Tag Archives: HANLEY RAMIREZ

THE MAN BEHIND THE SOX INFIELD

As the Red Sox enter the second month of the season, I thought it appropriate to recognize the role played by a native Mainer in their success.

Before the season started, people had questions about the ability of the pitching staff, both starting and relief, and whether it would perform better than last year with the additions of David Price, Craig Kimbrel and Carson Smith.

The next big questions Sox fans had revolved around Hanley Ramirez, who the Red Sox had paid a small fortune to and turned into the worst left fielder in baseball last year and were planning to make a first baseman out of this year and what would happen at third base now that Pablo Sandoval, who had also gotten a small fortune to play third base, and had turned out to be a flop last year and showed up at Spring Training out of shape and bigger than ever.

Nobody thought that one month into the season, Ramirez would be playing first base like he’d been there all his life and that, before Sandoval went on the disabled list with an injured shoulder and/or pride, that young first baseman Travis Shaw would be playing third base like a veteran and hitting the cover off the ball.

Ramirez, who couldn’t be bothered to try to learn to play left field last year, worked every day in Spring Training to develop the skills to allow him to play a position which, according to Baseball Reference, he had never played at any level in the minors or majors.

Shaw had started a total of just 59 games at third base in his five year minor league career while starting 335 at first base. Last year, after coming up to the Sox late in the season, he played only eight games at third, 55 at first and one in left field.

What is the one thing that these two, who have been important cogs in the Red Sox defense so far, have in common? The answer is Brian Butterfield, the Red Sox, 58 year old third base coach, who also doubles as the infield instructor and base running coach. Butterfield is one of the most respected infield coaches in all of baseball. He has worked tirelessly with Ramirez since he arrived at Spring Training hitting literally thousands of ground balls and imparting his special brand of wisdom.

Butterfield was an infielder himself, a second baseman who played five seasons in the minor leagues in the Yankees system but never made the big leagues. He started at Oneonta in the New York/Pennsylvania League in low A ball in 1979 and worked his way up to AAA with the Nashville Sound in the International League in 1982, where he hit .238 in 71 games. The next year, he was back with Miami in the Class A Florida League and that was the end of his playing career.

Butter, as he is affectionately known around baseball, was born in Bangor, Maine, on March 9, 1958. His father, Jack, was the University of Maine baseball coach from 1957 to 1974 and also served as Vice President for Player Development and Scouting for the New York Yankees from 1977-1979.

After attending Maine briefly, Butterfield got his B. A. from Florida Southern in 1980 while playing in the minors and filling in as an Assistant Coach at Southern and then at Eckerd College.

After his playing career, he served in various positions in the Yankee system including as roving infield instructor at different levels throughout the organization. In 1988, he was named Gulf Coast League Manager of the Year after leading his Sarasota team to the league title.

He managed at different levels in the minors and in 1994 and 1995 he was Buck Showalter’s first base coach with the Yankees and, coincidentally, a player who turned out to be a pretty good infielder, Derek Jeter, came up with the Yankees at that time.

He left the Yankees to go to the new franchise Arizona Cardinals in 1996 and helped get the franchise ready to begin play in 1998 when he became third base coach. He managed the Tampa Bay Yankees in the Florida State League to a share of that league’s title in 2001 and started the following season as the Manager of the Columbus Clippers in the AAA International League. After a bad start, he was fired on May 6 and, less than a month later, was hired as third base coach with the Toronto Blue Jays.

He was with Toronto until 2013, serving as Bench Coach in 2008 and 2009 and going back to third base coach in 2010. In 2010, when Toronto hired John Farrell as Manager, Butterfield had been a finalist for that position. When Farrell left to go to Boston as Manager in 2013, Butterfield was again a finalist for the position but when John Gibbons was hired for the job, Butter went to Boston with Farrell as third base coach and infield instructor.

He is in his 37th year in professional baseball and his 20th as a Coach at the Major League level. He was elected to the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame in 2014.

If the Red Sox should go all the way this year, much of the credit should go to this Maine native who solved their corner infield problems and may very well have saved Hanley Ramirez’s career in baseball. Whatever happens with the Red Sox team, watching the Red Sox defense, particularly the corner infielders, from the dug out this year must be providing some of Butterfield’s proudest moments in a long and productive career.

Advertisements

THE NEW HANLEY RAMIREZ

009Any 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.

