MLB: Hanley Ramirez apologizes to teammates, back in lineup
By R.B. FALLSTROM
AP Sports Writer
ST. LOUIS — One locker stall at a time, Hanley Ramirez worked his way around the Florida clubhouse to offer his apologies.
A few hours later, the Marlins star was back in a more familiar, comfortable place: batting third and playing shortstop. The team was ready to put the unsightly outburst that led to a benching behind them.
"He told us he was sorry and he was wrong ... and he wouldn't let it happen again," teammate Wes Helms said Wednesday. "Doing it that way is a lot easier than doing it front of a whole crowd.
"Whatever way he does it, we just wanted him to do it, and he did it. So now it's done with," he said.
Ramirez singled in his first two at-bats against Jaime Garcia of the St. Louis Cardinals. He was roundly booed before he came up the first time and there was no reaction when he stepped to the plate leading off the third.
Two days after pulling Ramirez for not hustling, manager Fredi Gonzalez handled his clear-the-air chat with the two-time All-Star like a father with a son that's been grounded. Then Gonzalez put out the lineup card that included the reigning NL batting champion, and tossed away an alternate card he had prepared just in case.
"I think we're all parents here," Gonzalez said.. "Sometimes our children will say something that hurts, but it's no big deal, we still love them.
"After this is all said and done, 10-15 years down the road we'll sit down and say: 'What a privilege to get a chance to manage this type of ballplayer."'
Ramirez didn't play Tuesday after taking shots at his manager and teammates. Gonzalez considered the matter old news after chatting for five or 10 minutes with Ramirez in the manager's office — Ramirez stood just inside an open door — several hours before a game against the St. Louis Cardinals.
Gonzalez seemed surprised when more than a dozen members of the media were waiting for his daily briefing, which on this day was all about Ramirez.
Asked whether the benching had made a point, he told reporters who had been critical of Ramirez that "you guys made the point."
"People make mistakes, it happens, it really does. We're human beings, you know," Gonzalez said. "Sometimes it happens because you're mad at yourself, sometimes it happens because you lose concentration."
A team spokesman said Ramirez did not plan to speak with the media, although the shortstop did a telephone interview with ESPNDesportes.
"I regret that all this has gotten so ugly," Ramirez said in Spanish. "It wasn't my intention to create a distraction.I feel bad that things got to this point; the team and the fans don't deserve it."
Helms said the apologies were said quickly, with little embellishment.
"I'm pretty sure he said the same thing to everybody. It didn't take long," Helms said. "Just I'm sorry, won't happen again."
Helms said he told Ramirez, "Hanley, you're better than that," and said Ramirez responded, "I know. I shouldn't have said the things I said."
Gonzalez had no concerns how he was viewed for putting his foot down with a star player.
"This wasn't about me or him, this was about doing the right thing, it's about playing the game the right way," Gonzalez said. "I just see a guy that loves the game and respects the game of baseball and tries to leave it the same way or better when we're done."
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa supported his fellow manager.
"I don't want to disrespect Hanley, I know he's a great talent," La Russa said. "We see him in spring training, we have a good relationship, our club, our coaches and him.
"But I think Fredi did the right thing."
La Russa said the Ramirez blowout was a sign of the times.
"It's more frequent ever since talented players started feeling like they were entitled," La Russa said. "They grew up without people telling them what was right and wrong. So this happens a hell of a lot more often than it used to, a ton of times more often than it used it, and it happens often enough without it being real public."
Ramirez accidentally kicked a ball about 100 feet and then jogged leisurely after it, allowing two runs to score on Monday night, and wasn't in the lineup on Tuesday.
Earlier Monday, Ramirez fouled a ball off his left shin and was tended to by a trainer, then grounded into a double play and failed to run full speed down the line. He was taken out of the game.
"It's his team. He can do whatever," Ramirez said the next day, mixing in an expletive. "There's nothing I can do about it."
Ramirez was hitting .293 with seven homers and 20 RBIs and is the Marlins' highest-paid player, in the third year of a six-year, $70 million contract.