Throughout the postseason, it has been utterly apparent that Los Angeles Dodgers‘ shortstop Hanley Ramirez is fully dedicated to winning the 2013 World Series. After all, Ramirez has repeatedly thrown his body around the infield dirt, hustled on the most meaningless of ground balls, and ultimately been the epitome of a team player.
As a result of this willingness to give his body for the cause, Ramirez fractured a rib, courtesy of a Joe Kelly fastball in Game 1 of the NLCS.
As if to show that he is truly willing to give up his body for a World Series, Ramirez heroically came back in Game 3 to boost the Dodgers to victory. This effort brought many people to feel that he was back to normal, or at least as normal as one could be with a fractured rib. It even brought some fans to liken him to a certain Kirk Gibson, who we all know came back from injury to hit an unforgettable game-winning home run in the 1988 World Series.
But after watching Game 4 of the NLCS, it is becoming utterly apparent that Ramirez’s pain is affecting him to the point where he is not going to be effective in the field. He looked to be in extreme discomfort after swinging and missing on a pitch during a first-inning at-bat, and things escalated to the point where Dodgers manager Don Mattingly took him out of the game in the sixth inning.
Of course, Ramirez said that he wants to and is planning to play in Game 5 on Wednesday afternoon, even if he will be in extreme pain. But the facts are that Mattingly should not give Ramirez an opportunity to have a Gibson-esque moment both for his shortstop’s long-term health and the Dodgers’ chances of making a comeback in this series.
In terms of Ramirez’s long-term health, the reasons for sitting him the remainder of the postseason are obvious. At 29-years old, he is in the middle of his prime, and continuing to play him only puts him in danger of overworking other parts of his body and picking up more serious injuries.
Risking a few games, even if these few games are playoff encounters, and potentially altering his career simply does not make sense, especially since the Dodgers have their eyes set on building a dynasty around his play.
When it comes to the Dodgers, it may be hard to see that a platoon of Nick Punto and Michael Young will be more effective than Ramirez, but they will at this point. This is because you know what you will be getting out of each player — a good glove from Punto and a good bat from Young, which in turn will bring stability to the Dodgers team that is facing elimination.
Neither player figures to be as spectacular as Ramirez can potentially be, but the Dodgers know what they will get from each and their reliability will be extremely valuable in an elimination game that invariably puts players on edge.
In the end, it will be up to Mattingly to put his foot down and say to Ramirez that his season is over for the betterment of the team and his long term health. Doing so will not be an easy discussion with one of his star players, but is something that has to be done.