5-19-10: Effort Doesn't Slump

Hello again everybody...

Well that didn't take long!

The current incarnation of my jinx is over after the Twins got thumped 11-2 by the Blue Jays yesterday. I wasn't happy to see them take one on the chin like that, but it did take a rather hefty weight off my mind.

I forgot to mention it on Wednesday, but I have tickets to Saturday's game versus the Brewers. So what would've happened if the Twins had won out going into that game? I couldn't have sold the tickets because a friend of mine is coming from Milwaukee to go see the game. I couldn't go to the game and shield my eyes in an effort not to watch. But wouldn't it be a violation of the “I'm not watching til they lose” bit to go to the game?

A co-worker had already started trying to craft a theory by which we'd separate “watching on TV” from “watching whilst at the ballpark”. I think we could've pulled it off. Fortunately, we won't have to.

So it's on to Boston (the city, so no hate tag), to face the Red Sox (whom I most assuredly hate) for two games before the Twins return home for the Brewers series. Here's to hoping that Boston (the team, whom I hate) spent themselves over the last couple of days against the Yankees and come in to tonight's game lacking energy.

I can now say it again with all my baseball-loving heart... WIN TWINS!!!

I can only hope you appreciate the effort I put into telling you these sorts of stories. Because to be honest, I'm a little down on a star player's effort right now. And it just so happens that I have a forum to tell you about it!

After the quote...

Let's do this!

”None but a coward dares to boast that he has never known fear.”
- Ferdinand Foch (1851 - 1965), French soldier and military theorist

Am I the only one who finds it ironic that this quote came from a Frenchman? Right. Enough said.

Fear is a natural emotion we all feel from time to time. Laziness? Sloth? Lackadaisicalness? That's something entirely within our control.

Unless you're a superstar Marlins player apparently...

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Allow me to explain.

Flash back to Monday night. The Marlins were hosting the Diamondbacks. Tony Abreu popped a ball into short left-center. Marlins superstar shortstop Hanley Ramirez went back on it, failed to make the catch, and accidentally kicked the ball into the left field corner.

That in and of itself isn't a crime. There are many shortstops that wouldn't have been able to get to that ball in the first place. The ball getting kicked into left-field was just bad luck.

What happened after that point is the crux of today's column. Instead of hustling after the ball and trying to limit the damage, Hanley visibly slumped his shoulders and jogged at a none-too-brisk pace to go retrieve the ball. Two runs scored for Arizona and Abreu was allowed to reach third.

Perhaps I'm being too hard on the lad? Well, judge for yourself:

Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez was so annoyed with Ramirez's apparent leisureliness, that he benched him for the rest of the game. Harsh? I don't think so.

After the game, Gonzalez said:

“Hanley left the game because we felt -- he got smoked in the ankle -- but we felt whether he was hurt or not hurt or whatever it was, we felt that the effort wasn't there that we wanted. There's 24 guys out there that are busting their butts. Cody Ross got hit with a ball 95 mph and it wasn't hit or thrown any slower and he stayed in the game making diving plays and battling, got two hits and an RBI.”

Now I like to think of myself as a fairly easy-going guy. Everybody has a bad day. I'm not here to judge. Unfortunately, this isn't the first instance where Ramirez has been “less than intense” with his effort. And that's not something I can easily stomach as a baseball fan.

I've also never been one to criticize the amount of money that athletes make. First off, it would be hypocritical since I willingly buy the tickets that help pay their salaries. Second, the money is there. If the players don't get it, then the owners just make that much more. So why would I resent the players for getting their fair share?

But part of what goes with making that kind of money is an expectation of effort. There are many Twins fans who are critical of Nick Punto's offensive statistics. I'm not one of them. Not because I think he's any great shakes at the plate, the numbers clearly prove that he's not. Instead, I don't slam him because offense isn't why he's on the club. He's on the club because he's an above-average defensive player who gives maximum effort every time he takes the field. Every... single... time. And as a fan, I appreciate that.

Nick Punto makes around $4 million per year. Hanley Ramirez is in the midst of a 6-year, $70 million deal. If you're making more than a guy who puts out effort every time he puts on a pair of cleats, then you'd damned well better do the same.

But that's not how Ramirez rolls apparently. I don't know if he's one of those guys who feels like he can coast on pure talent? Or if he's just not mature enough to understand what it means to be a professional baseball player?

Whatever it is, it's disappointing. And in this case it's led to a whole mess of trouble for a club that ought to be a playoff contender this year.

