Reading between the lines, don’t you love it? Can be dangerous. Fraught with trouble if you get it wrong, very insightful if you get it right.
These skills become required when the subject, for whatever reason, is hesitant to come straight out and say what he’s thinking yet can’t help hinting at it.
Ramirez sat out two games this week with a sore something. Oh, yeah, an elbow. In the last two seasons, he’s now missed games with a troubled elbow, hand, thumb, shoulder, calf, hamstring, oblique, back, ribs, and it’s quite possible I’m forgetting a few.
He returned to the lineup Thursday and, after the game, Mattingly was asked how Ramirez came out of it.
“He seemed OK,” Mattingly said. “At this point, if a guy says he’s good to go, he’s good to go. It can’t be a gray area. You’re in or you’re out. There can’t be excuses. You can’t do this, you can’t do that. You’re in, you’re in. You’re out, you’re out.”
Asked if he would be back in Friday, Mattingly said: "If he says 'in.'"
Apparently, Ramirez said "in" because he’s batting fifth against the Cubs.
Still, it’s not hard to sense Mattingly’s growing frustration with Ramirez and his constant injuries. This is one of the Dodgers’ most important bats -- or should be -- but also one of their most unreliable.
This is the stretch drive, the Dodgers trying to win a division and holding a 2½-game lead over the rival Giants. Traditional thinking is, if you can walk this time of year, you need to get out there and try to play.
Ramirez has played in 121 of the Dodgers’ 153 games, yet has only been on the disabled list once for 15 days (last month with his oblique). Earlier in the season, the Dodgers wanted him to go on the DL, particularly for the shoulder, but he refused.
He’s a difficult guy to read, maybe more so for the press, since he’s mostly shut us out the second half for reasons never shared. This is the final year of his contract, so he has plenty to play for beyond winning a division. Hard to imagine he’d bow out for a couple of days with so much at stake, but this is Ramirez and traditional thinking can be a perilous route.
Reading between the lines, though, Mattingly’s frustration with him seems to be cresting at exactly the time of year you would not expect it to be an issue.