How to Handle Hanley

J PanchinaContributor ISeptember 2, 2009

PHOENIX - JULY 10:  Hanley Ramirez #2 of the Florida Marlins walks back to the dugout after striking out against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field on July 10, 2009 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Diamondbacks defeated the Marlins 8-0.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)


What do you do when you’re in the middle of a wild card race, and your keystone player is hurt? This question is currently being tackled by the Florida Marlins organization, who cannot seem to make Hanley Ramirez, the face of the Marlin’s franchise, play. 


Ramirez left last night’s 4-3 loss to the Atlanta Braves after the fifth inning due to tightness in his left hamstring. Ramirez was also scratched from tonight’s lineup shortly before game time. 


This afternoon Dan Uggla had some fighting words for the all-star shortstop. In a heated verbal match in the clubhouse, Uggla exhibited his frustration by telling Ramirez, “You got your $70 million”, referring to Ramirez’s six year contract. Ramirez mentioned his own 0-14 slump, and the irrelevance that has to do with him leaving the game early, clarifying that he was not skipping at bats because of frustration at his personal performance. 


Even though Ramirez is ailing, is that enough to scratch him? Is Ramirez playing at ten percent better than Ramirez not playing at all? 


The answer is yes. Ramirez is a huge reason as to why the Marlins are only five games back in the National League Wild Card race, and it is imperative that he play. Ramirez is hitting .355, which is considerably higher than Emilio Bonifacio’s, Ramirez’s replacement shortstop, average of .253. Ramirez’s absence in this series against the Braves is particularly harmful on account of the Braves are two games ahead of the Marlins in the wild card chase. 


Not only does Ramirez’s void hurt the team on the field, but it clearly damages the team off the field. Before the game, the team had to hold a closed door meeting to deal with the clubhouse shouting match. 


If Ramirez wants to fully embody the role as the face of the franchise he’s going to have to learn to put the team first; in fact, it’s imperative that he put the team first during this playoff push. Not to belittle his hamstring injury, but many players have played through much worse. In a famous Ty Cobb tale, it is said that he once played in an afternoon game after having his tonsils removed earlier that morning; the doctor didn’t use an anesthetic.  


Stories like that are how legends are born. Ramirez has the tools to become a legend, but it unsure if he has the composition. 


Hopefully, for the Marlin’s sake, Ramirez’s hamstring heals, and he is able to perform at his usual level, or at least learn to deal with playing through pain. If not, their playoffs hopes are going to dwindle, along with the fan’s and team’s tolerance for Hanley Ramirez.