Morrison and the Door Closers

The 2011 Marlins have a rock band feel about them. Morrison and the Doors – as in Logan Morrison and a bullpen that closes on everything; doors, streaks, an LA Woman, hopes and rallies. Hopefully, my wordplay will be the only other resemblance to that band, given that the Doors started strong and flamed out early.

See LeBron James was not the first icon to bring his talents to Miami. But by the End Of The Night of Jim Morrison’s visit in 1969 to the Dinner Key Auditorium, When The Music Was Over and he should have headed out the Back Door Man, instead the police arrived. They said, My Eyes Have Seen You and we were called by an Unhappy Girl. It was a Blue Sunday morning. A Twentieth Century Fox film would follow.

Have you seen the Florida Marlins numbers after 13 games? Logan Morrison must be thinking Someone Touch Me — except Maggie M’Gill from Love Street — he is first or a close second in every Marlins hitting category — see Marlins hitting stats here — 2nd in average to Sanchez [Spanish Caravan] and OPS to Dobbs [The Unknown Soldier]. Morrison has started to earn a reputation as a Wild Child and a very good hitter. He may look like The Wasp, sound like People Are Strange, but he hits like he’s ready to Break On Through To The Other Side [>1.0 OPS]. Morrison is so laid back he looks like he just Take It As It Comes, but I’m here to Tell All The People that it’s OK not to Touch The Earth for now, because The Changeling Logan Morrison is not.

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Oh Hanley! Still

When I saw Hanley Ramirez appear to get seriously hurt in Friday’s Marlins win at Houston, my reaction was a disappointed ‘oooh Hanley.’ Ramirez was off to a slow start and now this. The feeling was, ‘this guy’s not our Pujol’s, he’s our Linus.’

“Oh Hanley!,” was the catchphrase the Marlins likeable TV play-by-play announcer Rich Waltz used to describe the excitement about Hanley Ramirez when he first came on the scene. That was then, Mike Stanton is now. By far, the player Marlin fans can’t wait to see perform in 2011 is Mike Stanton. From afar, it must seem like an good example of how fickle fans can be. After all, 21 year-old Stanton, for all his potential, has only 100 games in the big leagues coming into the year, whereas Ramirez is considered by some to be the best all-around shortstop in MLB and is only 27 himself.

Here’s what those who watch from a distance may be missing. In between Ramirez’s great debut in 2006 and now; he earned financial security in 2008, earned a 2nd place MVP in 2009, earned the public criticism of some his teammates, a reputation for surliness [the Miguel Cabrera Syndrome], and had a statistically disappointing 2010. Beyond disappointing, Ramirez became the 4th player [see the others here] in major league baseball history to be removed from a game for literally lollygaging.

So that’s how ‘Oh Hanley!’ morphed into ‘oooh Hanley.’ But when we fans start thinking we know what makes someone like Hanley tick [or not], we should consider how many of us can relate to being a can’t miss prospect since the age of 15. The can’t miss tag carries even more pressure when succeeding was his family’s best [only?] chance to escape poverty back in the Dominican. Poverty is a great motivator, and when combined with great talent, it equals riches in today’s MLB.

Once players like Ramirez achieve financial security for their families, we expect the transition in motivation — from a desperate need to succeed to a Ripken-like self-discipline — to be seamless. It’s not that easy. If it were David Allen would not be wealthy and playing on my iTunes in the background for encouragement. As an aside, I thought that Ramirez’s signing in 2008 was a good example of how to quantify risk vs reward [see here] when it comes to professional athletes salaries.

Maybe what we Marlin fans need is a little distance in in the case of Hanley Ramirez. Someone who has a little distance and is considered one of the best writers covering major league baseball, Joe Posnanski, put together a list of the 32 best players in MLB and listed Hanley as #7. More important than the ranking, which is arbitrary [he had Hanley at #3 a couple of years ago], Posnanski makes the follow undeniable points in Ramirez’s favor:

Last year was a harsh season for Hanley Ramirez. He seemed to be settling in nicely as the most amazing player in baseball that nobody ever talked about, a proud tradition that went back many years. From 2007 to 2009, Ramirez hit .325/.389/.549, banged 86 homers, stole 113 bases, played an ever-improving shortstop and basically did things so remarkable that few believed them and fewer still saw them.

