The postseason is full of thorny decisions, and this would be a particularly difficult one. Which doesn’t mean it isn’t the right one.
The Dodgers need to sit Hanley Ramirez.
It’s time to recognize his desire and valiant effort to play with a broken rib, while also facing the reality that right now he is hurting more than helping the team.
It’s hard to watch him right now. This is his first postseason and he desperately wants to play. But he can’t swing the bat properly, certainly not with that incredibly powerful stroke that fired the Dodgers to their 42-8 run.
He swings and your side hurts. Mostly, he swings, misses and winces. In the National League Championship Series he is batting .167 (two for 12, five strikeouts). His only two hits since the opener when he was hit by a pitch were a couple of flared singles.
He was unable to finish either of the last two games, but Manager Don Mattingly said in a conference call Thursday he would continue to start Ramirez (and Andre Ethier) as long as the training staff gave the OK and the players felt that they could contribute.
Yet when are you going to hear a professional athlete say he can’t contribute, particularly in the postseason when they want so desperately to play? Mattingly said he thought Ramirez had a couple of swings in Wednesday’s Game 4 that were more in line with his normal swing.
“Obviously, not a hundred percent like himself, but better,” Mattingly said. “He's just going to have to be honest with us, and we have to make that assessment.
“I don't need a hero from the standpoint that I can go out there but I know I'm not going to be able to do anything. We won't play him like that. He's got to feel like he's going to be able to do something.”
Ramirez had a reputation in Miami as something of a malingerer, and whether that has any bearing on his current effort or he simply recognizes a rare opportunity finally at hand, he clearly is burning to play.
At one point Wednesday, the frustrated Ramirez threw a plastic container of a sports drink to the dugout floor. He angrily argued with the homeplate umpire over a called strike three. He refused to talk to the media after the game.
Because he can’t really swing the bat. And he’s not going to be able to anytime soon. He may need a couple months to completely heal. It’s not going to happen over Thursday’s off-day.
For now, Mattingly said he expects to have both Ethier and Ramirez in the lineup when the Dodgers face the Cardinals in Game 6.
“I think he'll try to play,” Mattingly said. “He's been trying to play every day. I think he'll do the same as far as going out there and doing the best he can for us and we'll just make an assessment tomorrow as we do the lineup.”
It shouldn’t be a decision for Ramirez to make. Painful as it may be, Mattingly needs to sit him. He’s in the middle of the lineup and can’t swing with shooting pain. This is a problem. He can’t field as well either.
Nick Punto would never claim to be anywhere near the player Ramirez is when he’s healthy, but he’s not healthy. And Punto can contribute, and certainly can field the position.
“He's capable of swinging the bat and getting hits and doing some things on the field too,” Mattingly said.
Time to make the move. Ramirez playing is inspirational, but ultimately not productive. And in his heart, beneath that painful rib, Ramirez must certainly know it too.
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