All too often, you see a major leaguer not hustle.Â A player jogs to first on a routine ground ball or an infield pop-up, or he stands at home plate and admires a long drive he thinks is a sure home run.Â Sadly, this lack of hustle â€“ or at least not running out every play at full speed â€“ is more the norm than the exception in todayâ€™s game.Â Most times, no harm is done, as that routine play is made, or the ball sails out of the park.Â However, sometimes that â€œroutineâ€ play isnâ€™t made, or the long drive bounces off the wall, and it costs the team an out or a base, and possibly a game.
When this happens, the player usually gets an earful from his manager, and he might be pulled from a game or benched the following day.Â But what happens when a star player is the culprit?Â Usually, nothing.Â How often did Barry Bonds run out a ground ball?Â When did he ever run hard to first on ANY ball he hit?Â And I wonâ€™t even get into â€œManny Being Manny.â€Â However, another Ramirez recently made headlines for lack of hustle.Â This time, the player faced consequences – and that was just the beginning of the story.
Last week, Marlins star shortstop Hanley Ramirez ranged into left field after a bloop hit, and as the ball eluded him, he inadvertently kicked the ball into the left field corner.Â Â Not only did Ramirez not go full speed as the ball rolled away, but he looked as if he was going on a leisurely stroll in the park.Â 2 runs scored on the play, and the batter ended up on 3rd base.Â After the inning, Marlins skipper Fredi Gonzalez pulled Ramirez from the game.
Gonzalez couldâ€™ve addressed the issue internally and told the media that Ramirez was pulled due to injury, as he had fouled a ball off of his shin in his first at bat.Â Instead, Gonzalez acknowledged Ramirez was pulled due to lack of effort.Â Things quickly got ugly, as Ramirez refused to apologize.Â Actually, he didnâ€™t seem to think he did anything wrong, and didnâ€™t understand why he would need to apologize.Â He was benched the next game, and finally seemed to get the message after being talked to by Hall of Famers Andre Dawson and Tony Perez, both special assistants to the Marlins.
The Marlins are a young team with a low payroll, and Ramirez is clearly the teamâ€™s best position player.Â He is the most feared hitter in the Marlinsâ€™ lineup, and he has the talent to be an All Star for the next 10+ years.Â Some might question the way Gonzalez handled the situation.Â He risked alienating his teamâ€™s star player, and the firestorm that immediately followed seemed like it might do just that.Â But by pulling Ramirez and by letting it be known why he was benched, Gonzalez sent a clear message to his star and his team.Â Lack of effort will not be tolerated.Â Physical errors will happen, and players will go into slumps.Â There are many things out of a playerâ€™s control, but effort and hustle are not.Â He showed that no player was above the team â€“ if benching Ramirez didnâ€™t drive that point home, nothing will.Â You better believe that the rest of the Marlins team took notice.
Years from now, hopefully Ramirez will look back at this incident as one that helped him mature, and he will be an even better ball player as a result of this.Â Isnâ€™t that a scary thought, National League?
Unfortunately, this wonâ€™t be the last time you see a play like this.Â Hopefully, the next time this happens, the manager will take a page out of Fredi Gonzalezâ€™s book and act immediately.Â Kudos to Gonzalez for making a bold move, and in my mind, the right move.