With a new Instagram picture of Hanley Ramirez showing off his trimmer figure, will that help him be a better 1st baseman or, at least, stay in the lineup?
Christopher Smith of MassLive.com reported that Han-Ram has a new Instagram picture of himself with Boston Red Sox manager John Farrell in Florida. Both men look like they are doing well, but Smith reminds everyone of what bench coach Torey Lovullo said: “It was outlined in his exit physical that he needs to come in at a certain weight […] 15 or 20 pounds lighter is what was asked of him.”
Smith provides the picture and asks his readers what they think of it, hinting with his words that Hanley’s weight is likely not the most important thing to worry about for 2016.
And, how right you are, Mr. Smith!
Han-Ram was in great shape, appearance-wise, to start spring training last season. He’s listed as 225 pounds of muscular destruction to opposing pitchers and their puny pitches of impotent posterity. Judging by the picture alone, any non-baseball person would figure that he’s a top athlete who must dominate the game with his strength, believing that he must play all of the time and not get tired.
However, every baseball person out there, expert or not, knows about Hanley’s injury-prone body. Less weight does make for less stress on the body, but that doesn’t seem to be the problem for Ramirez.
And, it’s not like the major leagues have a ton of evidence to suggest trim-looking first basemen are better at the position. One of the best hitters in the game is Miguel Cabrera who plays first base with a .996 fielding percentage, and he is listed at 240 pounds, 15 pounds heavier than the ‘overweight’ Ramirez. Paul Goldschmidt, at 225 pounds, has been doing just fine for the Arizona Diamondbacks. Albert Pujos, a fellow native of the Dominican Republic, is still going strong in his 15th season and making another All-Star appearance last year with his bat and a .994 fielding percentage, and he is listed at 230 pounds.
All of these men have similar body frames to Hanley. If anything, Ramirez looks built to last much longer than the rest, with the exception of maybe Pujos. But appearances are not everything. Sometimes, especially in the case of Ramirez, it isn’t anything.
In April 2015, Hanley hit .293 with 10 home runs and 22 RBIs, making former general manager Ben Cherington look like a genius and the Los Angeles Dodgers seem foolish for giving up on him. Then, the injuries mounted, including a devastating blunder of running into the left field foul wall while trying to make a play in the outfield. Before the All-Star break, Ramirez cashed in 46 RBIs; however, he only knocked in 7 RBIs and a mere .183, afterwards.
Lighter weight can take stress off of the joints and muscles, but it can’t do much against running into immovable objects or getting more practice time at a new defensive position. The Red Sox thought that they could just make Ramirez an outfielder after years of being an All-Star shortstop infielder. Not only that, but they put him in left field in Fenway Park: one of the hardest positions to play. If expert outfielders have trouble with balls hit off of the Green Monster, why did any of them assume that a man who never plays in the outfield for years was going to just pick it up that quickly?
Maybe for the same reason that they think Han-Ram losing weight will make him a better first baseman.
Instead of them worrying about Hanley’s weight, maybe the Red Sox should look into how much practice that the man puts into learning first base. There’s not much of a risk that he has to put his body on the line for that spot. Run to the bag. Catch the ball thrown to you. Dive two or three feet to either side of you when the ball is hit to you, if need be. That’s about it. Making sure he gets himself acquainted with the bag like it’s second nature to him, keeping him sure-handed, should be much more of a priority than how much weight that he’s packing on his frame.
Or, the Red Sox could just let him take an average of 20 balls to field in practice and call it a day, like they did with him last year in left field. Because it’s all about that weight. ‘Bout that weight. No trouble, right?