It's a subject nobody in the Marlins' organization really wants to talk about. But maybe it is finally time they do. Does Hanley Ramirez have enough heart to play this game the way it should be played every day?
As most of us suspected, the Marlins' two-time All-Star shortstop and the National League's reigning batting champion didn't leave Monday's 5-1 loss to the Diamondbacks in the second inning because he fouled a pitch off his left ankle in the first. No, the Marlins' $70 million player left according to manager Fredi Gonzalez for a lack of hustle.
"We felt whether he was hurt or not hurt, we felt like the effort wasn't there that we wanted," Gonzalez told reporters moments ago after having a closed door meeting with Marlins management including owner Jeffrey Loria, who listened to every word Gonzalez said carefully.
"There are 24 guys out there that are busting their butts. Cody Ross got hit with a ball, 95 milers per hour. It wasn't thrown any slower. He stayed in the game making diving plays and battling, got two hits and an RBI. There's some injuries there [with Ramirez]. But we expect an effort from 25 guys on this team and when that doesn't happen we have to do something."
This isn't the first time Ramirez has had his desire questioned. Last September, teammate Dan Uggla questioned it after Ramirez sat out a couple games with a hamstring pull. It turned into a bit of an ugly feud in the clubhouse and Gonzalez immediately held a closed door team meeting. Ramirez, who signed a six-year, $70 million contract in 2008, eventually mended the fences with Uggla.
But this latest bit of drama -- for not hustling after a ball he kicked away in the outfield in the second inning -- could present bigger issues. This, after all, was the first time Gonzalez called Ramirez out for a lack of hustle. And with Loria present in the room, it felt like Ramirez would likely receive a stern message from management too.
Ramirez has a reputation for being playful. But at what point does it become a lack of focus? As a side note, before Monday's game I was in the Marlins dugout with another reporter waiting for Ramirez for an interview. It never happened because Gonzalez had to come over to remind his star shortstop he was late for a team meeting in the clubhouse. "Nino," Gonzalez called Ramirez in Spanish. "Did you forget the meeting? Let's go."
Ramirez, who had been interviewed by a female reporter from Telemundo several minutes earlier but was still sitting with her, promptly got up and followed his manager to the meeting. Gonzalez didn't bring up the fact Ramirez was late for a meeting after the game, but did say his star player offered "no excuse" for not hustling.
"You guys call him the marquee guy," Gonzalez said. "I got 25 guys that are all wearing the same uniform, wearing all the same Marlins insignia in the front and I think it's disappointing if anybody [doesn't hustle], not just one guy."
When asked if Ramirez could see future disciplinary action, Gonzalez said: "You need more embarrassment than being taken out of a major league game? We'll see [if he plays tomorrow]."