Overheard and Understood: Girardi Recalls Humbler Hanley
His first manager in the majors said he never had an issue with Ramirez like the one last week when Ramirez didn't hustle after a ball he misplayed and then, after being pulled from the game, insulted his teammates current Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez.
That picture didn't jibe with one from January 2007, at the annual New York baseball writers' dinner. Joe Girardi was there to accept his 2006 NL Manager of the Year award from the BBWAA, and Ramirez was getting his NL Rookie of the Year plaque.
The Marlins had fired Girardi after the 2006 season. But Ramirez ended his acceptance speech by saying, "And I have to thank someone, somebody who supported me all of my season, and who never, never complained to teach me how to play this game, never told me, 'No, I can't do this.' I love you, Joe. God bless you."
On his way back to his seat on the dais, Ramirez passed Girardi's seat, and Girardi stood up to give his ex-player a heartfelt hug.
Now, since that New York moment, Ramirez has become an All-Star, won a batting title and signed a $70 million contract. Maybe all that has changed him.
"I loved Hanley as a player," Girardi told FanHouse on Sunday. "He was an exciting young player, and I told him he had so much talent, in a sense it's a blessing and it's a curse.
"The blessing was that you're going to be a great player. The curse is, people are never going to take their eyes off of you, and if you do something, it's not going to be missed."
Prescient words, and one wonders if Ramirez remembers that advice.
"I'm not there," Girardi said about Ramirez's recent fiasco. "For me to really make a statement, it's hard. ... But it's a situation that they seemed to handle and you hope everyone grows from it and you move on."
• A person who knows Starlin Castro well says the Cubs rookie shortstop has the attitude to succeed in the majors. "He's very competitive, and he wants to be the guy who helps you win," the person said. "He wants to be there when the game is on the line." His .967 OPS so far with men in scoring position seems to support that.
• Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon has found not only a closer in Rafael Soriano but a nice compliment to his oenophilia (love of wine). As it turns out, Soriano likes to cook.
"He'll bring some food in sometimes," Maddon said. "I have to provide a glass of wine for him postgame now, whatever I'm drinking. He's getting into some red wines. So we have that conversation going on.
"Just basically reds. We're not going to float around. The Dominican palate just pretty much requires a red wine."
• The Twins have made just nine errors in 44 games, with a fielding percentage of .995. Minnesota has a shot at the records for fielding percentage (.989 by the 2006 Red Sox and '07 Rockies); fewest errors (on pace for 33, record is 65 by the '03 Mariners); and most errorless games (on pace for 129, record is 113 by the '08 Astros).
Guess moving from the true hops of artificial turf to grass hasn't mattered much.
• In a strange coincidence, on the day Jose Lima died -- Sunday -- a player once traded for him threw a no-hitter. Kris Honel, the White Sox' first-round pick in 2001 who never made it above Double-A, last July 31 was traded from the Edmonton Capitals of the independent Golden Baseball League to the Long Beach (Calif.) Armada for Lima. Honel, now with the Chico (Calif.) Outlaws, pitched a seven-inning no-hitter on Sunday against the Tijuana Cimarrones.
• We hope the pennant races are good, but the race for Anthony Rendon -- or whoever is the No. 1 pick in 2011 if it's not the Rice third baseman -- looks like a good one. Baltimore currently has a 1 1/2-game "lead" on Houston, with Seattle 2 1/2 back, Cleveland three out, Milwaukee 3 1/2 back and Pittsburgh five out.
• Pedro Feliz on Sunday hit the Astros' 1,000th home run at Minute Maid Park, including postseason, since it opened in 2000. Since no fan caught the ball, the Astros gave away $1,000 worth of gas to a random ticket holder. No word if the gas was fresh from the Gulf of Mexico.
• Through three days of interleague play, National League designated hitters have batted .174 with a .574 OPS. Giants and Brewers DHs have combined to go 0-for-25.
Of course, AL DHs haven't been that great: .247 with a .327 on-base percentage.
• Seattle, Oakland, Pittsburgh and Colorado have yet to come from more than two runs down to win a game.
• What's nice about the Central divisions? The White Sox will fly the fewest air miles this year (22,832) while the Angels will fly the most (50,509).
Speaking of the Angels, why is it that they have played the Cardinals three times in interleague play (2002, '07, '10) -- and all three series have been in St. Louis?
• Baltimore's Luke Scott last Tuesday became the first player to homer twice off Zack Greinke since Jason Giambi on Aug. 28, 2005. Giambi got the Kansas City ace again Sunday to become the first player with four career home runs against Greinke.
• Word is that Pirates pitching coach Joe Kerrigan would be interested in managing the team if Pittsburgh were to let John Russell go. Things could come to a head in late June and early July when the Bucs have a 13-game stretch against the Rangers, A's, Cubs and Phillies.
• Cincinnati's Mike Leake, 4-0, already has the fourth most first-year wins for a pitcher who was drafted and skipped the minors and went directly to the majors. Of the 12 who did it before Leake, Jim Abbott went 12-12 in 1989, Dick Ruthven was 6-9 in 1973 (he was picked in the old January draft) and Pete Broberg was 5-9 in 1971. The only pitcher to go from draft to majors and post a winning record was Burt Hooton, 2-0 in 1971.
• When rookie Kevin Russo had two RBI in the Yankees' victory Friday, he became the first player in more than 15 years to drive in all his team's runs in a win in his first big-league start. The last was Shane Andrews for the Expos on April 27, 1995.