Jeff Conine: I’d probably trade Hanley Ramirez

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Mr. Marlin isn’t down with the team’s present superstar.

Jeff Conine, who served two stints in teal and is currently employed by the Marlins as a special assistant to team president David Samson, went on The Dan LeBetard show Friday and said Hanley Ramirez frustrates him “on a nightly basis” and that he’d “probably” trade the shortstop if it were up to him.

When asked why Ramirez frustrates him so, Conine responded:

I don’t know. I just, I don’t know. I think that obviously Hanley is a phenomenal talent. But as a guy that — I’m probably jealous too, because I didn’t have that kind of talent, but I had to work extremely hard on a nightly basis to put my talent on the field. I think there are some nights where he doesn’t try as hard as he should.

Conine went on to say that Ramirez was “one of the top five talents in baseball,” but that he doesn’t know if he cares enough.

Ramirez had a miserable first three months of 2011 and is currently hitting .249/.338/.394 in 297 at-bats. While he’s been much better of late — he’s hit .348/.434/.636 with five homers and 18 RBI during July — he’s going to need a scorching second half to beat his 2010 numbers, which were already a big disappointment based on what he did from 2007-09.

Nationals’ starting pitching carrying them into World Series

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In my postseason preview at the end of September, I listed the Nationals’ starting rotation as a strength and their bullpen as a weakness. Anyone who had followed the club this season could have told you that. Even the Nats are aware of it as manager Dave Martinez has leaned on his rotation to hide his sometimes unreliable ‘pen.

In Game 1 of the NLDS against the Dodgers, Martinez was burned by his bullpen as Tanner Rainey, Fernando Rodney, and Hunter Strickland combined to allow six base runners and four runs. Martinez used ace Max Scherzer in relief in Game 2, sandwiched by Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson. Starter Patrick Corbin pitched in relief in Game 3 and it backfired, but the bullpen after Corbin continued to allow more runs — three officially, but Wander Suero allowed two inherited runners to score on a three-run homer by Max Muncy. Martinez only had to rely on Doolittle and Hudson in Game 4 and he again went to Corbin in relief in Game 5.

The strategy was clear: use the actual bullpen as little as possible. If Martinez absolutely has to, Doolittle and Hudson get top priory by a country mile, followed by a starter, then the rest of the bullpen.

Thankfully for Martinez and the Nationals, the starting pitching has done yeoman’s work in the NLCS, jumping out to a three games to none series lead over the Cardinals. Aníbal Sánchez famously brought a no-hit bid into the eighth inning of Game 1, finally relenting a two-out single to José Martínez before his night was over. Doolittle got the final four outs in the 2-0 win. Max Scherzer flirted with a no-hitter in his Game 2 start as well, losing it when Paul Goldschmidt led off the seventh with a single. He was erased on an inning-ending double play. Doolittle, Corbin, and Hudson got the final six outs in the 3-1 victory.

It was more of the same in Game 3. While Stephen Strasburg didn’t flirt with a no-hitter, he was dominant over seven innings, yielding one unearned run on seven hits with no walks and 12 strikeouts. The Nats’ offense woke up, amassing eight runs through seven innings which allowed Martinez to give his main relief guys a night off. Rodney and Rainey each pitched a perfect inning of relief with two strikeouts in low-leverage situations, their first appearances in the NLCS.

The Nationals starting pitching has been outstanding by itself, but it has also had the secondary effect of allowing Martinez to hide his team’s biggest weakness. Now Martinez just has to hope for more of the same for one more game, then at least four more in the World Series.