What you missed this weekend while trying… not to… giggle… like a… 12-year-old… boy… during… TEE-HEE!
• The Marlins won! Once. They also lost two of three to the Giants and nine of their last ten. Like the groundhog, the Marlins came out, saw their shadows and… OH NO! SIX MORE WEEKS OF JUNE!
• It’s almost like he never left. On Sunday, Chris Volstad played in his first game since being being called back up from Triple-A. And he didn’t disappoint, giving up 3 home runs in 6 innings. Of course he did. Why wouldn’t he have?
• It’s my party and I’ll block your view if I want to. Sunday was also Billy the Marlin’s birthday, so the organization brought out all kinds of other mascots to stand directly in front of my seats and celebrate with the kids in attendance. Unfortunately, it was a 1:05pm start, so the kids had all melted.
No wonder baseball is so bereft of characters. It’s not a marketing problem. It’s not a lack of effort. It’s the game’s inherent stodginess – its remarkable ability to mute the outspoken – that keeps baseball from developing stars on par with the NFL and the NBA.
I agree. What baseball needs is a handful of players who think nothing of speaking their minds, who would be beloved by fans and media alike. Players like Mike Vanderjagt, Terrell Owens, Chad Ochocinco, Allen Iverson and LeBron James. So loved, those guys. So very loved.
Logan Morrison prides himself on being outspoken. His Twitter picture is a cartoon image of himself with duct tape over his mouth, eyes furled, seemingly frustrated with his current pastel-painted predicament: the inability to open his mouth and offer an opinion. Of course, that picture only found its way onto Morrison’s Twitter page after he *did* offer his opinion. An opinion about team owner, Jeffrey Loria, that caused the front office to have their own opinions about their highly-vocal left fielder. But, that’s Logan Morrison, equal parts stupid and naive, always ready to offer up a quote, always trying to keep it real.
“What we don’t have is experience and a veteran who is in the lineup every day that can be an anchor for us. We don’t have it.”
Asked whether Ramirez could be that anchor, Morrison said: “I guess, but he’s not there every game. It’s 162 games. It’s not a 100-game season.”
Oh, he’s keeping it real alright. Real dumb.
Media loves a guy like Logan Morrison because he makes their difficult jobs easy. Place a mic in front of him, bring up a hot-button topic and watch the story write itself. During a season of forgettable months and unprecedented slumps, the name “Hanley Ramirez” is toxic and the media knows that. Logan should know that. If Hanley can’t finish his sandwich, it makes the front page of the Miami Herald sports section. The media member who asked Morrison that question wasn’t just throwing bait into the water, hoping to catch a pike; he was chumming, knowing full well there was a big, dumb shark with its mouth wide open, swimming somewhere just below the ship.
There’s no I in T-E-A-M, but there’s certainly one in M-O-R-R-I-S-O-N. Keeping it real like this has netted him close to 58,000 Twitter followers and made him a fan favorite, not only in Miami, but in rival cities like Philadelphia, as well. People love a guy who’s always willing, and never afraid, to speak his mind and that’s the brand Morrison is selling.
Make no mistake about it, while it may come across as refreshing and honest, what Logan Morrison is doing is branding himself. No different than what Brian Wilson has been doing in San Francisco, really, except Wilson’s shtick is to be the Zach Galifianakis of baseball, whereas Morrison’s is to be the Charlie Sheen. There’s nothing inherently wrong with building your brand in a sport historically devoid of personality, but what happens when being honest and keeping it real for the sake of promoting yourself affects the players around you?
Logan Morrison could have – and pretty obviously should have – said nothing when asked about Hanley. He should have swam through the chum. The reporter may as well have put the mic in front of his face and said, “Dude, say something bad about Hanley because I’m on deadline and I’ve got nothing.” But, Morrison, never one to shy away from such a radioactive subject, gave the media exactly what they wanted and now it’s in the news cycle. There’s a reason nobody bothered to ask Gaby Sanchez.
