(Photo Credit: USA Today)
By Terry Cushman – @cushmanMLB
Many of us have still not fully reconciled the fact that Mookie Betts will be the lead off man for the 2018 Boston Red Sox. It’s probably fairly safe to assume that Jackie Bradley Jr will not hit too highly above his .239 career average. And that Christian Vazquez will not hit .320 or so for most of the season as he did in 2017. If the bottom third of the order does not get on base, why keep one of your best right handed power hitters in a spot where his RBI totals will be lower than his true capability? After all, he nearly won the AL MVP in 2016 at the heart of the order. Why mess with that?
Hanley Ramirez is a player who most Red Sox fans simply want gone. Many are counting the days until his contract is runs up. He seems to be aggravatingly dysfunctional, whether it’s his lack of durability or focus. If Mookie not having anyone to drive in is terrible, how frustrating will it be when one of the least clutch players on the roster is batting third? If the plans do not change before opening day, this lineup is about to be very poorly structured, and possibly self destructive.
There is no mystery to the players on our team. With the exception of J.D. Martinez, most of this lineup has been playing together at Fenway for the better part of a few years. We know what everybody’s capabilities are, and how each should appropriately be utilized. All of the starting talent projected to make the 25 man roster was initially assembled for John Farrell, which is quite frankly still his team. Alex Cora knows this, but seems to be trying to find “creative” ways to make it more “his team.” Of the other 29 managers in baseball, I would boldly assume none of them would bat a 35 year old Hanley Ramirez third in the order.
Mookie should obviously be the player hitting in the three hole. Either Nunez or Bogaerts make the best candidates to lead off. Both are borderline elite contact hitters, with relatively high on base percentages (.340+). Not to mention both are quick on their feet. There is no need to overthink this.
Despite my pessimism in regards to his early approach, I’m not trying to start a #firecora movement. I’m really not. Regardless of whichever direction he initially takes, all newly hired MLB managers, especially first year ones, should be given at least a full year. One aspect which will determine if Cora truly is fit to manage a major league ball club, will be his willingness to make adjustments on the fly, or before starts of games when filling out his lineup cards. The worst case scenario would be if, like his predecessor, he stubbornly became stuck in his ways. Only time will tell.
So many moves by Farrell never made sense. Hanley Ramirez has been pissing off coaching staffs, front offices, and fan bases for much of his twelve year major league career. Batting Hanley third at this point, knowing all that we know about him, does not make sense. The last thing Alex Cora wants or needs, is to be compared to John Farrell on a daily basis.
Ideally at the end of 2018, we will be comparing him to Terry Francona. Red Sox fans would celebrate that outcome. Lets hope for that.
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