Let’s specify — because I think it’s beyond reasonable dispute — that Hanley Ramirez is in the wrong in all of this business down in Florida. Wrong for not running after that ball, and more wrong for unloading on his manager to the press yesterday morning. He’s history’s greatest monster (this week), no question.
But I’m not joining in with the people who want to fall all over themselves to praise Fredi Gonzalez either. Sure, it’s nice that he stood up to his superstar and delivered for the 24 other guys in the clubhouse who, it seems clear now, desperately needed that to happen.
But it’s not like Gonzalez has handled this perfectly. In fact, I think he made a big mistake. My beef: the public way in which Gonzalez suggests this spat should end:
Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez said Tuesday that he will continue to
bench All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez for not hustling in Monday’s
loss to the Diamondbacks until he apologizes to his teammates.
needs to take care of the situation. When he handles that in the right
way, we’ll be fine,” Gonzalez said. “It could be good. He needs
to talk to his teammates a little bit. Whatever feelings he has with me
is fine and dandy. We don’t have to get along. I think he needs to get
along with 24 other guys on this team. When that happens, we’ll run him
back in there and when he sets his ego aside I think this will be
This isn’t terrible — Ramirez should apologize — but wouldn’t it be better to deal with this in-house? As it is, Gonzalez has created a public showdown situation where one didn’t need to exist. Instead of demanding good behavior from his bad-behaving shortstop, he is demanding public contrition as well, which however satisfying that may be, is likely to draw this out even longer and prevent the wounds from healing as completely as they otherwise might.
Wouldn’t it have been better for Gonzalez to have (a) simply said that he would be meeting with Ramirez about Monday night’s events and yesterday’s comments; (b) given Ramirez his “apologize, shape up or else” speech behind closed doors; (c) watched the apology happen; and (d) made it clear after the fact that the controversy is in the past?
Such a thing wouldn’t be a cave-in to a petulant superstar. Gonzalez would still demand and get the apology he feels his players need and, because these things always get out, it would still be abundantly clear to everyone that Ramirez admitted he was wrong. The biggest difference — and I think it’s a critical one — is that rather than it being seen as Gonzalez forcing Ramirez to apologize, this could be portrayed as Ramirez coming to the realization, following some heart to heart talk, that an apology was necessary.
Wouldn’t everyone look better at the end of that process? Wouldn’t it make it less likely, not more, that Hanley Ramirez could maybe learn something out of it all? As it is, even if Ramirez apologizes to his teammates before batting practice today, everyone — most especially Ramirez — will view it as coerced. I can’t help but think that will lead to resentment, and that we’ll be back in this situation in the not too distant future.
Small stuff? Maybe. But managers are supposed to be good at the small stuff, and I think Gonzalez messed this up.