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Let's not get ahead of ourselves in praising Fredi Gonzalez

May 19, 2010, 10:20 AM EDT

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.

“He
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
good.”

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.  

  1. YankeesfanLen - May 19, 2010 at 10:28 AM

    OK, bring in Joe Torre. On a strictly personnel-issues side Craig, you are exactly correct. Fix it privately.
    Captcha: hustled fulfils- Now I know you’re making these up

  2. Mike - May 19, 2010 at 10:29 AM

    There’s no telling how many times Fredi has handled Hanley in-house without it ever working. After Fredi discussed it with his owner and GM THEY decided this was the best course of action. They’re trying to prevent Hanley from ever doing this again. They’ve probably tried countless times to handle Hanley in-house with zero results. Being from Florida I know Fredi goes out of his way to not criticize his players. It’s unfair how he’s being portrayed in that light just because this is the first time the national media has decided to pay attention to the Marlins.

  3. Jimmy Marlins Fan - May 19, 2010 at 10:31 AM

    ok, craig…i wont use your brave bias against the “feesh” against you in this article…i just believe that it is being handled correctly
    its clearly not hanley’s work ethic that is in question…but his dedication to follow his teammates “into the trenches” if you will is what seems to be the matter here
    i think his lack of hustle and what he said about freddi are absolutely deplorable and he needs to learn that this non-sense will not be tolerated in florida, nor anywhere else and a public scolding appears to be the only way to get through to him
    look, i like hanley, he waded through a sea of sox fans last year to autograph my baseball last year in fenway…he is an amazingly talented and maybe even hall of fame caliber player…but if he doesnt keep a good head on his shoulders then its all for not and loria once again will be crucified for trading a star for what will magically turn into money issues in the press
    if fredi doesnt nip this in bud now, then it becomes a bigger distraction than it already is…i mean…would anyone suggest anything other than immediate discipline if this was terrell owens we were talking about?

  4. J Rose - May 19, 2010 at 10:38 AM

    Craig, I agree with you somewhat that perhaps Gonzalez could have handled this better, but like Mike said, there has probably been so many instances of Hanley’s insubordination over the laast few seasons that the manaager has decided to make a public example out of him. What does he have to lose, after all? People (even on this site) are already saying Gonzalez will be fired before they let Ramirez leave, so why not make a stand against a petulant superstar on your way out? Once said star has stated that he “lost respect” for you anyway, might as well hang him out to dry and win the respect of the other teammates who probably can’t stand Ramirez either.

  5. Jimmy Marlins Fan - May 19, 2010 at 10:39 AM

    also, fredi is a bobby cox disciple…how do you think bobby would have handled this?

  6. Craig Calcaterra - May 19, 2010 at 10:43 AM

    I can’t think one instance in 20 years when Bobby Cox called out a player publicly like this. When there have been problems (e.g. John Rocker) there has been minimum comment from Cox, things were dealt with in-house, and if the problem still couldn’t be resolved, the guy was shipped out of town.
    Maybe, if what some of you are saying is true and Ramirez has had numerous run-ins in the past it’s called for in this situation. I have no idea. But if Hanley Ramirez is such a gigantic clubhouse problem that the manager felt that he had no choice but to make a public example out of him, either the player needs to go or the manager does, because something is wrong.

  7. Jimmy Marlins Fan - May 19, 2010 at 10:55 AM

    fair enough craig…i dont remember bobby calling anyone out either…in fact…i think this whole scenario is a little strange
    either way, i still believe it needed to happen…i mean if loria and his man-crush of hanley allowed fredi to say what he said in the press…then this is something that loria must also feel, needed to happen…
    hey, what can you say? sometimes professional athletes act like small children…you can tackle the issue any number of ways and still be wrong

  8. Alex K - May 19, 2010 at 11:27 AM

    I’m just not sure what a forced apoplgy is going to do. It’s not like Hanley doesn’t look bad enough.
    I also don’t think chemistry has a lot to do with baseball. Who cares if the shortstop and second baseman hate each other…as long as they both hit, and can throw the ball to one another it doesn’t matter. Sure, in a perfect world everyone would love everyone, but that doesn’t happen

  9. ralphdibny - May 19, 2010 at 12:11 PM

    Serious question: Does anyone really learn from being publicly humiliated? People seem to love watching others being publicly humiliated, of course; it fulfills some sort of desire to feel superior (in this case, to a man who is much more financially and athletically superior to almost all of us). But can anyone recall a time when they learned a valuable lesson through humiliation? The lesson I always take away from shaming isn’t “i was wrong” but rather “you’re an asshole.”