The knock on Hanley is that he isn’t a leader, that he’s a locker room cancer. But, this latest news wouldn’t be a story today if Morrison opted to remain silent for once. By choosing to continuously put himself and his “tell-it-like-it-is” brand ahead of the best interests of the organization, by not ever knowing when to keep his mouth closed, isn’t Logan Morrison proving to be a cancer in the clubhouse? Isn’t he being the exact kind of leader he criticizes? At what point are we going to stop being amazed by what he says and start being annoyed? Why, exactly, does he get a free pass?
Morrison has every right to do what he does, to craft this media friendly, charming and comical Twitter persona. It’s an intelligent career move – especially considering that without it, he’d be Benny Agbayani – but it certainly isn’t above criticism. Sooner or later, when either he or Hanley are on a different team, when he pushes it too far, when he’s only batting .204, people are going to grow tired of the shtick. I’m already there.
Sorry. Just keeping it real, bro.
What you missed this weekend while your favorite rapper was busted while planning one heckuva party…
• In baseball, consistency is key. And the Marlins were certainly that this weekend, losing to the Cardinals on Thursday, Friday, Saturday AND Sunday! It’s a good thing Jack McKeon saved that napkin he wrote his, “We just have to get back to .500″ speech on back in June.
• Logan Morrison‘s knee will disturb you. Last night, Morrison tweeted out a picture of his bloody knee, an injury that occurred after colliding with Emilio Bonifacio in the third inning of Sunday afternoon’s game. Oh, sure, this is cute and amusing when Bonifacio is the best hitter on the team, but just wait until this stuff starts happening when he’s batting .217 next year!
• With Omar Infante out; opposing right fielders won’t know what to do with themselves. There’s going to be a shortage of lazy fly balls to right field in the coming weeks as Omar Infante finds himself on the 15-day DL with a broken middle finger. After 111 mostly-disappointing games with the Marlins, I’m sure fans would be more than happy to offer their middle fingers to the second baseman.
• And finally, presented without context, my favorite photo of, well, ever…
See that image up there, people? That’s your fault. I blame this all on you, on Jeff Conine and on a long-standing belief in the fallacy of giving 110%. You’re all at fault here. All of you.
A few weeks ago, Hanley would have turned around and jogged after that pop-up, letting it drop in for an uncontested single. There was no way he was getting to it anyway, so he’d have just let Logan Morrison pick it up, shrugged and walked back to his position, ready to half-heartedly chase after the next ball that might seem just a bit out of his reach. You’d probably have pursed your lips and shook your head, but Hanley would have doubled down the line in his next at-bat and your silent judgement would have been a distant memory for everyone involved.
That’s not what happened, though. No, what happened was that Jeff Conine eluded to Hanley being lazy. And sports talk radio got its monthly gasbag topic. (Seriously, if 790 The Ticket plays that Jorge Sedano, “Hanley’s gotta go!” rant one more time, I might stab my eardrums with a pair of rusty scissors. Stick to basketball, chief.) And frustrated fans took to Twitter to voice their displeasure. And so, last night, amidst this current avalanche of unnecessary scrutiny, Hanley found himself staring up at a pop-up and making the ill-fated decision to do something he wouldn’t have ever thought to do a month ago. He sprinted into left field.
Hustling is overrated; just ask Ken Griffey, Jr. For all of the highlight reel catches he made throughout his career, all anyone ever seems to want to talk about is the number of home runs he’d have… if he weren’t always on the DL. That’s the kind of thanks you get for going all out. Nobody would’ve faulted Jim Edmonds for not diving head first in the direction of a solid wall. Nobody would’ve blamed Carlos Beltran or Mike Cameron if either of them had thought to themselves, “You know, I don’t really want to bash my skull into my teammate’s skull to try and catch this ball.” They did it for you, though, because you demand that your athletes always try their hardest, that they always give 110%, even as you whine and roll your eyes when asked to walk two cubicles over to pass a coworker the stapler, you lazy, hypocritical sloth.
Fortunately, the news is that Hanley’s injury isn’t serious and that he’s day-to-day. You guys got lucky. But, let this serve as a constant reminder that some of the clichéd sports nonsense your 8th grade gym teacher tried drilling into your head all those years ago is better left in your middle school locker room, because it doesn’t necessarily have a place in the real world. 110% might have gotten you a Presidential Physical Fitness Award, but I’m guessing that your 13 chin-ups weren’t televised and that you weren’t risking millions of dollars and the future of an entire franchise in the process.
