Ozzie promises return to form for Hanley
Marlins' shortstop excited to play for his new skipper
MIAMI -- There's little doubt Hanley Ramirez -- his health, his productivity and perhaps even his mentality -- remains one of the biggest keys to a successful new beginning for the Marlins.
And it's clear to see their new manager feels the same way.
"To me, Hanley Ramirez is the biggest piece in this puzzle," Ozzie Guillen said from Sun Life Stadium on Wednesday afternoon, in an introductory press conference announcing he'd be the Marlins' manager through 2015.
"My job is to make this guy [have a] smile on his face, enjoy this game and play this game the way it should be played. Not the way Ozzie wants you to play the game, the way it should. There's a lot of kids that look up to him, I'm going to look up to him myself. I didn't come here to demand Hanley what to do, what to say, but there's one thing I guarantee you -- this kid's going to be back where he was."
That's the Marlins' goal; perhaps their most important one as they said goodbye to Sun Life Stadium in Wednesday's season finale against the Nationals, and hello to a new retractable-roof ballpark that will open with them as the Miami Marlins in 2012.
Ramirez -- owed $46.5 million through the next three years of his team-high $70 million contract -- hit a career-low .243 in a career-low 92 games this season, and hasn't been on the field since Aug. 2.
Then there's that confrontation with ex-skipper Fredi Gonzalez for not hustling last season, and perceived jabs from outspoken teammate Logan Morrison regarding a lack of leadership on the team earlier this year, which leads to questions about Ramirez's motivation and state of mind.
Guillen believes maybe Ramirez hasn't received a fair shake.
"A lot of people [are] hard on him," Guillen said. "Maybe he earned that, but how about looking at yourself in the mirror and say, well, maybe it was another player's fault, maybe the manager's fault, maybe the front office people's fault. A lot of people blame somebody when they see something wrong, but you have to look at yourself in the mirror and say, well, this is my fault to let that happen. Maybe."
Ramirez made an appearance on the field after the Marlins' season-ending 3-1 loss to the Nationals in order to be introduced as part of their all-time team.
With his left arm in a sling, Ramirez said his ailing shoulder is "getting better," but since he's only a couple of weeks removed from surgery, the pain has been causing him some sleepless nights. Still, he's confident he'll be ready for the start of Spring Training.
As for bringing Guillen in to manage the team?
"Good for the organization," Ramirez said. "We have a young team, and I think he's going to put together a good team and everybody's going to have to do [things] the way he manages the game. He's a winner."
During a wide-ranging, bilingual, 45-minute press conference that saw him talk about hurricanes, LeBron James and even Celia Cruz, Guillen said he just wants to make Ramirez smile.
Considering his can't-miss talent and previous track record, perhaps that can be enough to get him back on track.
"I will guarantee you, you're going to see a different guy on the field," Guillen said of Ramirez, "because one thing about it, when you're playing and you're not happy, you don't take the best out of the player."
Another way to get the best out of a player, of course, is to keep him healthy and on the field. But because of injuries to his back, his leg and, ultimately, his left shoulder, Ramirez will be playing in less than 140 games for the first time in his six-year career this season.
Those injuries, coupled with the added muscle he's put on since his rookie season and his shaky defense -- he's second-to-last in errors and Ultimate Zone Rating at his position over the last five years -- have led to sentiments that the Marlins may be better off moving Ramirez from shortstop.
But president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said that idea hasn't been tabled.
"I don't know that we've given that a lot of thought," he said. "I think just having Hanley on the field is a positive, because we need him healthy and back in that lineup. I think he did a good job at shortstop -- that's where he's played since he's come to the big leagues with us -- so let's get him healthy, let's get him back in the lineup and we'll go from there."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.