THE GHOST OF RAMIREZ PAST

THE GHOST OF RAMIREZ PAST

As we approach the Christmas Season, or whatever it is politically correct to call it this year, the Red Sox have been hard at work building their team with visions of another great turnaround, not Sugar Plums, dancing in their heads.

The first gift they gave their fans was Pablo Sandoval, almost a clone of David Ortiz. A smiling, gregarious, very popular infielder, with a big bat, who is expected to do great things both at the plate and in the field in the small confines of Fenway Park.

Then, just 13 years, 11 months and 6 days after signing Manny Ramirez as a Free Agent, they signed Hanley Ramirez as a Free Agent. Can Hanley Ramirez replicate the career that Manny Ramirez had in Boston after he came there from Cleveland in 2001?

Manny spent eight years with the Cleveland Indians after being drafted by them in the first round of the 1991 Draft, and hit .313 with 236 homers, 29 per year and 804 RBI’s, 100 per year, while there.

Hanley who, by the way, was originally signed by the Red Sox, made his debut with them but only batted twice before being traded to the Florida Marlins for Josh Beckett, Mike Lowell and Guillermo Mota on November 24, 2005.

Hanley was with the Marlins for his first full seven years, batting .300 with 148 homers, 21 per year, and 482 RBI’s, 69 per year. He was traded from the Marlins to the Los Angeles Dodgers on July 25, 2012, and in the next two and a half seasons hit .299 with 43 homers and 172 RBI’s. Not exactly the type of numbers Manny put up in Cleveland.

The year before he came to Boston, Manny hit .351 with 38 homers and 112 RBI’s, playing in only 118 games. Last year, before coming to Boston, Hanley played in just 128 games with the Los Angeles Dodgers and batted .283 with 13 homers and 71 RBI’s.

Manny spent eight years in Boston, from 2001–2007. During that time, he played on the first World Championship team the Red Sox had had in 86 years and then on another in 2007. He not only played on those two Championship teams, but, in 2004, when the Red Sox swept the St. Louis Cardinals, he hit .412 and was named the Series MVP.

In his eight years in Beantown, he averaged .312, hit 274 home runs, 34 per year, and drove in 868 runs, 108 per year. He made the All Star Team four times with Cleveland and every year he played in Boston. He won the batting title in 2002 and the home run title with 43 in 2004. Hanley has made the All Star team three times, was Rookie of the Year in 2006 and won the batting title in 2009.

Manny Ramirez and Hanley Ramirez were both born in the Dominican Republic, Manny in 1972 and Hanley in 1983. Manny made his Major League debut on September 2, 1993, at the age of 21.1 years. At the age of 21.3 years, Hanley made his debut on September 20, 2005, with the Florida Marlins.

Manny came to the Red Sox as an outfielder and played the outfield his entire career at Boston. Hanley came to Boston as a shortstop, never having played the outfield but has already been designated the Red Sox left fielder. Does anyone recall what happened to Carl Crawford’s hitting when he was asked to play left field in Fenway where the left fielder plays almost right behind the shortstop and has the Green Monster right behind him?

Manny was an exceptionally talented hitter as is Hanley but Hanley has not put up the numbers that Manny put up and probably never will. Paying him a lot of money will not necessarily make him a better hitter. That’s the mistake the Sox made with Adrian Gonzalez they expected better performance for more money. ‘You get what you pay for’ does not always apply in baseball.

The year before the Sox gave Gonzalez a huge, long term contract, he had hit .298 with 31 homers and 101 RBI’s in San Diego. His first year in Boston, he hit .338 with 27 homers and 117 RBI’s. In his second year, before he was traded to Los Angeles, he was hitting .300 with 15 homers and 86 RBI’s. He actually hit .321 overall while with the Red Sox, but how many so called experts have you heard say that he did not live up to his expectations?

More money does not necessarily translate to better performance. Hanley Ramirez is not Manny Ramirez and may not even be as proficient a hitter as Adrian Gonzalez. When he comes to Boston, he will presumably be learning a new defensive position which may have a negative effect upon his hitting.

Never the less, Hanley Ramirez is an exceptional talent who will have a positive effect upon the Red Sox ability to score runs as Manny Ramirez did and as Pablo Sandoval will. If he stays healthy, Hanley, with David Ortiz and Pablo Sandoval, the Three Amigos, as they have been dubbed, could lead the Red Sox into contention this coming year.

Now all the Red Sox have to do is find the pitching to allow their more potent offense to win them a lot of games. They certainly have enough extra hitting talent to be able to trade for pitchers and have indicated that they are willing to spend beyond the luxury tax to get pitching.