So, when Hanley does get back on the field, I’d like to be the first to urge him to not try hard, to not dive after pop-ups and not leg out routine ground balls to third. Walk. Mope. Give 43%. Show up late. I don’t care. Just, for the love of God, don’t ever listen to these silly people again.
(Screenshot via MLB.com)
What you missed this weekend while finding out that pet owners will fork over their hard earned cash for pretty much anything…
• Frustrating former Marlin picks up where frustrating current Marlin leaves off. After 26 games, Emilio Bonifacio’s hitting streak finally came to an end. Dan Uggla’s, on the other hand, reached 22 games on Sunday. You can expect Cameron Maybin to break Joe DiMaggio’s record sometimes next season.
• Emilio must really hate me. Not content with invalidating all of my arguments with a 26-game hitting streak, Bonifacio is now doing other inconceivable things, like putting the ball over the fence.
• Oh, hey, you’re still here! The MLB trade deadline came and went, but the only move the Marlins made was pretending that they traded Leo Nunez.
Imagine Nunez’s surprise when manager Jack McKeon summoned him into his office after the game, wished him luck, and told him he’d been traded to the Cubs.
“I said, ‘OK,’ then everybody was laughing and I realized it was a joke,” said Nunez, who joined Robb Nen as the only closers in club history with multiple 30-plus save seasons. “I’m here until the Marlins want. My desire is to stay here, but those are decisions the bosses make. I’d like to stay here. I feel good and have confidence with all my teammates.”
Added Nunez, “Plus, those guys now owe me like a gazillion-bazillion dollars!”
Whether it’s a discussion about sports, a co-worker’s promotion or the girl a friend has a crush on, I’ve long been accused of being the person to poop in the proverbial punch bowl. It’s kind of what I do. I tend to look at things realistically and not let my emotions cloud my judgement. So, when I started to hear people say that the most important part of Emilio Bonifacio‘s hitting streak is that the team is now winning, well, let’s just say I upped my fiber intake.
There is no argument to be made that Boni reaching safely in the last 26 games hasn’t helped the team win; that’d just be stupid. But, there are some other important factors to consider when you look at the Marlins 18-8 record during this hit streak. Let’s have at it, shall we?
It helps when your opponent is more inept than you. Of the Marlins 18 wins, 12 of them have come against the likes of Oakland (47-58), Houston (35-70), Chicago (42-63) and Washington (49-55). That’s two-thirds of their victories coming against teams whose combined record is 173-246 (.413). Imagine if they DIDN’T get swept by the Padres…
Mike Stanton, as you know, is a boss. Bonifacio may have a 26-game hitting streak, but in that time, Mikey Boss has 8 homers and 18 RBI.
I don’t know who you are, but you’re not Javy Vazquez. In his last six starts, Vazquez is 4-2 and has given up just 11 runs. If you were to take away his horrendous game against the Padres – and I know it counts, but it was such an awful game that it unfairly skews his stats – you’re looking at a 4-1 record with just 5 runs allowed.
Trade Hanley! Or, you know, maybe we should hold off on the pitchforks and flaming torches routine right now. This is what Hanley Ramierez’s slash line looked like just before the streak and what it looks like today:
I’m pretty sure his OPS has jumped, like, a bazillion points, too (.608 to .725).
Of course, none of this is to say that Emilio Bonifacio isn’t helping the team win, because he certainly is and I love him for it. You can’t reach base safely that many times and still be considered a non-factor, obviously. But, let’s not pretend, even for a second, that there aren’t other reasons – INFINITELY MORE IMPORTANT REASONS – for the Marlins current resurgence.
Now, nobody drink the punch, ’cause I done pooped in it.
Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat. When Jeff Conine was asked, last week, if he would trade Hanley Ramirez and he responded by doing something other than laughing in the face of the person asking the question, he gave the wrong answer. You don’t trade Hanley Ramirez. Ever. You’re not going to get fair value in return, no matter what you get back, so no, you don’t trade the man. Especially not with a handful of years still left on his Swap Shop bargain of a contract.
