Red Sox 25 in 25: Hanley Ramirez

Jul 21, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Boston Red Sox left fielder Hanley Ramirez (13) during the game against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 21, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Boston Red Sox left fielder Hanley Ramirez (13) during the game against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports /

The BoSox Injection staff’s preview of the Boston Red Sox 25-man roster continues with a look at first baseman (yes, that’s right) Hanley Ramirez.

Most fans’ wishes in the offseason consist of superstar signings and blockbuster acquisitions. It’s not often that a player is so loathsome to a fan base that simply trading him away for the clichéd bag of baseballs is part of the wish list and is largely believed to be necessary to make the team better – you know, the ol’ addition by subtraction thing. Well, it didn’t happen Sox fans. Dave Dombrowski may have been able to sign the most coveted pitcher on the open market, but he wasn’t able to pull off a miracle. You’re stuck with Hanley Ramirez for a minimum of another half of a season, perhaps longer.

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It’s safe to say that Ben Cherington’s experiment did not work out so well last season. Ramirez came to Boston as part of a twin billing with fellow partner in laziness, Pablo Sandoval. It had the feeling of either being a huge success that would put the Red Sox back on track for a few seasons or a miserable failure. Unfortunately, especially for Cherington who lost his job in large part due to these signings, it was the latter.

Things started out OK for Hanley when he belted a ridiculous 10 homeruns in the month of April. However, Hanley went cold for a majority of the rest of the season and couldn’t even reach the 20 mark in the HR category. He batted .293 and .341/.659/.999 in the three other major categories with 22 RBI in the first month, yet finished the season (Ramirez’s season ended in late August after the Red Sox basically waived the white flag and sent him home) with an average of .249 and .291/.426/.717 and just 53 RBI. Sure, there was no way he was going to keep up that run he had in the first few weeks, but the fall-off is staggering.

The issues at the plate seemed to surface as it became apparent to everyone that he was quite possibly the worst defensive outfielder in baseball, and according to some like the Boston Globe’s Chad Finn, the worst outfielder in Red Sox history. Night after night it was blunder after blunder for Ramirez in left field, largely thought of as one of the easiest positions in the league at Fenway Park. Hanley had a knack of making even the most routine plays look like a struggle, and it became extremely frustrating as the Sox plunged further down in the standings. He became the number one scapegoat (with good reason – Ramirez finished the season with a WAR of -1.8 according to Fangraphs, only to be outdone by Pablo Sandoval’s -2.0) for the Fenway faithful and a symbol for a team that just didn’t have “it”.

It’s hard to believe he’ll return to Boston for the 2016 season after his first tumultuous season, but it’s understandable considering he’s still on the books for another three years at $66 million. Some, like the Globe’s Pete Abraham, are still crossing their fingers for a potential trade to send Hanley packing, but it’s not looking like that’s going to happen.

So we’re left with 2015 baggage, but Hanley won’t see any time in the outfield. The plan is now for him to test his abilities at first base, which is sometimes thought of as an “easy” position to play. However, ask Mike Napoli, and he’ll tell you otherwise as discussed by our very own Sean Penney earlier this week. On WEEI’s Hot Stove Show on Tuesday, John Farrell said the team did not expect Ramirez to play every game at first base, but that they did expect him to make a smooth position and are moving full speed ahead with the plan.

The front office seems to be just hoping he doesn’t completely implode. If Ramirez is willing to put the work in and can become just an average first baseman somehow while adding some power at the plate, he can actually be of some value to Boston. This is the make-it-or-break-it year for Hanley in Boston for sure though, and I still can’t get passed the feeling that he is more of burden on this team than anything.

Next: Red Sox 25 in 25: Blake Swihart

There are really only two options left for the Ramirez experiment in Boston: he finds a way to exist at first base for 2016 while sliding into the DH spot in 2017 with David Ortiz retiring or John Henry takes another hit to his pockets while they cut bait with the man known as Han-Ram. All I know is I can’t wait to hear the fan reaction to his introduction on opening day at Fenway.