Don't Showboat, Hanley Ramirez

I See You, Too: Ramirez’s Antics Earn Notice

Thursday, the Dodgers should have known better when it came to dealing with umpires during their game against the Pirates. They didn’t, and it cost them.

In the fourth inning of that same game, Hanley Ramirez homered off of A.J. Burnett. Shortly after rounding second base, he made his by-now-patented “I See You” hand gesture—circles with the index finger and thumb of each hand, placed over his eyes like glasses—aimed at the Los Angeles dugout. (Watch it here.)

His sight line, of course, happened to pass close enough to the pitcher’s mound for one of two possibilities: Burnett misunderstood his intention and took the gesture personally, or the pitcher felt that an opposing player had no business participating in bush-league shenanigans while rounding the bases, intention be damned.

In either case, he’d have been correct.

“If you’re going to hit a homer, act like you’ve hit one before,” Burnett told reporters after the game. “The first batter, [James] Loney, hit one, was very professional about it. Ran hard the whole way.”

Ramirez concocted “I See You” as an update to the “Lo Viste” hand gesture he used in Florida, in which members of the Marlins hold a sideways V made with the index and middle fingers over their eyes (as seen here in a different environment.)

“When I got to the Dodgers, I did ‘Lo Viste’ for [former teammate Emilio] Bonifacio a couple times and it was cool,” Ramirez said in a Miami Herald report. “But then I spoke with [Dodgers shortstop]  Dee Gordon and he said, ‘Let’s do something different. You’re no longer in Miami.’ That’s when we tried to do something new and came up with this. It’s all for fun.”

At least until it ticks off a member of the opposition.

“That’s Hanley,” Ramirez’s former manager, Ozzie Guillen, said in an ESPN.com report. “[If] Hanley hit a home run down by 30 runs, he would pimp it. That’s the way he is . . . It surprised me A.J. didn’t drill him.”

Sure enough, Burnett faced Ramirez with two outs and the bases empty in the sixth, with the Pirates holding an 8-4 lead. There would not be a more opportune moment to make whatever statement he felt necessary, but he did not act.

Then again, Burnett also passed up a similar opportunity earlier this season, despite pointing toward the Reds dugout as a means of warning that just such a thing was imminent after Andrew McCutchen was drilled by Aroldis Chapman, and Josh Harrison was hit, then berated, by Mike Leake the next day.

Reaction, of course, is not the focal point of this subject. That would be “I See You,” which is cute and which keeps things loose and which builds morale on a team in a pennant race. All of this is beneficial. To break it out on the field, in game action, while facing an opposing pitcher, however, is nothing short of inane.

Ramirez left Florida in late July in dubious standing with many of his former teammates. Getting any of his new teammates drilled for an ill-considered on-field decision won’t do much to earn him new friends in Los Angeles.

Bill Hall, Nick Swisher, Slide properly, Tsuyoshi Nishioka

It’s Been a Bad Week for Takeout Slides, at Least as far as Middle Infielders are Concerned

How much is too much, and when is enough when it comes to takeout slides? These questions were asked multiple times and with no firm answer in Houston and New York last week.

Start with Bill Hall. Was flying into Marlins shortstop Hanley Ramirez on a play at second base, as the Astros second baeman did Friday, too much? It was certainly aggressive. Ramirez, firmly planted behind and to the left of second base as he attempted to turn a double-play, provided a stationary target as Hall went out of his way to take him out. (Watch it here.)

That, however, is what players are taught to do—interrupt the fielder at any cost, so long as it’s clean. And Hall’s slide was clean, if a touch late. He went in feet first and spikes down, with one clear purpose: prevent the double-play. That he went out of his way—but not too far out of his way—to do it falls well within the definition of getting the job done.

“Clean play? Dirty play? That’s hard to tell unless it’s very obvious,” said Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez in the Palm Beach Post. “He came hard but he was in range. He was touching the base. That’s the way he plays and that’s the way it should be—play hard.”

Hall ended up going shin-to-shin with Ramirez, knocking them both down for several minutes. Hall returned to the game; Ramirez sat out until Tuesday.

A day prior, Nick Swisher of the New York Yankees took out Twins second baseman Tsuyoshi Nishioka in a similar play, with far graver consequences. Swisher’s slide—like Hall’s, off the base and intended to break up the double-play—broke the second baseman’s fibula, just six games into his big league career. (Watch it here.)

The reason both infielders were hurt is that neither of them jumped. Ramirez fielded the throw in an awkward place coming from the shortstop position and had to adjust; Nishioka might simply never have learned any difference.

Twins broadcaster Dan Gladden, who spent a year playing in Japan (winning the Japan Series with the Yomiuri Giants in 1994), was quoted in the Minneapolis Star Tribune talking about the dearth of such tactics in that country.

“When I got over there I told them, ‘I don’t slide to the bag. We are taught to break up double plays,’ ” he said. “The coach told me, ‘We expect the Americans to play that way.’ ”

Swisher went so far as to visit Nishioka in the X-ray room at Yankee Stadium to offer a personal apology for the inadvertent injury. Nishioka told him there was no apology necessary. And that was it. No retaliatory strikes the following day. No bad blood resulting from a hard, clean play.

The same can not be said for the Marlins. Ramirez was injured far less severely than Nishioka, but despite the fact that he publicly exonerated Hall—“My opinion is he was trying to break up a double play,” he said in the Post. “He told [Marlins infielder Greg] Dobbs that he was sorry but … he was trying to do his job.”—his teammates clearly had a score to settle.

Saturday’s game was too consistently close to consider a retaliatory strike, but on Sunday, with a 6-1 lead in the seventh inning, Edward Mujica drilled Hall in the hip. The intent was clear; Mujica has hit only three guys over the course of his six-year career and walks almost nobody. His control is exquisite. He was quickly ejected.

Ramirez being the face of his franchise certainly had something to do with it. The fact that he has a history of calling out Marlins pitchers for lack of retaliatory response may also have factored in. (Then again, Mujica was with San Diego during that particular tirade, and may have been entirely ignorant of it.)

Had Hall been out of line with his slide, with a barrel roll or some other questionable tactic—in other words, had he deserved the response—it might have ended there. As it was, Houston reliever Anuery Rodriguez stood up for his guy by plunking Gaby Sanchez in the ninth. This one was easy to see coming; Rodriguez is a rookie with a double-digit ERA. His performance on the field is not winning much respect from his teammates, so he felt the need to earn it in a different capacity. He, too, was ejected. (Watch both ejections here.)

The Marlins and Astros meet once more this season, in July. There’s no reason for renewed hostilities at that point—but then again there rarely is. Stay tuned.

– Jason