WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The door closed, and Andre Dawson looked directly into Hanley Ramirez's eyes.
"I'm not going to say a lot, because if you say the wrong the thing to me, then you might wind up on the floor on your rear end," Dawson said with Tony Perez standing by his side in a coach's office at Sun Life Stadium.
For 15 minutes, Ramirez sat and listened as the two Hall of Famers, who also work as Marlins assistants, tried to assess for Ramirez exactly the damage he had done to himself by ripping into his manager for pulling him off the field Monday night because he didn't hustle.
Dawson said he did most of the talking in this intervention, which took place about an hour before Tuesday's game. Dawson on Wednesday recounted it like this:
"Look, I'm going to level with you," he told Ramirez. "You either hear me or you don't. For one, you're not bigger than the game. You don't show a manager up. The way you're going about this is literally the wrong way. It's an immature act ... and this could come back to bite you in the rear end in the worst way."
Ramirez didn't say a word. His eyes darted from Dawson's to Perez's and then he looked away.
"You really have stepped across the line," Dawson said. "You owe that manager a sincere apology. And if you think your teammates have your back with this, you've got another thing coming because the mind-set, and this is from me to you, the mind-set is these guys are laughing at you."
Ramirez had mocked manager Fredi Gonzalez's contention that the other 24 members of the Marlins always hustled. Ramirez also said Gonzalez didn't understand what it's like to play through pain because "he never played in the big leagues.'
Dawson told Ramirez that consistent effort will bring him respect.
"Hanley, one thing you've got to understand, if you want to be the best, you've got to bring the best every day. That's the only way you're going to be respected in that manner. And don't forget -- if you want to be marketed as the best, you don't go on national television and belittle your superiors."
Dawson said he and Perez both reminded Ramirez of the $70 million, six-year extension he signed in 2008, and that the Marlins want him to be the cornerstone of the franchise when it moves into a new ballpark in 2012.
"These people invested a lot of money in you and they did it for a reason, all right?" Dawson said. "One of these days it'll probably make sense to you why they did that. But in the meantime you better try and gravitate to why you think they invested this money in you.
"Don't think that you're ever bigger than the game. I don't care how much money you make because this game will humble you and it will humble you fast."
Dawson said he reminded Ramirez about his episode from March 2009, when he demanded a trade because he was told to follow team rules by getting a haircut and no longer wearing jewelry on the field.
A week after that incident, Dawson heard Ramirez talking in Jupiter, Fla., to his friend, St. Louis Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols.
"Albert said, 'Don't change,'" Dawson recalled. "And Hanley looked at him and smiled. And Albert said again, 'All I ask is that you don't change. You're changing.'"
Dawson, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this July in Cooperstown, N.Y., said he could see that Ramirez was uncomfortable with the lecture. But Dawson didn't care.
"I said, 'I'm going to give it to you raw. I'm not telling you how to play the game. You have a ton of ability, but there's more than just going out and having a ton of ability. With that comes some ground rules, some things that you will learn as you go along the way.
"But you've got to start thinking about setting an example and having your teammates respect you in the manner that they should. That act that you put on, that's poor. That's not going to cut it."
Dawson, 55, was tired Tuesday when he arrived in South Florida after a red-eye flight from Las Vegas. His mood got worse when he arrived at the ballpark before a 1:10 p.m. game against Arizona and learned what Ramirez had said that morning -- that he shouldn't be criticized for lack of hustle because his teammates dogged it, too, and that Gonzalez didn't have the experience to tell him what to do.
Then Dawson walked through the clubhouse and saw all of the plasma TVs showing ESPN programs with Ramirez's face next to his inflammatory comments.
Dawson picked up his pace until he found Perez in the coach's room. "I said, 'We need to say something to him because obviously he's not listening,'" Dawson recalled.
"We told him how we felt," said Perez, 68, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2000. "I told him what he was doing wrong."
It wasn't all stern. At one point, Dawson told Ramirez, "Hanley, you know what? I love you. I think I can speak for Doggie (Perez), too. We believe your ability is endless -- if that's what you want out of your ability. But you know you've got to go out and you've got to prove that that's what you want.
"But until you do that, then you're put in a certain category where you command only a certain kind of respect."
Dawson wasn't sure their advice sunk in.
"He just sat there. He looked kind of aloof, out in space," Dawson said. "I could see maybe a little disappointment on his face. I think he probably had, to a degree, regretted it but he didn't really say anything. Just at the end he said, 'Thank you.'"
Dawson, whose official title is special assistant to the president of the team, said he hopes he didn't offend any of the full-time coaching staff with his intervention.
"I'm not a coach," Dawson said, "but because of my allegience to the players, because I'm out there on the field with them, and to that organization, I don't have a good feeling about just sitting back and letting something like that just play itself out."
He said the thought maybe that Ramirez might benefit from some strong words from two Hall of Famers.
"There wasn't any ego stroking. I don't believe in that," Dawson said. "I believe in, if you want a pat on the back, so be it. But when you need a kick in the rear end also, you're going to get it."