Exactly one year ago today, the Boston Red Sox were 21-25 and on the verge of being swept by the hapless Minnesota Twins. The bats were cold, the pitching was atrocious, and the attitude in the clubhouse was reflective of a team who truly didn’t care. While I managed to convince myself that the Sox could turn it around a few different times over the course of the summer, it was at this point when I knew this was truly a lost season. There is NOTHING worse as a baseball fan than knowing your team is out of the hunt before the dog days of summer even begin. This frustration was magnified by the thought that most Sox players seemed to be content with their shoddy, second-rate performances.
No player better exemplified this disinterested demeanor than Red Sox left fielder Hanley Ramirez. The Hanley/left field experiment was beginning to take shape as a catastrophe of epic proportion. At this point, Hanley’s hot April bat had long since cooled, and he was a walking (not running, because Hanley does NOT run down fly balls) blooper reel in the outfield. The thing that was most frustrating about Hanley in left was his unwillingness to work at his craft. Whispers from the clubhouse that he wasn’t putting the time in were growing increasingly loud in volume. A phantom “hamstring” injury mercifully ended Hanley’s time in left, and the Sox began to look toward next year with a plan in place to try Hanley at first base.
Fast foward 365 days later. The Sox are in first place at 29-17, and Hanley has yet to make an error at first. His bat, while lacking in power, has been a consistent all year long. He’s no longer swinging his helmet off trying to launch a 700 foot homer on every cut, and the results are a much-welcomed increase in doubles and opposite-field hits.
What has Hanley changed you ask? Did he go to a wellness retreat? Did he find God? I’d argue that he truly didn’t change much. What has changed is that the Sox are winning baseball games.
When you’re going good, a guy like Hanley, with his happy-go-lucky, carefree attitude is a welcomed commodity. It’s the sort of personality that can help to keep things light and fun in the clubhouse, something many teams need over the course of a grueling 162 game season.
When you’re going bad, a Hanley Ramirez-type is a cancer. No one wants a whimsical, nonchalant guy in the clubhouse when the team is getting their doors blown off on a nightly basis. It’s similar to when you’re in a bad mood and someone tries to tell you a joke and it makes you even more angry. Get the hell out of here and let me be mad.
Keep doing you, Hanley. As long as Ortiz, Bogaerts, and JBJ keep mashing, I have a feeling this is going to be a fun summer for all of us.