When the Boston Red Sox signed Hanley Ramirez this off-season, people cheered. Ramirez cheered for the four-year contract, worth $88 million. The Red Sox were happy that they looked good in the media by Ramirez’s offence looking good on paper. Some Los Angeles Dodgers fans were happy, too; they don’t have to see him injured again.
The 31-year-old shortstop’s new year’s resolution should be to try better at staying healthy. The Dodgers paid him a great deal of money for playing 65 games in 2012, 78 games in 2013, and 120 games in 2014. That would be $46.5 million for riding the pine almost as much as playing. Injuries – his thumb, shoulder, calf, leg, and oblique – kept him from the lineup and on defense, to the point where his ability to play the infield became a huge question for the Dodgers and other teams who may have wanted to sign Ramirez.
The L.A. Times Steve Dilbeck reported a few days ago that Ramirez says that he is healthy and his bad days are behind him, stating how he grew up in the city of angels. “Not sure that was always on display, Ramirez seemingly an island unto himself. Wouldn’t exactly call him a disruptive force — as had been claimed with the Marlins — but he seemed to sulk about his contract and hardly appeared the ultimate team guy” (Dilbeck). The issue has nothing to do with his talent and has everything to do with his words and actions off of the field.
The Red Sox are counting on his word being the truth, as Ramirez will be replacing Yoenis Cespedes in the outfield and has a $22 million vesting option in 2019. This contract tells Ramirez and Red Sox Nation that general manager Ben Cherington and the rest of the brass see him as the future of the team for a long time. Ramirez’s on-field numbers have been purposefully left out of this discussion, because they only have relevance to that contractual commitment. They have no bearing on whether he will be hurt again, or whether Daniel Nava or Brock Holt, or another Red Sox player will have to fill in for Ramirez. They have no stance on whether Ramirez will be a positive influence in the clubhouse. They mean nothing to the intangibles that Ramirez needs to satisfy.
The only thing Ramirez can do to quell the fit anyone in Boston will have is to stay healthy. No amount of media-hounding will be enough to prove that he is taking care of himself properly. Regardless of his pain or suffering, if he can play to his potential, the Red Sox will feel much better about their investment. Until then, everyone in Beantown will have to hold their collective breaths. Either that or wrap the man in Nerf, so he can’t hurt himself. Any other ideas?