Then, last year Ramirez got caught on camera loafing, got into a spat with his manager about it, and suddenly people in the mainstream KNEW Hanley Ramirez, but what they knew was that he was, in the famed words of the Bull Durham manager, a lollygagger. His numbers fell off quite a bit, and he got hurt toward the end of the year, and all in all it wasn’t too great. Based on perception, you would think Hanley Ramirez turned into Yuni Betancourt overnight.

And then you look at the season — .300/.378/.475 with 21 homers, 32 steals, 92 runs scored — and you can’t help but think that for a lousy season that doesn’t seem like too lousy a season.

At the time of the lollygaging incident, Posnanski offered up one possible explanation, but not an excuse, for Ramirez’s actions [see here]. When you factor in that we Marlin fans have that player locked in for the next 4 seasons at a reasonable salary — momentary time-out from hating on the revenue-sharing money-hoarding owner — I’m back to Oh Hanley!

The Marlins Twilight Zone – 3B

Rod Serling’s thoughts on the Marlins 3B possibilities:

You’re traveling through another dimension; a dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are a diamond marked off at 42 paces. If you step up to that hot corner up ahead, your next stop could be the minor leagues?

There was an interesting article last week by Eric Seidman from the Fangraphs blog about how the Marlins should approach their search for a third baseman. The article was written before Matt Dominguez was hurt. Seidman’s conclusion:

… they are [Marlins will be] able to see if certain players can be considered assets moving forward. Assuming they handle this situation correctly-meaning they don’t work out a silly trade for Michael Young-the Marlins can really help themselves for the future by not forcing Dominguez into a starting role before he is ready.

The Marlins have played the development game since 2006 and played it very well. But their time as the Brazil [joke was that it was the country of the future and would always be] of MLB , is winding down precisely because of that success.

In his analysis, I thought that Seidman gave the Marlins too much credit for not forcing Dominguez into the lineup right away. There was no way that Dominguez was going to be with the Marlins to open the year because giving up one year of arbitration eligibility is not something the Marlins would have even considered. That’s just not how they roll, arbitrage eligibility speaking.

But that aside, the Marlins 3B search is an irresistible topic for us fans. Part of the reason is the perception that since so many of the Marlins are playing out of position, there is no reason not to continue to fiddle with the lineup. In reality, only Coughlan and Morrison are playing positions which were not their primary positions in the minor leagues. They both saw limited time in the minors in the outfield when it was evident that that was where they would get their opportunities to play. Gaby Sanchez was primarily a 1B in the minors, Omar Infante a 2B and Bonifacio was versatile, even in the minors.

Jonathan Sumple from the Through the Fence Baseball blog makes the case that if the Marlins go through the season with 3B as a development position, Edwin Rodriguez should not be judged as competing with a full roster. He wrote, “management’s willingness to wait for Dominguez – however long it takes – doesn’t sound like a win-now mantra.” Agreed.

I actually agree with the strategy of staying with the internal options at 3B and waiting on Dominguez. But management can’t have it both ways regarding expectations. Talk is cheap, but established third basemen aren’t.

Bona Fides For Bonifacio

How does one obtain a Marlins Fan bona fides? First you have to fan invest [explained here] in the team. Ideally, you would take a seemingly indefensible situation and attempt a reasonable defense. For example, defending a manager’s [Fredi Gonzalez] handling of a pitching change which resulted in a grand slam. I also fan invested in Emilio Bonifacio last year, see here. [No I don’t see a pattern]. Do any readers have equivalent defenses?

My Marlins fan bona fides established, let me tell you about why you should care about a player who has zero power, a career .306 OBP coming into the 2011 season, much speed, and no real success as a base stealer.

Speed, defensive versatility and maturity. The unfortunate recent minor [Stanton and D. Murphy] and major [Dominguez] injuries have one possible bright spot. A great opportunity for Bonifacio to prove himself. He got his season off to a great start in last night’s loss with productive at-bats and a key defensive play. Bonifacio had a great start to the 2009 season as well, but that start involved an inside-the-park grand slam. By having success in an area he could not expect to repeat, his grand slam turned out to be the Marlins worst success since Chuck Carr’s grand slam in 1993. I swear, but won’t look it up, that Carr’s next 42 outs were fly balls.

Carr went on to infamously talk himself out of MLB in 1997. After popping out to third base on a two balls, no strike count, Carr was questioned by manager Phil Garner [Brewers]. Carr replied to Garner in third person: “That ain’t Chuckie’s game. Chuckie hacks on 2-0.” He was released from the club shortly thereafter.

