So I guess when it comes to Hanley Ramirez, this is the bottom line:
Even for $22 million a season, you can't have it all. You have to make choices.
Either he "bulks up" and hits the ball hard, but plays the outfield like a jackass while carrying himself like a disinterested Little Leaguer.
Or, he "slims down'' and commits to playing a good first base, but completely losses his bat while carrying himself at something approaching (but still not quite reaching) a professional level.
You'd think for someone making $88 million guaranteed, that you could expect -- I dunno -- someone who plays well both offensively and defensively. Crazy, I know. You could also expect someone to act like an adult. But that holy trinity -- offense, defense, professionalism -- is apparently unattainable for Ramirez.
Ramirez has obviously been fine defensively. Since he found his glove in spring training, he's shown that he belongs out there. He's arrived to work (almost) every day and done the job. Most of us thought Hanley at first would be a disaster, but the player considered to be one of the biggest dogs in pro sports has shut up a lot of critics and proven a lot of us wrong.
Obviously, there has been a trade off. The Sox wanted him to be "more athletic," so off came the muscle. And down came the offense. After hitting his only home run in 35 games last week, Ramirez told us to "get ready, get your ticket -- first class, coach, whatever -- it’s about to get hot.” Since then, he's 4-for-24 with one extra base hit. He positively killed the Sox on Tuesday night against Chicago, striking out with the bases loaded in the third inning and again with runners at first and second in the eighth. He finished 0-for-4 with three stikeouts.
The Sox now rank 14th out of 15 American League teams in OPS from the first-base position (.710).
As for Ramirez' attitude, it's been better I suppose. He hasn't gotten hurt yet, which is a huge upset. And he's been hustling on the bases, although he's still good for a ridiculous pickoff on occasion or running through a stop sign or two. His helmet stays on a little bit more. So the Sox have that going for them. Which is nice.
I don't know about you, but I half-expect Ramirez to turn back into a complete bozo at any moment. Then again, I expected that to happen from the beginning and it hasn't happened yet. As for the fielding, I'm sold. Most of us were dead wrong. He can play the position.
Now is it too much to ask for him to hit the baseball? Maybe "bulk up" again? And since doing all three things at once -- hitting, fielding, trying hard -- is apparently too much for him, why don't we let him loaf a little in the field? Or perhaps give him back that old helmet that flew off his head after every swing? Whatever. The Sox have to choose one.
Because when it all nets out, I'm not sure the new Hanley is any better than the old one.
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