Why do I say that? Because yesterday, Ramirez started discussing Monday night's incident, and “conciliatory” wasn't in his vocabulary:

“We got a lot of people dogging it after ground balls. They don't apologize.”

Because generally, if you're being accused of letting your team down by not giving max-effort, the first thing you want to do is throw the rest of the boys under the bus. Well played, Ramirez!

But Hanley wasn't done, oh no! When asked about whether he agreed with his manager's decision, he said:

“It's his team. He can do whatever. [expletive deleted] There's nothing I can do about it. That's OK. He doesn't understand that. He never played in the big leagues.”

Of course! It's not Hanley's fault that he got benched. It's because his manager never played in the bigs, and he just doesn't understand.

Um, what is it Gonzalez doesn't understand exactly? The effort it takes to make it at this level? Hmm, nope. Gonzalez played six years in the minor leagues, saw plenty of guys who got to go to the show, and what it took for them to get there.

I know! He doesn't understand Hanley's delicate genius! That's it. He just doesn't understand that when you're as talented as Hanely is, you don't HAVE to put out your best effort every night you take the field!

Sure it's a privilege to wear a major league uniform. Of course there are guys who'd kill to have a tenth of the God-given ability Ramirez has. But that doesn't mean Hanley has to try hard every night?!

Good lord, what was I thinking?!

(I assume I don't need to point out the sarcasm in the preceding three paragraphs? Good.)

Hitting slumps. Pitching slumps. Effort doesn't slump. Ever.

Effort is always under your control. Lots of guys get hurt. Lots of guys have bad days at the plate. But effort in the field is always something players have within themselves to give. It's 100% their decision and their responsibility.

Think I'm alone in agreeing with Gonzalez's decision not to let Ramirez slide? Listen to what his teammates have to say.

12-year vet, Wes Helms:

“I can't overlook it. I know people say that's just the way he is, but you know what? That's not the way it is. That's not the way the game's supposed to be played. And that's what we want from Hanley. We want him to be that guy that goes out there every day ... and busts his butt and does anything he can for his this team. That right there will earn the respect of not only his teammates, but everybody in the league.”

Two-time All-Star Dan Uggla:

“I think Skip needed to do what he needed to do, which was take Hanley out of the game at that time. Does that mean we love Hanley any less? No, we have all made mistakes. We've all done things like, 'Oh, maybe I shouldn't have done that.' But you move on, you move forward you get past it.”

Even youngster Cameron Maybin chimed in:

“I think if it happened to anybody else in here, I think other teammates would feel the same way about it. As long as you are playing hard nobody can really say anything bad about you. We definitely support Fredi's decision and we thought it was the right decision.”

So if Ramirez keeps flapping his yap the way he has, there's quickly going to be a schism in that locker room. Which oftentimes leads to a player's departure.

But here's the rub: the Marlins are about to open a new ballpark, and they've been counting on Ramirez to be the face of the franchise as they move in.

Do you think Joe Mauer's contract wasn't affected by the opening of Target Field? Think again. The Marlins are counting on Ramirez to lead the way into the new digs the same way that Mauer is leading the Twins.

So the Marlins are left in an extremely difficult position. Their skipper is clearly in the right, and has the support of the locker room. Their superstar shortstop is acting like a petulant brat.

But you don't just dump a kid with Ramirez's talent. Sure, you'd be sending a hell of a message and you'd get a lot of kudos for the move. But you'll never get equal value in a trade, and baseball contracts are guaranteed, so you can't just cut bait and walk either.

Hopefully cooler heads can prevail. Hopefully Hanley's people can get him in a room with the Marlins brass and Fredi Gonzalez and they can talk this thing out. It's certainly what's in the best interest of the club as a whole.

Moreover, Hanley needs to get his head screwed on straight. He's got the world by the proverbial short and curlies. There's no excuse for dogging it, so just knock it off. This is an opportunity for him to commit himself to giving max-effort every time he steps onto the field, to honor the effort of the legends who've played the game before him, and to be an example to those who'll come after him.

You're not bigger than the game, Hanley. Man up. Play hard. Be the star we all believe you can be.

Effort doesn't slump.

That's going to wrap things up for today. One more column to go this week, and we all know what that's going to be, right?!

Until Friday, thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. Great post! And I have to say that I agree with you. I can understand having a bad night but this was just lack of effort. Sounds like he's got a chip on his shoulder and thinks the world owes him that 70 million contract.