  10. Ron - May 19, 2010 at 12:26 PM

    If Gonzales had continued to bench Ramirez and not given a reason, the press would have been all over him. Seems like he was just explaining up frong what he was going to end up having to explain later. Just my perception. Because you know the media wouldn’t have let it go.
    Also, not to pick on Cox or the Braves, I do seem to remember in about ’97 or ’98, Cox pulled Andruw Jones from a game for loafing after a ball, and publicly stated he need to get some maturity and be thankful for his opportunity.
    Does anyone else remember that, or have I actually entered my fantasy world I’ve been dreaming of?

  11. Charles Gates - May 19, 2010 at 12:26 PM

    Personnel management and organizational effectiveness, two things I’m fascinated with. The key to being a good leader, and a manager is an example, is knowing how to act to each specific situation. As Mike points out, we don’t really know if there were any ‘behind closed doors’ conversations previously. If there were, than perhaps Gonzalez is trying to light the proverbial fire under him. I fear, however, that his public remarks were a byproduct of frustration and venting off steam rather than a crafted corrective behavioral maneuver. Of course, I don’t know. I’m just guessing based upon how stress tends to affect us and how skillful the media can be at extracting a soundbite when they’re trying to break a story.

  12. Anon!Mice! - May 19, 2010 at 12:26 PM

    Why didn’t Bobby Cox handle all those umps in house? He’s delivered plenty of public criticism in his time.
    C: While befriend

  13. Alex K - May 19, 2010 at 12:41 PM

    No. If the problem is Hanley getting his feelings hurt about being taken out of a game, this is only going to make it worse. If he’s so proud that being taken out of the game hurt him like that, what is taking the humiliation further going to accomplish?
    When Hanley apologizes it most likely won’t be a real apology.

  14. Mike - May 19, 2010 at 1:05 PM

    Craig,
    Bobby Cox pulled Andruw Jones out in the middle of an inning and scolded him down the steps into the clubhouse.

  15. Bustelo - May 19, 2010 at 2:08 PM

    As a manager you lose the entire clubhouse if you don’t go public, especially if this has been an ongoing issue in the clubhouse. And especially after flaunting a lack of respect for his teammates, his pitcher, and his uniform, for dogging it on an error. I seriously doubt Fredi reacted this way as a first time offense by Hanley.
    Fredi absolutely understands respecting his players with his experience as a manager. There are no cultural misunderstandings here as both are Latinos and immersed in very similar culture. The manager is absolutely right in this situation. There should be one voice in the locker room, and that’s the manager.
    This will soon pass, and Hanley is under contract until 2014. So he has no choice but to respect the franchise that made him financially set for life, or retire early.
    That respect starts with being a leader in the clubhouse as the star player, not a selfish child.

  16. Bustelo - May 19, 2010 at 2:14 PM

    “I can’t think one instance in 20 years when Bobby Cox called out a player publicly like this.”
    How about Billie Martin (Reggie Jackson), Ozzie Guillen (Magglio Ordonez), Lou Piniella (Milton Bradley), or Larry Bowa (Vicente Padilla)????

  17. Old Gator - May 19, 2010 at 2:45 PM

    I hardly think calling out Scrooge McLoria for his tightwad ways – as, for example, the Player’s Association also felt compelled to call him out this Spring, and very publicly, and with the apparent blessing of the league office as well (or is the league also “biased” against the Teal Terrors?) – represents a “bias” against the Feesh. Craig is far from alone amongst commentators, journalists and fans who have been turned off by the team ownership’s compulsive salary dumping and pennypinching. Neither does pointing out what could quite fairly be construed as an overplaying of Fredi’s hand in this particular case of Hanley’s dogging afield constitute “bias.”
    .
    Fredi is in his fourth year of managing the Feesh and his record, so far, is a none-too-sparkling one game over .500, The Feesh under Fredi’s helmsmanship have moored in the postseason exactly zero times, have the worst fielding performance in either league and an overall onfield performance that oscillates like a tuning fork slammed against a granite countertop. Pointing any of that out doesn’t constitute “bias” either.
    .
    Now then, on the sunny side, Greg Cote of the Macondo Herald is reporting that there seems to be a resolution of L’affaire Hanley in the offing that will enable Fredi to let him play against the Cards tonight. Let’s hope so. As I mentioned earlier today, the Feesh are about to take on Jaime Garcia and his 1.42 ERA and they’re going to need every baseball-kissing bat in that lineup
    to keep Fat Freddy perched above the median for another night.

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