We clear on all that? Good. Because, now that I’ve said that, I’d like to get into a more interesting discussion. Is the Captain America of Marlins really wrong? And, well, should it ultimately matter?
To understand where Jeff Conine is coming from, you’d first have to understand his life. As every player at that level of the sport has to be, Conine was a supremely talented athlete. In order to get to that level, though, he had to work his hardest all day, every day. It’s true that professional sports are a collection of the top 1% in the world at their given craft, but even within that 1%, there are different levels of talent. It’s the reason a player like Jeff Conine has to spend hours upon hours every day honing his skills, while a player like Hanley can show up 20 minutes late to practice and still be worlds better. Conine admitted as much:
I think obviously Hanley is a phenomenal talent, but as a guy — I’m a 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 — there are some nights he doesn’t work as hard as he should.
Michael Jong of Marlin Maniac argued that it shouldn’t matter, that the only thing that should matter is production:
Yes, Hanley Ramirez is struggling this season, which is why he is being vilified to an extent by Conine here. But if and when he does well (and he has been doing well recently), why do we question his hustle, effort, or “respect for the game?” Shouldn’t the ultimate thing that matters to Marlins fans and ownership be how well Ramirez plays, regardless of effort level? Hanley Ramirez at 85 percent of his effort level is still miles ahead of other players, including Jeff Conine at 100 percent of his effort.
The problem is, they’re both right. I would take Hanley at 85% over the majority of Major League Baseball, but that doesn’t mean that it’s any less exasperating to think about what Hanley could be if he were to actually give max effort. And for a guy like Jeff Conine, a guy who had to put forth that kind of effort all of the time? Yeah, I can understand his frustration.
There’s more to this conversation than just on-field production, though – and I freely admit that I’m not entirely sure I’m the right person to start this discussion, but I’m going to try, anyway.
One of the more significant differences between players like Hanley and players like Conine isn’t the talent gap that separates them; it’s the sociological gap. A staggering 42.2% of the Dominican Republic lives below the poverty line. In the United States, that number is just 14.3%. So, generally speaking, it isn’t much of a stretch to think that, when it comes to professional sports and the millions upon millions of dollars one can potentially earn, the white ballplayer growing up in middle America has different goals in mind than the kid growing up in the Dominican Republic.
Work harder than everyone else, give 147%, and maybe someday you can be the best. It’s a nice thing to strive for, and it’s exactly what my parents taught me growing up, but what if my life were different? What if I grew up living in poverty and giving 85% turned out to be good enough to earn me a 70-million dollar contract? Would I still try to be the best ever? Would I even care about that label? Or would I just enjoy my life playing a game the same way I always have – the way that was good enough to get me that sweet contract in the first place – and provide my family with all of the things they could never afford? I think I might be okay with not being Babe Ruth at that point.
We all want to criticize players like Hanley for not caring enough, but maybe he does care enough, just not about the things we want him to care about. And would that be wrong? Considering the talent we’ve witnessed, considering that his current level of caring has made him one of the best baseball players in the game today, are we only being selfish for wanting more? Shouldn’t that be enough?
I get it. Here’s a guy who’s already great, but could possibly be so much more if he just tried even harder than he already does. As a fan, or as a guy like Jeff Conine, you feel cheated because of that, like you’re not getting everything you could or should be getting. But, Hanley Ramirez is more than earning the money on his contract and, beyond that, he doesn’t owe anything to anyone except himself. And if he’s content with that, then why aren’t we?
None of this is meant to explain Hanley Ramirez, specifically. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t; I won’t pretend to know anything about his family situation or his childhood. All I’m saying is that, when it comes to what we expect of certain extremely gifted professional athletes, maybe we need to begin understanding that our lives are different, our circumstances are different, and that the ultimate prize, the validation we’d so desperately crave if put in their shoes, might not mean as much to them.
And that it’s perfectly fine that way.
