Now that we have made it through two entire seasons with Ramirez on the Red Sox roster, we have gotten two, polar opposite results. The first year, we saw a bulky, slow footed, lazy, incompetent left fielder that was showing early signs of being another big contract bust by the Boston Red Sox. But in 2016, Ramirez sung to a different tune and decided that he would show up leaner, and more agile which proved to be the most adequate formula for success. But what was the difference between the two seasons?
Ramirez was engaged in the game. If there is one thing that I have learned about the right-handed slugger it’s that he needs to be locked in and focused. What I have seen so far is a happy go lucky guy who has the attention span of a squirrel on a college campus. And what helped lock Ramirez’s focus onto the game? Playing first base.
By sending Ramirez out to the infield every inning, it forced him to constantly be on his toes and ready for some immense action. Being in left is a different story. I mean hell, we had another Ramirez out there in Boston who half of the time looked as though he didn’t care to be standing out there with a glove on his hand for years. Championship years, but years nonetheless.
When you were in little league, you know what kind of kids you put out in left field, right? You put the kids with the big bats, but no desire to play the field. You know, the lazy ones. And if a ball was shot out to left you have a 50-50 shot at it being caught.
There is also a plethora of plays throughout the game of baseball that have zero involvement with the left fielder. If the ball is not hit out to you, you rarely need to pay attention with what is going on. Unless your Manny Ramirez who decides to cut off a ball from Johnny Damn. Unorthodox yes, but incredible.
When playing left field your focus must solely be on just a few scenarios. If the ball is grounded to third base or shortstop, you need to at least act as though you care and lightly jog in just in case your professional third baseman lets it slip through his legs. If the ball is hit to center, again, you need to act like you care and jog to your left to back the ball up. And of course, if the ball is hit directly at you. Those are realistically the three moments that a left fielder needs to be waiting for. Everything else is just him being a body taking up space.
Now when at first base, you need to be prepared for every hit ball in the infield, a fly ball with a man in scoring position just in case you are needed for a cut off and even a potential run down. You are truly involved in over half of the balls put into play by your opponents.
Ramirez playing first base was the best thing to ever happen to the 32 year old at this stage in his career. Say you move him to the designated hitter spot. For the most part, that takes his head out of half of the game. He sits on the bench and thinks about who knows what. He does whatever he wants between innings and I just assume he is not as driven as David Ortiz to go watch film of his previous at bat to resolve whatever issues there may have been.
This is where the manager must step in and make the best call that suits the team. The assumption was there the moment that the Red Sox had signed Ramirez. He was to be David Ortiz’s replacement. That was until he hit for a lowly .249 average in 2015. Maybe that was his motivation for this year? Maybe it was not that he felt he needed to get better for the team. Rather maybe he felt he had work on his bat in order to secure his position as David Ortiz’s replacement?
We can speculate all we want but taking Ramirez’s head out of the game would be the absolute worst thing that they can do to him. We know that he can field, surprisingly to most, and we know that he can hit for both average and power. But do we know that he will keep this kind of production up if he is solely there to hit? No, absolutely not.
Hanley Ramirez is a fun loving goofball who loves life with a giant smile on his face. This is not a knock against him one bit. But removing his mind from all of these facets of the game would destroy not only his fielding ability, but his overall batting performance as well.
And this worries me with the Mitch Moreland signing. Does this mean they will primarily have Moreland at first base while Ramirez DHs? I certainly hope not because that would be the equivalent of taking a poor cooking recipe, adding ingredients to make it great, and then tossing the final product on the dirty kitchen floor. Or in other words, a big waste of time.
Although ownership, Farrell, and Dombrowski have stated that they do not plan on having a fixated DH in their lineup but instead basing their DH on the pitching matchup that night. That is all well and good, but I just do not buy it. One thing that championship contenders need is continuity. If there is a difference in the lineup night in and night out, that spells out a disastrous offensive season to me.
There is one solution and one solution only, David Ortiz MUST come out of retirement. Return all of the gifts if he has too. I personally believe that if he did not do his retirement tour this year he would already be back. But the guilt is just weighing on him because the league made it into such an affair that he had no choice.
But Hanley Ramirez must be engaged every single night if you want to see a repeat of his 2016 production at the plate in the 2017 season. Come on Farrell, let’s start off the year hot.
If you want MORE coverage of your team, check out Red Sox Beat Podcast here on CLNS Radio! The latest episode is below and check us out on ITUNES as well!