The Boston Red Sox won yesterday, against the Oakland Athletics, with help from the bat of Hanley Ramirez. While he has spent much of this season in left field, Han-Ram has also played the designated hitter role, like he did on Friday. The switch has been partially due to the struggles that David Ortiz, the face of the Red Sox franchise, has been having at the plate, this year.
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However, don’t expect Boston’s general manager Ben Cherington to want that trend to continue. In an interview on the Dennis & Callahan radio show, last Thursday on WEEI 93.7 FM, Cherington commented on the idea of platooning the two veterans. Judy Cohen covered the comment on the radio’s blog:
"“I think we’ve got a lot of season to play, and we’re going to need the whole roster, and we’re going to need to use guys, and we’re going to need to get the most out of everyone on the roster … When you start defining players like that this early, especially guys with track records like that, I’m just not sure that’s the solution. We clearly need to produce more offense, we know that.” – Ben Cherington"
Regarding Ramirez being often called ‘a work in progress’ in left field, and the criticism Han-Ram and the Red Sox have taken from that, Cherington said, “I think if you step back and think about what this guy did, this is a player who is a star-level player in the middle of his career, who wanted so badly to be in Boston and be a part of what we’re doing that he was willing to take the risk of making a difficult position transition in the middle of his career.”
Now, it would be very hard for anyone to see Cherington saying anything other than those words, after he gave Ramirez a contract for four years and $88 million in the off-season. If he didn’t show faith in his big investment, with a month to go before the midway point of the season, Cherington would look pretty foolish, indeed, for making that decision.
Jun 6, 2015; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz (34) congratulates Boston Red Sox left fielder Hanley Ramirez (13) after he hit a 2 run home run at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Gregory J. Fisher-USA TODAY Sports
It would also look pretty terrible for Cherington to throw Boston’s most-loved, adopted son from the Dominican Republic under the proverbial bus, in terms of any notion of a platoon strategy. Ortiz is signed through the end of this season, with two 10 million-dollar contract options for 2016 and 2017, which can increase in pay if he has 425 at-bats or more this season and the next. The man is a three-time World Series Champion, a two-time postseason MVP, and a nine-time All-Star. All of those accomplishments were done in a Red Sox uniform. He hits strictly from the left side of the plate, while most of their lineup hits on the right side. He has carried this team on his back and brought them to the promised land, especially during their worst-to-first 2013 season. He has made it clear that he loves Boston and its people like his own family, and someone expected Cherington to say that they would use him like a utility player?
Nobody is questioning that Ortiz is struggling, as of late; however, this painful period is not the first slump for him in his time in Boston. He was able to work through it and, granted eventually, got back on track. This season, Ortiz is hitting .220, with six home runs and 20 RBIs. Not as good as Red Sox Nation would like from their perennial hero. Yet, in his last seven games, Ortiz has shown some improvement, hitting .250 and two RBIs. Again, not incredible stuff, but it shows signs of hope that a summer heat wave will overcome this spring’s rain-filled clouds.
Hope: all that Cherington was offering, in his comment.
As far as Ramirez goes, did anyone expect Cherington to say that Ramirez has an attitude problem or doesn’t work hard enough to become better in left field? Cherington said, “We’ve seen times during games where he may be cautious on a play or two, and that’s part of getting comfortable out there, but I don’t see it as an effort or an attitude problem.”
Of course Cherington was going to say that. He’s not going to talk about how Spring Training found Ramirez only fielding balls for 15 minutes a day. Arnie Beyeler, the Red Sox outfield instructor, said at that time, “He’s just got to learn how to catch balls off the wall, decide depth, get his arm stretched out.” Easy right? It’s just one of the hardest jobs to defend in all of Major League Baseball, covering the Green Monster of Fenway Park. Three errors in two months later, how’s that been working out for him, or for Red Sox Nation to watch?
If you think that Cherington is going to love watching two players, making a ton of cash from his bosses’ wallets, taking turns playing DH while riding the pine for half of the games, there’s something wrong with you. If you think that the Red Sox general manager is going to allow Ortiz to look like a footnote in his possible last season in Boston, the man who brings casual and die-hard fans alike to Fenway with their hard-earned money, you are sadly mistaken. And, if you think that Cherington is going to admit that bringing in Han-Ram for the next four years, making huge money and huge errors in left field, was a mistake, you are a crazy person.
Cherington needs both bats to wake up, again. He needs both men in the lineup, to draw crowds. He needs Ramirez to have success in left field, to validate the strategy of moving him from shortstop was the right call. He needs all of that to happen, if he doesn’t want it to cost him his job.
Believe it that Cherington is a huge Ramirez and Ortiz fan, because he has to be, now. It’s not like he can just say it’s Hanley being Hanley, you know!
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