Any resemblance between the Hanley Ramirez that played left field for the Red Sox last year and the one that is playing first base this year is purely coincidental.
The Hanley Ramirez that played left field, and I use the term ‘played’ loosely, couldn’t field, had no interest in learning to play the position, could only hit occasionally, never seemed to be trying very hard, seemed to have little interest in the game while it was going on and generally looked like a player past his prime who had a BIG, GUARANTEED contract and was just going to play out the rest of his contract without exerting too much effort.
The Hanley Ramirez playing first base worked his butt off in spring training to learn a new position, has been doing a more than credible job of playing it, is hitting like the younger Hanley Ramirez and looks comfortable at the plate, runs the bases like his run is the game winner, has twice hustled to stretch a single into a double, ( once successfully, once not ), is at the top of the dugout steps to congratulate other players and, in general is acting like a winner on a team that has the ability to be a winner.
What caused this miracle turnaround? Is it because he is playing with a team of young players who believe in themselves and are playing the game the way it should be played, like it’s fun? Is it because he has always thought of himself as an infielder and, like most infielders views outfielders as people who are there because they can’t play the infield?
I have my own theory, based upon nothing but my own inexpert observations. It goes like this. Do you remember Carl Crawford? The Sox got Carl Crawford from the Tampa Bay Rays in 2011. He had hit .305 there in 2009 and .310 in 2010 and was a better than average fielder. In his only full year playing with the Sox he hit .211 and played left field like he’d never had a glove on before. In 2013, his first full season after going to the Dodgers, he hit .283.
The Sox got Hanley Ramirez from the Dodgers in 2015. In 2014, he had hit
.283 with the Dodgers as an infielder. In 2015, he hit .249 with the Red Sox and was considered the worst left fielder in all of baseball.
What’s the common denominator here? Both fell apart when exposed to left field in Fenway Park. How would if affect you if you were an outfielder playing in normal sized and shaped outfields or an infielder not used to the outfield if all of a sudden you found yourself playing right behind the shortstop with a 37 foot wall right behind you?
They both were victims of what I call Green Monster Syndrome. The stress of being thrust into the black hole between short stop and the wall in Fenway affects different people differently. If the Sox had put either Crawford or Ramirez in right field instead of left, both stories might have been different.
Whatever the reason for Hanley’s problems last year, I like the Hanley Ramirez that is playing first base now. He is a positive force on this Red Sox team and may be the veteran leader that this team needs to make the difference between worst and first.