. Templeton is not.

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