• They tried to make me go to rehab, I said, “Noooo. Noooo… Fine. Packing his glove, his cleats and his 5.58 ERA, Chris Volstad headed to Triple-A New Orleans this weekend to try and fix whatever it is that’s been broken. Now, I don’t claim to know everything about baseball, but I’m pretty sure the answer to Volstad’s problem doesn’t involve shorter fences.
• I told you I was trouble. You know that I’m no good. Except for Sunday, when John Buck drove in the go-ahead run in the Marlins 5-4 victory over the Mets. But, yeah, other than that, we kinda know that he’s no good.
• Over futile odds and laughed at by the gods… and bloggers. Emilio Bonifacio continues to prove us all wrong, running his hit streak to 23 games and ensuring that there’s no way this team will ever get rid of him. Ever. No matter how much I beg. When the meteor eventually hits and humans go the way of the dinosaur, Emilio will be the surviving cockroach. I’m sure of it.
Hate takes a lot of energy, especially when it’s genuine. It’s powerful that way. That’s why when you truly detest something – like, say, Ben Affleck movies, for instance – it’s almost impossible to break free of that seething hatred and see things from the other perspective.
This is how I’ve felt about Emilio Bonifacio since his arrival in Florida in 2009, but with a bunt single in the 5th inning Tuesday night, the bane of my existence stretched his hitting streak to 18 games and, for the first time in three years, forced me to step back and reconsider my deep-rooted hatred.
Once upon a time, Speedy Mc[BLEEP]face was the poster child for futility. A ground ball here, a called third strike there, mix in the occasional failed bunt and you’ve got yourself the recipe for a day at the park with Emilio Bonifacio. Something changed this year, though. At the beginning of the season, I chalked it up to a small sample size. After all, Hanley was batting, like, .143, so anything was possible. But, here we are, 97 games into a 162 game season and Bonifacio has the highest BA (.290) and OBP (.364) of any Marlins regular. And he can bunt! Extended statistical fluke? It’s possible, but we’re certainly beyond that small sample size argument. Which kind of scares me.
As I said earlier, nobody likes to reassess hatred. I’ve spent too many blogging hours and an unreasonable amount of tweets sculpting my feelings into a beautiful statue for me to decide to break it down now and start from scratch because I just noticed an unsightly edge or two.
Dan Le Batard has stated multiple times on his radio show that he believes Hanley Ramirez‘s numbers will be better than Bonifacio’s when the season finally comes to an end, that basically, the world will right itself, because when it comes to statistics, it always does. I’m not sure I’m 100% on board with that sentiment – Hanley’s slump lasted way too long and I’m not entirely convinced his recent success isn’t just a little bit of the opposite extreme – but I do agree with the premise.
I don’t believe, not even for a second, that this is the Emilio Bonifacio we should expect to see going forward. I can’t believe it. I won’t. These last 293 at-bats aren’t going to erase the memory of the previous 833. But, I’m willing to call a truce. Sure, the hatred is still there, it’s just buried a little deeper right now. And I’m sure it’ll resurface the moment he strikes out three times and bunts a pop-up back to the pitcher.
For now, though, Emilio and I are cool. No hard feelings, bro. Just try not to suck again, okay? I can only suppress this rage-filled hate for so long.
What you missed this weekend while wondering if that last glass of water tasted funny…
• Javy Vazquez had another solid outing on Saturday, in a 13-3 route of the Cubs. We’re now at 37 days since Vazquez has given up more than 3 runs in a game. C’mon, Javy, help a brother out. Jokes are way easier to write when you stink.
• Also on Saturday afternoon, Mike Stanton went 3-for-5, smacked two homers, drove in four runs and delivered a baby during the 7th inning stretch. I, on the other hand, spent Saturday afternoon successfully navigating my way through Babies”R”Us. I’m still not sure which one of us accomplished a more impressive feat.
“Boy, that’s embarrassing. I don’t even know who that is. That’s embarrassing.”
Not at all embarrassing? Openly admitting you have no idea who an opposing player is. We should all strive to work as hard as those two.
• You sitting down for this one? Chris Volstad didn’t allow a single homer on Sunday! He did give up back-to-back-to-back doubles to start the game and lasted just three innings, but NO HOMERS! Baby steps, people. Baby steps.