The Red Sox and their fans are used to a Ramirez in left field hitting bombs and jogging after fly balls. What was once Manny being Manny has become Hanley being Hanley, and Sox fans may have to live wit it.
One of the biggest questions the Red Sox had (not concerning the team’s pitching) was about the defensive capabilities of newly-signed left fielder Hanley Ramirez. Coming into the 2015 season, the number of games that Ramirez had played in any outfield position was zero. That didn’t stop the Red Sox from paying him $20 million per season for four years to play a position he never had before. While nobody was expecting Hanley Ramirez to be a Gold Glove-winning left fielder, they were expecting a little more effort.
Over the past couple of games, Red Sox fans have seen Ramirez play a less-than-enthusiastic left field. In Wednesday’s 10-5 loss to the Washington Nationals, there were a couple of plays that Ramirez should have made. The most noticeable was a double that Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos hit to drive in three runs. Ramirez took his time getting down to the corner, and that allowed Ryan Zimmerman to score from first base. This was the start of three doubles in that inning that broke the game open for Washington and cost Boston a chance at sweeping the series. You can see Ramirez loafing to field the ball to begin the video below:
There was another play in Friday’s 3-2 walk-off win against the Orioles where Adam Jones lined a single into the gap between left and center field. Center fielder Mookie Betts, who was playing Jones to hit towards right field, was the first person to the ball. If that ball was hit a little deeper, Jones would have surely gotten to second base standing up. This resulted in the first run of the game coming across as right fielder Travis Snider scored on a double play. The Red Sox were able to get out of the inning only surrendering that one run. These last couple plays occurred at home; it is a little scary to think what will happen when he goes to other parks with bigger outfields.
Now people feel that Ramirez is still learning the position and are giving him slack, but this isn’t the first time that his enthusiasm has been questioned. He was once benched for a game after accidentally kicking a ball into the left field corner and then slowly jogging to get it while opposing players were rounding the bases. Ramirez has also been known to not run out ground balls that he hits, so it isn’t all that surprising to see him not hustle in left field. Ramirez has always been seen as a below-average defender at shortstop and third base so left field should be no different. This isn’t the first time that the Red Sox have had a power-hitting left fielder that didn’t know how to field his position.
This is very reminiscent of the way that Manny Ramirez “played” left field. Manny Ramirez was one of the best natural hitters in the game and Hanley has shown to be a great hitter. From denting the center field wall to hitting deep home runs with broken bats, there is definitely an offensive similarity between the two players. Manny was not a great fielder, as he usually took his time getting to batted balls and would constantly misjudge balls hit in his direction. Manny did lead the league in assists a couple times as runners thought they could run on him. Manny’s best defensive play was one where he dove to cut off a throw from center fielder Johnny Damon, before throwing the ball into the infield. To this day, nobody knows what possessed Manny to make that play and it remains a mystery.
Of course it is quite possible that Ramirez won’t spend all four seasons at left field. After this season, first baseman Mike Napoli is a free agent and the 33-year-old could be nearing the end of his career. There is also the fact that designated hitter David Ortiz is 39 and has two team options left on his contract. There could be an opportunity where either Napoli or Ortiz leave the team within the next year or so. This would allow Pablo Sandoval to move to the vacant first base or DH while freeing up third base for Ramirez.
Sorry Red Sox fans, the time of having great defensive left fielders appear to be over. There was a string of time where they had Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, and Jim Rice over the span of close to 50 years. These were three Hall of Fame left fielders that the Red Sox had and while both Manny and Hanley Ramirez could end up in the Hall of Fame, it won’t be because of their defense. While Hanley’s offense more than makes up for his lack of defense, don’t be surprised if he costs the Red Sox a couple of games while he is at it.