Our annual Report Card series evaluates and grades the 2017 season of each member of the Boston Red Sox. Up next – Hanley Ramirez.
2017 was supposed to be a big year for Hanley Ramirez. Following the retirement of David Ortiz, the designated hitter role Ramirez had long coveted was all his. His career numbers in his limited time as a DH were excellent. If he could spend an entire season focused only on hitting he was bound to improve upon his first career 30 home run, 100+ RBI season.
We should have known better.
Ramirez entered spring training hindered by shoulder soreness that prevented him from playing first base. Was this a ploy to avoid grabbing a glove and taking the field? The Red Sox had hoped that Ramirez could occasionally field the position in order to platoon with the freshly acquired Mitch Moreland. Thanks to Ramirez’ balky shoulder, that didn’t happen in the early stages of the season and he’d end up spending a mere 18 games at first base.
The Red Sox insisted that the shoulder injury only bothered Ramirez when he threw the ball, not when he swung the bat. That would eventually be revealed to be false, as Ramirez clearly wasn’t right at the plate.
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The .242 batting average Ramirez produced this year was the worst of his career, while his .749 OPS was over 100 points below his career level. His OPS ranked 120th among major league hitters (minimum 475 at-bats). This from the team’s highest-paid position player who was signed exclusively for his ability to hit.
Ramirez was second on the team in home runs, although that’s nothing to get excited about considering the Red Sox were dead last in the league in that category. His 23 homers seem miles away from the 30 he hit last year.
The saving grace to his season was that Ramirez performed well during Boston’s brief time in the postseason. After starting the series on the bench, Ramirez replaced the injured Eduardo Nunez in Game 1 and delivered a pair of hits. He would end up hitting .571 with a 1.314 OPS, two doubles, and three RBI in the ALDS loss to the Houston Astros.
Last week we were surprised to find out that Ramirez underwent surgery on his left shoulder – not the same shoulder that bothered him entering the season. The procedure was said to be a minor clean up that shouldn’t prevent him from being ready for spring training next year.
Ramirez is owed $22.75 million in 2018, the final guaranteed year remaining on his contract. He has a $22 million option for 2019 that vests only if he reaches a total of 1,050 plate appearances between the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Ramirez had 553 plate appearances this year, so he’ll need to reach at least 497 next year for the option to be picked up. The next Red Sox manager will hopefully find a way to limit his playing time enough to ensure he falls short of that goal.
After a disastrous first season in Boston that left Red Sox Nation ready to write him off, Ramirez bounced back with a strong 2016 campaign at the plate. Perhaps he can surprise us again next year. If not, at least the end of his bloated contract is finally in sight.