For most of us in Red Sox Nation, our introduction into what has become the long, strange trip known as Hanley Ramirez‘s career, came in the spring of 2002. For that was when the then 19 year old shortstop made his first appearance in a Red Sox uniform. What made it stick in my mind, was the broadcaster’s description of him that compared him to his “cousin” Manny in terms personality, but without having the resume to back it up. That was clearly a clever way of saying that his abundance of hitting talent might not be enough to make it worth putting up with his “quirks”, however it did make him a valuable trading commodity. Sure enough, after about three years of “Hanley being Hanley, he was gone.
THE MAN IN GORILLA SUIT:
It is now pretty much a matter of Red Sox lore how on Halloween Night in 2005, the then 31 year old general manager Theo Epstein, still fresh off of helping bring the first World Series Championship to Boston in 86 years, managed to sneak out of Fenway Park, avoiding the press, dressed in a gorilla suit. In the middle of a feud with Larry Lucchino over control of baseball operations, he would resign his position and be away from the front office until just before the start of the next season. While he was gone, the Sox would trade Ramirez, along with pitchers Anibal Sanchez, Jesus Delgado, and Harvey Garcia, to the Florida Marlins for pitchers Josh Beckett, Guillermo Mota, and third baseman Mike Lowell. Lowell and Beckett, as you may remember, would be key figures in the the Sox winning the 2007 World Series, with Lowell being named MVP. Beckett, of course, before being shipped to the west coast, would go on to be a key figure in the 2011 collapse of the Sox that would cost manager Terry Francona his job.
Ramirez would then spend the next six seasons or so in Miami, where he played shortstop, and would develop into the career .296 hitter he is today. Hanley’s best offensive season came in Miami in 2009, when he hit .342, with 24 home runs and 106 RBIs. He was traded to the Dodgers in 2012, along with Randy Choate, for Nathan Eovaldi and Scott McGough. In Los Angeles, where he would ironically be reunited with Josh Beckett, he would be moved to third base. Ramirez would also gain a reputation for being a bad influence in the club house, which would make his tendency to get hurt a lot, a perfect fit for the Red Sox. So, sure enough, almost 9 years to the day he left Boston, he returned, and quickly became statistically the worst player in baseball.
FROM WORST TO FIRST:
Now in his defense, the idea of signing him for $22 million a year and then asking him to play a new position, was former GM’s Ben Cherington’s and not his, and one that started going badly early on. Although he got off to a decent start offensively, hitting 10 home runs in the month of April, it soon went down hill after he collided with the wall. His defense suffered, and he was soon costing his team over 2 runs a game. A perfect candidate to DH, they obviously had to find something to do with him until David Ortiz retired. Along came new president Dave Drombowski, and the move to first base. Through the first twelve games of the 2016 season (6-6) it appears to be a good one, as he has yet to commit an error. Hanley is also hitting .306, with 1 HR, 6 RBIs and 7 runs scored. Now with Pablo Sandoval out of the picture, at least for awhile, and reports that 32-year-old Ramirez has become a good club house guy, it may indeed be true that “Manny’s cousin” has finally grown up, and may actually be worth most of the money they gave him.
One can hope. Stay tuned…
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