When the Florida Marlins signed Hanley Ramirez to his current contract (six years, $70 million from 2009-2014), they envisioned him being the marque attraction at their new stadium, set to open next season.
The decision seemed like a safe investment at the time. Sure, Ramirez had his moments where his effort seemed less than 100 percent, but he was a perennial All-Star who finished in the top 10 in MVP voting in 2007 and 2009 (11th in 2008), and his work ethic was never called into question.
Until this season, his production had lived up to the value of his new contract (went into effect in 2009):
|2011||$11,000,000||.200||.298||.295||4||17||32||*Through 55 games|
The extension was coming after his 2008 campaign in which he batted .301 with 33 homers. The first year of his deal, he led the National League in batting and finished second in MVP voting.
So, on the field, 2009 was a success. Off the field though, Ramirez had attitude and behavioral issues that wore on his teammates and team officials.
ESPN's Jorge Arangure, Jr. wrote a profile on Ramirez at the end of the 2009 season. In his profile he noted:
"This season, he's quarreled with teammates about the validity of an injury, argued with management about the team's hair policy, and bickered with reporters over their criticism—something that would drive most fans, not to mention team executives, crazy..."
"...while Ramirez's skills surely power the Marlins, the bigger question is whether he can lead them. Can he be the clubhouse presence to turn the Marlins—a talented group of young players—into World Series contenders, or will he be the petulant superstar whose mere individual statistics define his career?"
He was unable to repeat his success in 2010 and found himself in the middle of a very public feud with then-manager, Fredi Gonzalez.
Gonzalez benched Ramirez after a very lazy play chasing down a single to left field. Ramirez wound up accidentally kicking the ball, then jogging after it, allowing a pair of runs to score.
He responded angrily to the benching, letting off an expletive-laced account of the situation between himself and his manager.
"It's his team. He does whatever he [expletive] wants," Ramirez said to Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post when asked about the benching. "There's nothing I can do about it. It's brutal."
Ramirez then went on to state that he lost his respect for his manager and question his abilities since he "never played in the big leagues."
Not the type of leadership or example for younger players the Florida Marlins had in mind...
Although Ramirez maintains he had nothing to do with it, Gonzalez was relieved of his managerial duties in the middle of last season.
So, a new manager, a fresh start and a new attitude? Hardly.
While Ramirez actually publicly endorsed former manager Edwin Rodriguez right before his resignation this past weekend, he did little to help save his manager's job.
There have been no public reports of any wrongdoings by Ramirez in the, roughly, one year between Rodriguez's hiring as interim-manager, to his resignation.
A report of teammate Logan Morrison ripping Ramirez in front of the entire team following Ramirez's most recent benching, at the hands of new manager Jack McKeon, suggests that some tension has been mounting, however.
McKeon notified every member of the 25-man roster that there would be a mandatory team meeting at 3:30 PM on Monday afternoon. Reportedly, every member of the team was there and on-time, except Ramirez.
McKeon benched his All-Star shortstop in his first game as manager of the Marlins for his tardiness.
Morrison, a rookie outfielder, apparently scolded Ramirez in front of the entire team, telling him that his repeated tardiness was the reason for his .200 batting average.
Morrison refused to discuss the matter with the media, stating that it was a clubhouse matter that should remain in the clubhouse.
He did offer this response to the Associated Press though (reported by ESPN):
"We have a lot of guys who Edwin said don't hustle or play hard. Maybe Jack can kick them in the butt."
Ramirez insists he was not notified about the meeting, and thus was not late since he was in the clubhouse before the mandatory 4:30 PM reporting time.
Regardless, he and McKeon appear to be on good terms. The new manager stuck Ramirez in the cleanup spot in the lineup on Tuesday evening. Ramirez rewarded his new manager's faith in him with a 2-4 performance with two runs scored (raising his batting average to .206 for the season).
Still, Morrison's reported scolding exemplifies a growing sense that Ramirez has never been very well-liked within his own clubhouse.
Perhaps he can flourish under McKeon's leadership and change the perception that he is a player with attitude problems and a bad clubhouse guy.
Or, perhaps it is time for the Marlins to cut ties with their star shortstop and send him packing in exchange for a new face of the franchise.
Don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting the Marlins trade Ramirez this season, they would be selling at an all-time low.
Ramirez is too good of a player to continue struggling as he has so far. He will begin to hit and look like the dynamic player that he has been in season's past.
This is a good case of history repeating itself. They should ship him to an interested team in the offseason though, to avoid the case of bad history repeating itself.
His attitude problem has shown no signs of disappearing and only a change of scenery will offer Ramirez the fresh start he needs to shake that image.
The franchise needs to set a better example for their younger players than what their shortstop has provided them.
There would be no shortage of teams that would line up to bid for his services in the offseason. The San Francisco Giants, Detroit Tigers, Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox (they'd find a spot to take him back), Milwaukee Brewers, Cincinnati Reds and Philadelphia Phillies (Jimmy Rollins is a free agent after the season) are all teams that come to mind that could use an upgrade at shortstop and wouldn't mind a boost in offense.
The controversy is only that Ramirez would bring the biggest return if he heats up and remains on his best behavior; if that happens, though, do the Marlins take another gamble on him or take the best offer and run?
He will earn $15 million next season and likely will be playing under another new manager unless McKeon decides to return at age 81.
The Marlins should make the safer gamble and let someone else take the $15 million risk...