Red Sox Hanley Ramirez Must Learn From Sandoval Benching
Boston Red Sox first baseman Hanley Ramirez saved himself from being benched like Pablo Sandoval. Will this news continue to inspire Han-Ram to succeed?
Rick McNair of BoSox Injection covered the story of the Red Sox announcing that Travis Shaw would be the starting third baseman and that the highly-paid Sandoval was to begin the 2016 regular season on the bench. Shaw outplayed Sandoval for the job, hitting .333 with two home runs and nine RBIs in 19 spring training games. Sandoval, after a very rough start to his career in Boston last season, hit .270 with the same amount of homers and six RBIs in 15 games.
It was the second time this week that the Red Sox made a move for a cheaper player to start ahead of a more expensive one. Brock Holt, Boston’s All-Star utility player, was named the starter in left field over Rusney Castillo, who also struggled last season. While Castillo’s situation is not a lost cause, as he is still being given the chance at regaining his job back with the big club, the attention that Sandoval’s getting from the news is pretty striking. Some people would argue that the move for Shaw has been a long time coming. Others have suggested that it could be because Sandoval may be on his way out of Boston in a rumored trade deal with the San Diego Padres to obtain James Shields, although Red Sox president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski has said publicly that any trade this early would be unlikely.
Either way, Sandoval’s situation could very easily have been the same for Ramirez. The 32-year-old native of the Dominican Republic struggled with injuries and poor play in 2015, hitting just .249 with 19 home runs and 53 RBIs, most of them coming at the beginning of the season. At times, the former shortstop looked laughable in left field, as the experiment to make him an outfielder proved futile. However, Ramirez vowed that the next move to put him at first base would not be a decision that the team would regret.
This spring, Ramirez hit .298 with some flashes of excellent defense at his new position. He even asked to stay in games longer defensively, not offensively, so that he could get more reps before the regular season started. Could this be a new Hanley Ramirez? One who takes care of his body and thinks about his glove as much as his bat?
Possibly. It’s still too early to judge him too harshly, compared to how Sandoval has been treated.
Yesterday, Canada’s Sportsnet radio personality Andrew Walker said, on his afternoon show, that Sandoval’s weight was so much of a factor in the decision to bench him that it was creating a vicious “cycle.” Walker stated that being at Sandoval’s weight on his five-foot-eleven frame takes a toll on the body which, in any sport, stops the athlete from being able to sustain a high level of performance for any length of time. As much as that is opinion-based, it does allow for incidents from last season to be explained, like the ‘dehydration’ excuse for being winded after running from first to home plate and having to be removed from the game. Walker’s deduction was that the cycle would continue, as he believes that people who are Sandoval’s size when they get depressed, such as playing badly or being benched, “eat their emotions” by consuming more food to feel better. The process, thereby, makes the individual gain more weight and creates even more problems.
Ramirez is signed through 2018 on a deal worth $88 million; yet, this contract is no guarantee of playing time. Sandoval is signed through 2019 on a deal worth $95 million, and he was benched for a 25-year-old making $515 thousand a year. Another man making $606 thousand replaced Castillo, who is on a deal worth just over $11 million this year to start on the bench.
Next: Red Sox Lose To Twins In Final Florida Spring Game
This new Red Sox regime doesn’t look like they will wait too long for the investments of previous regimes to pay off this season. Hanley may be waiting out David Ortiz‘s retirement so that he can be the new designated hitter, but he cannot assume that the role will be his in 2017. Ramirez will have to play well enough to keep himself in the lineup and prove that he deserves the money that he’s currently earning. If not, he may find himself riding the same pine, and possible emotional pain, that Sandoval and Castillo are currently experiencing.