All-Fish Team: #2 - Hanley Ramirez

#1 - Luis Castillo

Watching a guy become the hero of your team not only during the regular season but also during the postseason, leading the squad to a World Series title like Josh Beckett did in 2003, you hope he stays in your city and in your favorite uniform for his entire career. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case for the Marlins who, after both times they went all the way, decided to quickly part with most of their assets, including Beckett. Just a year and a half after he was hoisted into the air after a dramatic game seven victory over the Yankees and less than a year after he paraded around Miami with the World Series MVP trophy in his grasp, the Marlins dealt him to Boston along with another Marlins’ hero, Mike Lowell in one of the 2005 offseason’s most blockbuster trades. Although it wasn’t the first time, Jeffrey Loria had left a sour taste in Marlins’ fans’ mouths despite just recently giving them their second title in six years.

Little did Marlins fans know at the time though that the center return piece for the Fish, a lanky, young, baby-faced kid named Hanley Ramirez, would be soon remedy that taste and make the pill a lot easier to swallow.

Before he was an early Christmas gift to the Marlins in November 2005, Hanley Ramirez was a Christmas baby. Born on December 23, 1983 in Samana, Dominican Republic, Hanley came to the United States as an international signee by the Red Sox at the age of 19 in 2002.

In his first year as a pro, Hanley made an instant impact. In 45 games with the GCL Red Sox that season, Hanley hit .341, ranking him fourth in the league. His 20 total XBHs were second to only Joey Votto and paved the way for a .555 SLG which also ranked second in the GCL. With an OBP over .400 (.402), he OPSed .957, third in the league. Before moving on to short season single A Lowell late that year, he was named a Rookie League All-Star.

Upon arriving in Lowell, Massachusetts just a few hours away from his presumed future Major League home, Hanley hit .371/.400/.536 in 22 games, showing the Red Sox enough to begin his full season career in 2003. Ramirez rewarded his club’s confidence by slashing .275/.327./.403 in 111 games with the Augusta Greenjackets of the Sally League. Among full time starters, his .275 BA ranked second on his team and among the top 50 in the league. His .403 SLG also ranked 47th in the Sally. Most impressively, Hanley swiped 36 bags, a total which ranked fifth in the league and scored the league’s 14th most runs (69).

Another jump in level greeted Hanley in 2004 when he moved on to the single A advanced Florida State League as a member of the now defunct Sarasota Red Sox. In 62 games and 239 ABs in the pitcher-friendly FSL, Hanley hit .310/.364/.389. Again, the now 21-year-old found himself as one of another league’s best for-average hitters as his BA ranked 9th in the FSL. His OBP was also amongst the top 30 (29th) and his 12 steals in less games than most of his competition ranked inside the top 20.

“What a young talent. He makes the game look so easy,” Jose Marzan, manager of the FSL’s Fort Myers Miracle said at the time.

Hanley backed up that assertion in the middle of the 2004 season and, despite making the toughest jump there is to make in MiLB, greeted AA by slashing .310/.360/.512 with five homers in his first 129 ABs as a Portland Sea Dog. Between 62 games in A+ and 32 in AA along with another six back in the GCL, Hanley hit an overall .314/.369/.436 with six homers and 25 steals. Those exports earned him top-10 prospect accolades as he ranked 10th in all of baseball, per Baseball America heading into 2005.

Despite posting a career low full season slash line in ’05, Hanley still hit a very respectable .271/.335/.385 with a BA that ranked 34th in the Eastern League, stole another 26 bags, 10th most in the league and scored 66 runs, 18th most league wide, enough to earn him another All-Star nod, the second of his career. At season’s end, the Red Sox awarded Hanley with a September call-up. He got into two games and got two at bats, striking out in both. Little did Red Sox fans know at the time that may be the only look they ever got of Hanley but in the 2005 offseason, that became a very distinct reality. On November 25, 2005, Ramirez was traded to the Marlins along with Anibal Sanchez, Jesus Delgado and Harvey Garcia in return for Beckett, Lowell and Guillermo Mota.

Upon his arrival in Miami, Ramirez quickly began paving the way for what would become one of the best rookie campaigns to date by hitting .311/.354/.568 in spring training and beating out Robert Andino to become the Marlins’ Opening Day shortstop. From there, he validated his top-10 prospect status by becoming the best rookie in the league by way of a .292/.353/.480 slash line. Among the records he broke or tied included the Miami rookie record for highest BA, most lead-off homers ever by s Fish (7), and, most impressively the first and only Marlin ever still to this day to reach double digits in homers (17), triples (11) and steals (51), the last two of which also ranked seventh and fifth in all of baseball. He joined the likes of four Hall of Famers, Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker, Lou Brock and Craig Biggio as just the fifth player since 1900 to crack at least 45 doubles and swipe at least 50 bags. Equally as impressive, Hanley put himself in a class of his own becoming the only NL player ever to steal 50+ bags and score 110+ runs. In addition to triples and steals, he appeared in the top 10 in all of baseball in doubles with 46, a total which ranked second among Marlins’ rookies and was just six fewer than the all-time baseball rookie record. Accordingly, the best offensive rookie season in a Marlins’ uniform earned him the NL Rookie of the Year as he topped Ryan Zimmerman and his double play partner Dan Uggla.

Including a .332/.386/.562 season in 2007 in which he avoided the sophomore slump by tying for third in BA, placed ninth in SLG and placing second in total hits and third in total bases in the entirety of Major League Baseball, Hanley spent the next five seasons as the all-around best offensive shortstop in baseball. Hitting .309/.386/.512, his slash line figures ranked first, first and a very slight second (Troy Tulowitzki slugged .001 higher than him). He also hit the second most homers (117) and stole the third most bases (165). He was the most valuable player to play the number six position over the span, posting a cumulative 24.9 WAR.

Despite his Marlins’ tenure beginning to come to a sour end in 2011 as he failed to develop much of a rapport with with managers Edwin Gonzalez and Jack McKeon helped along by some very lackluster play (who could forget the benching of Hanley as McKeon’s first major move as manager that year which resulted in just a 92 game season, the least he’d ever played in in a full season in his career), before finally being driven out of town by the signing of Jose Reyes after an equally disastrous experiment as a third baseman in 2012, Hanley’s Marlins’ legacy had already long since been cemented. Along with the aforementioned best rookie campaign in club history, Hanley still to this day owns single season team records in extra base hits (83 in 2007), runs (125 in 2007) and total bases (359 in 2007). He also owns the second best career batting average as a Marlin at .308, the third best team career slugging percentage at .527 and the third most team stolen bases at 137.

Present day, Hanley is a bit of a different player as his limited defensive ability has seen him made the conversion to first base, a conversion that has come with a lot of added mass. That said, the hits have still kept coming for Ramirez who just hit 30 homers and drove in 100+ runs for the second time in his career this past season. Despite doing it out of a Marlins uniform, many Fish fans still rejoiced at the sight of Hanley’s success as they recall where his Hall Of Fame career in the making began and gained its momentum. Despite coming to the Fish under hard to stomach circumstances and leaving during a similarly gloomy situation, Hanley Ramirez goes down in history as one of the greatest Fish of all time and as the best Marlin to ever don the deuce.

Join me in the coming week on Twitter to vote then join me here to see whom you chose as on the best Marlin to ever wear the number three.