A win for the asylum

So there’s this kid down in Miami who’s a pretty good baseball player. His name is Hanley, and in fact, many consider him one of the best players in the game. That’s very good for this Florida baseball team, which doesn’t have a huge payroll but does have a young manager named Fredi who’s enjoyed some success in his relatively short career and demonstrated some ability to get a lot out of the team.

But there’s a problem with this star player, a shortstop. Hanley makes a lot of money, more than anyone else on the team. He’s been dubbed the face, the cornerstone of the franchise, the man they’re trying to build a winner around. With that seems to have come a sense of entitlement.

Hanley fouled a ball off his leg in the first inning of Monday’s game, something which is obviously painful but which he said he could play through after taking a few minutes to compose himself. But he then hit into a double play on the next pitch, and wasn’t exactly tearing down the baseline to beat it out. But that was only the beginning.

Three batters into the top of the second, an opposing player blooped a single just out of Hanley’s reach. As his left fielder charged the ball to field it, Hanley continued out and accidentally kicked the ball into the left-field corner. While opponents rounded the bases like they were kids after a game, Hanley jogged out to get the ball. Two runs scored, and the batter wound up on third with a single and error and would score later in the inning.

(Associated Press) Florida's Hanley Ramirez boots a bloop single into the left-field corner for a two-base error during a game against Arizona Monday.

When the Florida players came in from the field, Fredi was obviously concerned about his star player. Whatever was said during the exchange between Fredi and Hanley wasn’t to the manager’s liking, so Fredi took Hanley out. This obviously was not to Hanley’s liking, so he left without talking to the media that night and by the next day had built up enough steam to openly rip a manager who “never played in the big leagues” and his teammates who are also “dogging it after ground balls, and they don’t apologize.”

Hanley earned himself a benching for that game, which his lazy teammates won without him, 8-0. The benching was termed “indefinite” by many media outlets and it seemed like the stalemate between Fredi and Hanley could go on awhile with both sides unwilling to compromise — the manager wanting an apology from the player to him and his teammates, and the player defiantly insisiting he’d done nothing wrong.

Then something amazing happened. The players leapt to the defense — of their manager. Nearly everyone sided with the manager who never played in the big leagues, including a pair of Hall of Fame players within Florida’s front office who spoke to Hanley and told him, in no uncertain terms, just how wrong he was and what he needed to do to fix things.

And something even more amazing happened. Hanley listened, and by the next day had spoken to every team member individually after talking things out with his manager. He was back in the lineup Wednesday and went 3-for-5 in a 5-1 win.

Did the star player truly learn his lesson and feel remorseful? Only time will tell. But the good thing is that Fredi Gonzalez stood his ground when he was right against Hanley Ramirez, one of the top players in the game, and he actually won.

The 26-year-old shortstop is in his fifth full season in the league, but is well-known for behaving like someone half his age when he doesn’t get everything his way. His teammates don’t always have good things to say about his demeanor off the field and how he treats them and the game at times both on and off of it.

Ramirez’s reputation, combined with that of Gonzalez, who was NL Manager of the Year just two years ago with the Marlins, probably helped the opinions mount against the star. The fact that he’s in the third year of a six-year, $70 million contract doesn’t help Ramirez’s case much either.

Some have questioned Gonzalez’s tactics, embarrassing Ramirez in the media and essentially calling him out. If it was a first offense, maybe there would be grounds. But knowing how important Ramirez is to the long-term success of the team and feeling a more drastic step needed to be taken to drive the point home, I have no problem with what Gonzalez did — and obviously neither do the other Marlins.

Oddly, this incident might have united a clubhouse behind its manager. But in the end, I’m just thrilled that in this instance the inmate was not allowed to run the asylum, no matter how talented he is. Precedent has now been set for the next time a superstar decides he doesn’t want to do the job for which he’s being paid a hell of a lot of money.

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