It’s true! Hanley Ramirez asked the Boston Red Sox to stay in Friday’s game to get more practice in at first base.
Scott Lauber of ESPN wrote that “according to both Ramirez and manager John Farrell, Ramirez asked if he could play one more inning in order to get an additional at-bat and possibly a few more plays at first base, a position he is learning to play this season.” No, hell did not freeze over. This is the same Ramirez who was reported to take very little time in spring training last season to work on his defense in left field. John Farrell added, “There was a couple of things inside that game, there’s reminders. On a certain count against a left-handed hitter, we’ll have him play behind (the runner). All the nuances of the position. He’s looking for those reps and wanted the extra inning here today.”
With Lauber’s statement that “the slugger often frustrated team officials with his work ethic” defensively, there is enough evidence that many people would doubt Ramirez would want to say such a thing as he did on Friday. However, when the Red Sox took the field in the sixth inning, Ramirez was the only starter left out there.
The 32-year-old native of Samana of the Dominican Republic is learning his third defensive position in two years, in a point in his career when life should be settling down. Instead, Ramirez signed as a free agent with the Red Sox for the 2015 season, as the execs at the time hoped that his bat would make up for any wear-and-tear he might suffer. Moving from the Los Angeles Dodgers to the complete other side of the country didn’t do much to change the escalation of deterioration.
Ramirez went from playing shortstop with the Dodgers and posting a .961 fielding percentage in 2014 to playing left field with the Red Sox and posting a .969 fielding percentage, when the league’s average was .984 for the same position. Part of the misery stemmed from an injury to his shoulder when he rammed into the left field foul wall, but the list of injuries mounted and even affected his offense as well.
At least for the Dodgers, Han-Ram was hitting .283/.369/.448 with 71 RBIs. Last season, Ramirez only hit .249/.291/.426 with 53 RBIs, most of them coming in the early part of the season.
However, as much as Ramirez has been buried by many critics, including myself, this surprising turn of events is worth noting for many reasons.
Boston is a city that prides itself on its blue-collar work ethic. Bostonians bring their lunch pails with them and get to work early, grinding their hearts and souls into their labors and taking pride in the results. Which member of Red Sox Nation would fault Ramirez for wanting to stay in a game to practice his defense? Even if he is only doing it because he recognizes his deficiencies at the position, Ramirez could have done what many people felt like he was going to do this season: wait out David Ortiz‘s retirement year and become the designated hitter. Instead, he put himself back into the public gaze and allowed us to watch whether he would falter or not in a game situation, even if it was just a spring training game.
Ramirez doesn’t have to do anything that he doesn’t want to do. He has $68.2 million of guaranteed money coming to him from the Red Sox organization until the end of 2018. He has the money and the time to wait the team out if he didn’t agree to their ideas for him. Even if they released him or traded him to another team, he still gets his money. Yet, he was willing to give first base a shot for a season and, worst-case scenario, he wants more practice so that he doesn’t look foolish out there. That’s redeemable, even for only a day, considering the alternatives.
Should we give Ramirez a parade for asking for more playing time at a position that he needs to learn? No way. It’s the fact that he asked for the extra time that makes some of us critics pause, at least for the moment, and think that there’s hope yet for Ramirez this season. Even if that hope is the size of a sliver. Let’s just hope that sliver doesn’t embed itself into Ramirez for yet another injury.