By Gerard Lombardo – @getoffatkenmore
When you’re a timid, scrawny 13 year old living in a bad part of Boston, a 10 o’clock curfew is non negotiable. And when the bunny ear antennas on your 18” Magnavox barely manage to pull in the Fox network, you forgo any further negotiations and succumb to the inanimate objects natural selection. So there you sit and wait, until the last segment of the Fox 25 News at 10 finally airs: Butch Stearns, with today’s sports coverage. This is where I discovered uber prospect Hanley Ramirez.
Of course he wasn’t the most popular Ramirez in Boston at the time, barely a blip on the radar. Hanley was completely overshadowed by the American League’s top right handed bat cleaning up for our Sox. Yet, parallels were drawn and assumptions were made, while Butchie teased us “is this the 3-4 punch Boston’s sorely been lacking? Ramirez and Ramirez?” Nope. Goodbye Hanley, goodbye Anibal, and welcome to Boston Mikey Lowell and Josh ‘don’t mess with Texas’ Beckett, all centerpieces of a seven player deal.
The invaluable return of this trade all made sure Red Sox Nation would easily move on from Ramirez, with the pending deconstruction of the Evil Empire, followed by years of hold-your-breath, enjoyable and competitive baseball. Year after year, pages fell off of our Norman Rockwell calendars, casual fans and pink hatters never bothering to peak over to the Senior Circuit. Well, I wear a blue hat. I have ESPN on my desktop & on my home screen, and NESN saved to my DirecTV favorites. So, ICYMI let me break down the National League’s version of Hanley Ramirez: playing with Florida for 6 ½ years, the young talent compiled an impressive OPS of .873… as a shortstop. An omen inducing 666 runs scored to go with 148 long balls and a staggering 230 stolen bases. A rookie of the year recipient, a 3x All-Star, El Nino finished 2nd in MVP voting only to some guy named Albert Pujols. Disclaimer: take my word for it, you do not want to see who finished 7th that season. Ramirez was ultimately labeled a disgruntled player, and was traded a week shy of the non-waiver deadline for perennial Cy Young candidates Nathan Eovaldi and Scott McGough of the Los Angeles farm system.
The Ram of Han continuously contributed in LA for another 2 ½ seasons, mostly with his bat, and for the 3rd time finished as a top 10 MVP candidate. Then, at the ripe old age of 31, Hanley Ramirez was granted free agency. After posting his resume on Indeed, (that’s how it works in baseball, right?) one Benjamin Cherington dug through his coin purse… and purchased a Sierra mist from a nearby vending machine. Oh, while more importantly finalizing an $88 million deal –including a vesting option that’s coming dangerously close to being kicked in- to bring the oft cranky and positional challenged, albeit talented Dominican to Boston.
Now donning the Sox home whites, we’ve reached year three of what has become somewhat of an ordeal. Maybe it just seems that way, but watching your $22 million per year middle of the lineup bat DL himself, take spa days to recover from starts at 1B, or bend over to pick up that crazy helmet of his for the 400th time, things can get incredibly frustrating. It hasn’t been all bad; after all he did come as advertised when he belted 11 homeruns in pitcher friendly April weather back in 2015. Of course, before crashing into a left field wall, only there because of the complete lack of baseball intelligence by Cherington and the boys, thinking you can just stick anyone with a mitt and two legs in a corner outfield spot. Luckily, Dave Dombrowski took over for baseball operations and ordered Hanley to be shut down for the remainder of the season, giving his shoulder some much needed recovery, thus culminating in a highly productive 30 homerun 100 RBI campaign in 2016.
Then, 2017 happened. Personally, as if his recent 1-16 out of the four hole skid hasn’t been frustrating enough, my well of patience ran dry in a June 28th interview with Tim Britton. Somehow unbeknownst to the player, the statistical anomaly of going 5-35 with a strikeout per every six at bats against lefties was presented.
“You think that’s bad?” Ramirez retorted defiantly, “come back to me with that in August.”
Go get ‘em Tim! Hanley has had two months to the day to revert back to the career .300 south paw mashing player we have all become accustomed to. Allow me to enlighten you all: this season vs. lefties, Ramirez has eight singles, eight extra base hits, eight runs scored, and a whopping 10 runs driven in. How enigmatic that an offhand, midsummer interview didn’t give him the magical jolt he predicted to begin carrying our offense for a change.
Could Ramirez simply be cashing in his chips, with his 34th birthday a few months away, or is he missing Ortiz’s bat, leadership, and camaraderie? Perhaps the multiple shoulder ailments and other various injuries have finally caught up to him, or the DH position has him feeling less engaged. I don’t know, I don’t get paid to answer these questions. In fact, I don’t get paid at all. I’m just a diehard fan, watching the division lead crumble to 2 ½ games after Baltimore broke out the brooms in Fenway this Players Weekend. Just a fan, begging Hanley to give us four weeks of charismatic, clutch, slugging baseball as Boston makes yet another push for the pennant. Because if Hanley can’t improve on his feverish 0.0 WAR, while managing to break through his at bat threshold to lock in the fifth year of his player friendly contract, then we have an issue here. We might have to start wondering if it was just a Sierra Mist Big Ben had to drink that day.