Ramirez had very likely gotten tired of the losing in Miami. Maybe it was the worst this season when expectations were so high, but the team fell woefully short. Of course, Ramirez played a large role in that disappointment, batting .246/.322/.430 so far this season.
Clearly, management felt the need to air out the clubhouse and let some fresh breeze in. The atmosphere had gotten stale with underachievers and bad attitudes setting in. In the eyes of president David Samson, general manager Larry Beinfest and manager Ozzie Guillen, Ramirez was the embodiment of what needed to be changed.
This just wasn't working.
While the Marlins try to reboot their roster by brooming out malcontents and underachievers, Ramirez has a chance to reinvent himself now that he's been traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Playing on a winning team and contending for a playoff spot agrees with Ramirez, based on his career numbers. And the Dodgers certainly need a bat capable of hitting over .300 with 25-plus home runs and up to 30 stolen bases.
Is it a coincidence that Ramirez's best season occurred when the Marlins had their best record in his eight years with the team? In 2009, the Marlins finished second in the NL East, six games behind the Phillies, with an 87-75 record.
That season, Ramirez won the NL batting title with a .342 average to go with 24 home runs and a career-high 106 RBI. His .954 OPS was also the best mark of his career.
How about this year? After a disappointing 8-14 April that threatened to finish their season before it really got started, the Marlins played themselves back into the NL East with a 21-8 surge in May. By the beginning of June, the Marlins had actually tied for the NL East lead.
Not so coincidentally, May was also Ramirez's best month this season. He hit .322/.364/.525 with 10 doubles, four home runs and 20 RBI.
This leads us to a chicken-versus-egg question with Ramirez. Was he playing well because his team was winning? Or was Ramirez's team winning ballgames because he was playing so well? Or are the two outcomes intertwined?
We should get some answers now that Ramirez is joining a playoff contender. The Dodgers are 2.5 games behind their archrival San Francisco Giants for first place in the NL West, and they're only a half-game out of a wild-card spot. They were already winning without Ramirez.
With the Dodgers, Ramirez doesn't have to carry anyone or anything.
Matt Kemp is already the established star and MVP candidate. Andre Ethier plays the Robin to his Batman, providing effective veteran run production. Ramirez fits in perfectly behind those guys in the lineup's No. 5 spot. The middle of the order now has a strong right-left-right combination.
Perhaps best of all for Ramirez, he gets to play his beloved shortstop position again. He reluctantly made the move over to third base when the Marlins signed Jose Reyes, and most everyone thought that set a ticking time bomb. When would Ramirez pout about moving? Would he play third base badly? And would he demand a trade?
Ramirez's days of playing third base aren't necessarily over, however.
He's an obvious play at that position now with Dee Gordon on the disabled list. But once Gordon returns, will he get his shortstop job back? Or will manager Don Mattingly try to keep Ramirez happy by moving Gordon to second base?
Given that Gordon has never played second base before, Mattingly will surely ask Ramirez to shift over to third. That makes the Dodgers lineup better by keeping Juan Uribe off the field. And Ramirez might not even mind making the move because he'll be winning.
If he pouts a bit, the Dodgers can always get part-owner Magic Johnson to come down and smile at him. Magic can also tell him how he moved from point guard to center in Game 6 of the 1980 NBA Finals and led the Los Angeles Lakers to a championship.
Winning players do whatever their team needs.
A happy, productive player now on a playoff contender—a contender that might not be done adding key pieces before the July 31 trade deadline—could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship between the Dodgers and Ramirez.
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