Bonifacio did not hack last night. But Bonifacio’s versatility was on display, as he played RF-3B-CF, made good defensive plays in both the outfield and infield, had 2 hits and a sacrifice. Using up my ‘season-extrapolation-after-only-one-game-allowance,’ earned here, for Gaby Sanchez. I think that 2011 will be a very good year for him. Then again I may just 2 months away from badgering 790’s Jonathan Zaslow on why the Marlins released Bonifacio on his radio post-game shows.

A Fan’s Ode To Renyel Pinto

Do you remember where you were when you heard that Renyel Pinto had been released last year? I meant his June 23rd release by the Marlins, not his August 21st release by the St Louis Cardinals. I was at a family dinner, which also included a priest, and I still cursed. Even the US victory over Algeria in the World Cup that day provided little solace.

You see I had fan invested. Fan investing involves taking limited knowledge of a sport, mixing it with tribal-like allegiances and attaching oneself to a potentially dubious, but convenient, product. As a sports fan, my goal is to approximate what I once heard someone say sarcastically about my hero *William F. Buckey Jr.’s politics: “He chose his side like a fanatic, and defended it like a philosopher.” Well, as you will soon click and learn, I got at least half of that right.

For my first defense of Pinto, I brought Fredo Corleone into the discussion. For my next defense of Pinto, I realized that I needed a little more muscle, so I brought in Jack Bauer. One month later Pinto was gone. Can’t help thinking I could have done more, or less. Even Wes Helms very funny interview on March 18th with the 790 Radio Station, in which he jokingly calls out Pinto for being the least manly Marlin last year, did not soften the blow.

Great start for the Marlins fans last night, especially against the hated and hateful New York Mets. Speaking of giving up on players too soon, did you see what Cameron Maybin did on opening night for San Diego? Although in his case, we know from recent interviews that that the final decision to release came from ownership, not the baseball people. Please remember that somewhere in Pawtucket, Andrew Miller is throwing in the mid 90’s.

* – Turns out that the original quote came from Thomas Babington Macaulay who was speaking of Edmund Burke. Coincidentally enough, Burke’s offspring also came to be released by a professional baseball team, the New York Highlanders. However, Burkey, as he was known, was so embarrassed by his intellectual father, that he had changed his name to Stubby Magner, no relation to Honus.

Blinded By The Loria?

Jack Woltz quote in G1 prior to gaining [not getting] a head:

Johnny Fontane ruined one of Woltz International’s most valuable proteges. For three years we had her under contract, singing lessons, dancing lessons, acting lessons. I spent hundreds of thousands of dollars. I was gonna make her a big star. And let me be even more frank, just to show you that I’m not a hard-hearted man, that it’s not all dollars and cents. She was beautiful, she was innocent…. And then Johnny Fontane comes along with his olive oil voice and guinea charm and she runs off. She threw it all away just to make me look ridiculous. And a man in my position can’t afford to be made to look ridiculous.

From a business perspective, Jack Woltz’s personal animus towards Johnny Fontane, caused to him to do a poor job of assessing risk for Woltz International. Similarly, Jeffrey Loria’s spectacularly profitable investment in MLB franchises, has not gone unnoticed by his unwitting benefactors. A few examples of their frustration over being made to look ridiculous:

  • 2008 – Hank Steinbrenner remarks: I don’t want these teams in general to forget who subsidizes a lot of them, and it’s the Yankees, the Red Sox, Dodgers, Mets,” he said to The New York Post. “I would prefer if teams want to target the Yankees that they at least start giving some of that revenue sharing and luxury tax money back. From an owner’s point of view, that’s my point.
  • 2009 – John Henry remarks: … seven chronically uncompetitive teams, five of whom have had baseball’s highest operating profits, had received over $1 billion in revenue sharing money.
  • 2010 – First ever criticism of the revenue sharing abuse by the Florida Marlins from the Major League Baseball Players Association and the Office of the Commissioner of Baseball.
  • 2011 – Revealed that the New York Yankees had contributed about $130 million between revenue sharing and luxury tax in 2010.
  • 2011 – Revealed that the Boston Red Sox had contributed about $86 million between revenue sharing and luxury tax in 2010.
  • 2011 – Revealed that MLB had fined John Henry $500K for his 2009 complaints about the current revenue sharing structure.

No truth to the rumor that Loria asked MLB if the John Henry fine could be direct deposited into his bank account.

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