Hanley’s bold prediction: Confident or just plain crazy?

Prescription for success: keep mouth shut and hit ball. (Aaron M. Sprecher/Icon SMI)

I used to like Hanley Ramirez. I take that back – I used to love Hanley Ramirez. Up until a few years ago, that is. Today, I don’t hate Hanley. I’ve just learned to hope for the best and tolerate the worst. And this year, there’s been very little of the former and a whole lot of the latter.

Hanley gave me yet another reason (after not signing Logan Morrison’s cast for a charity auction) to roll my eyes this season when he made a bold prediction Wednesday: “By May 30, I will have seven homers. And I’ll be batting .290. You better take a picture. Write it down.”

Consider it written, Hanley – he of the .217 batting average, two home runs and 14 RBIs, which project to a stunning .217 BA/9 HR/63 RBI season. You’ve put it out there for the world to read, and you can bet we’ll be watching very closely – much more so now that you’ve brought even more attention to the fact your horrendous numbers make “suck” sound like a compliment. So, if you were pressing already, how does making a bold prediction like this make it any easier? Confidence or bat-sh#t crazy?

Back in Hanley’s Rookie-of-the-Year season (2006), it seemed like he was always delivering clutch hits whenever I attended a game. Decent glove, ran like a gazelle and opportunistic at the plate. I was so confident in his ability that, as Ramirez was stepping into the batter’s box in the late innings of a game I attended, I predicted to all fans within earshot that he would hit a homer. Second pitch, whammo. Two-run blast. Marlins win.

That was back when Ramirez was making $327K per season. Back when he had a lot to prove. Back when he kept his mouth shut and let his bat and legs do the talking. Back then, he got attention for what he was doing on the field. Over the last few seasons, the attention has been directed to off-field shenanigans. Clubhouse scuffle with Dan Uggla in 2009. LollyGag Gate with Fredi Gonzalez last season. Fear of signing LoMo’s cast this year. That’s what Hanley is being remembered for right now, and as a fan, I don’t like it. I want my $7 million superstar playing like a $7 million superstar and not Little Buddy Harrelson.

I can’t help but wonder if all the talent – think Josh Johnson, Gaby Sanchez, Mike Stanton and Morrison – blossoming at the big-league level has Hanley feeling like just another player vs. the player. Sanchez is plain ol’ raking it, Johnson is considered a top-five pitcher and Morrison, ready to pick up where he left off, is the fan favorite. All of these players would be included in the “Marlins are winning because …” conversation even if Hanley was at the top of his game. But he’s not. In some ways, he is becoming less and less important because the team is winning in spite of his withering production.

Instead of keeping his mouth closed and working hard to break out of his offensive purgatory, Hanley draws attention to himself with a bold prediction. It’s his way of making himself relevant again in hopes that he lives up to his very own promise. I’ll be the first to say that I hope he does. I would like nothing more than to see that bat ignite and start winning games again.

There’s hope, too. Ramirez has a modest five-game hitting streak (he’s two-for-two so far tonight against the Nationals) with eight hits in 18 at-bats — a .444 clip. Hopefully, this is the beginning of the end of the slump. And if it is, awesome. I’ll start liking you again, Hanley … until the next reason occurs – and it will – not to.

Just a few words of advice for the rest of the season: Keep quiet and swing a big stick.

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