A lot has been made of the Miami Marlins trading Hanley Ramirez to the Los Angeles Dodgers for prospects and what it means for the Marlins' future. A lot has also been made about Ramirez in his final days as a Marlin, with increasing trade rumors swirling amid another silly action in a career filled perceived bad behavior. Combine the rumors, the behavior of the past, and his current poor performance, and you can understand why there was a strong contingent of Marlins fans ready to part with Ramirez as early as last season. Those same Marlins fans have been proclaiming happiness today in the wake of the trade, saying "good riddance" to a player they have grown to dislike.
But those of us who are fans of the Marlins' history as well as its current state have to look back and appreciate Hanley Ramirez for what he has done on the Marlins. It may seem like a while ago, but it was not so long ago that Hanley Ramirez was one of the five best players in baseball and a good bet to challenge for multiple MVP trophies. Have we already forgotten the historical significance of Ramirez as a Marlin? Even with his last two seasons essentially being washes, Ramirez was a truly amazing player over the course of his Marlins career, and it is worth reflecting on how good he was for the Fish.
If you are a regular on Fish Stripes, you know that we use the statistic Wins Above Replacement (WAR) to determine a player's overall value. It is not perfect in the sense that the inputs (particularly on the defensive end) are not perfect, but the framework is solid and it is an excellent tool to use to evaluate a player's overall value over a career as well.
When we take a look at the list of best Marlins in the history of the team, it may take at least another season or two before we see someone overtake Hanley Ramirez in the category of WAR. As of right now, Hanley Ramirez is the best Marlins player of all-time in terms of Wins Above Replacement, or wins produced for the team.
Those are top five players in Marlins history in FanGraphs WAR (fWAR), with Baseball-Reference WAR (rWAR) also listed. These names are among others such as Jeff Conine, Cliff Floyd, Mike Lowell, and Dontrelle Willis. Amid all these former Marlins greats, Ramirez topped them all as the very best in Marlins history; he contributed more wins in his six-plus years with the Marlins than anyone else in team history.
Amazing Hitter For a Time
Ramirez was the second-most tenured Marlins position player in team history, trailing only Luis Castillo (4966 PA). He just beat out Mike Lowell (4005 PA) in contributions from 2012. To get an idea of just how much of an accomplishment that is, you have to recognize that few Marlins ever last as long as Ramirez did in a Marlins uniform. Only three Marlins have recorded more than 4000 PA as a Fish and only five have ever recorded more than 3000 PA in a Marlins uniform. The fact that Ramirez has lasted this long is a testament to his skill and the Marlins' recognition that a great player deserves to get an extension akin to the one Ramirez received.
Among hitters with at least 1000 PA as a Marlin, Ramirez's .300/.374/.499 line and .380 wOBA rank as fourth best in franchise history. Only Gary Sheffield (.288/.426/.543, ,415 wOBA), Miguel Cabrera (.313/.388/.542, .390 wOBA), and Cliff Floyd (.294/.374/.523, .381 wOBA) were better in raw offensive numbers. When you adjust for the run environment at their respective times and park, Ramirez's ranking falls to fifth behind those players and Giancarlo Stanton (134 wRC+ versus Ramirez's 131). And remember that Ramirez did this as a shortstop, a position of rarity when compared to the ones Sheffield, Cabrera, and Floyd played. That is why, in the end, he was more valuable than all of those hitters by the time his time with the Marlins ran out yesterday.
Extension Was a Sign Of Things To Come
Hanley Ramirez is also historically significant for receiving one of the first smart moves in Marlins history with regards to a young, cost-controlled, talented player. For years, the Marlins had many cost-controlled players and let them all eventually reach free agency or be traded before their control time was done with the Marlins. The team went year-to-year with almost every young player they had; only Mike Lowell received a contract that took him into his free agency years, and he had a waiver right to become a free agent after 2004 if the team failed to secure a stadium deal.
Needless to say, the Marlins had never really been able to secure an intelligent long-term deal for a talented, young Marlins player that would wisely lock up the player for his arbitration and free agent seasons. They famously failed to do so with Miguel Cabrera and the situation forced them to trade Cabrera before his second arbitration year. But with Hanley Ramirez, the Marlins finally did the right thing and found a way to extend Ramirez, the most promising young player they had since Cabrera.
Ramirez's six-year, $72 million extension was seen as a windfall for the Fish at the time. At the time of the 2008 extension, Ramirez was coming off a monster 2007 season in which he hit .332/.386/.562 and had hit .312/.369/.520 (.387 wOBA) by that time. He had also been having another monster year at the plate in 2008, finishing the season hitting .301/.400/.540 (.405 wOBA). Through 2008, Ramirez had already been worth 17.8 fWAR and 15.3 rWAR; among qualified major leaguers, that was the 10th best performance from 2006 to 2009.
With such an amazing start, there was almost no doubt that the Marlins would have the advantage with that signing. The Fish purchased three free agent seasons at what was perceived at the time as bargain-basement prices. The team would have six seasons with an anchor in their lineup for years to come. Who would have expected, only four seasons later, that the Marlins would be disappointed with Ramirez being just a league average hitter?
Of course, there was absolutely downside to Hanley Ramirez as well. He was always known as someone with a temperamental attitude, even when he just started with the Marlins. He had had a number of conflicts with the Marlins front office and coaching staff and even with some of the team's players over incidents. While any given incident is always on all of the individuals involved and not just one, the fact that Ramirez had been involved with every one of those instances points to a problem.
But I would venture to say that the amount of spectacle involved with many of Ramirez's incidents also blew those situations out of proportion. Much of what he did got on the front pages in south Florida sports papers and developed an ugly reputation that grew like wildfire. There is definitely truth in the stories, but I feel as though it was never as bad as fans suspected it was. And when Ramirez was performing at an MVP-level, those murmurs were soft and barely audible. It was only in 2010 through 2012, when Ramirez declined slightly and suffered his precipitous fall, that those murmurs reached a loud clamor.
But it was not just off-the-field issues that plagued Ramirez. He was consistently a poor defender at shortstop, among the worst in baseball at the time. At one point, it appeared he was improving in the field, as most fans saw him as better in 2008 and 2009, but by 2010, it seemed he regressed both in fans' eyes and in the defensive statistics. By 2012, the Marlins had to move him to third base, but the response there has been mixed at best and horrid at worse, so there may be lingering concerns about whether Ramirez can play the infield at all.
Ramirez's final two seasons at the plate were such bad struggles that the Marlins in the end had to make a deal. He failed to come even close to returning to even 2010 form in those final seasons, and the Marlins in the end could not take on his final two seasons with that potential performance. But all of that does not mean that we cannot appreciate the entirety of Ramirez's career, accepting his features and flaws, and recognizing that, despite those problems, Hanley Ramirez is still one of the best players in Marlins history. That cannot be denied.