Red Sox

Sox enter new year with old problems: Ramirez, Sandoval

newsletter-sandoval-ramirez.jpg

Sox enter new year with old problems: Ramirez, Sandoval

Nothing good about the last couple of days for Hanley Ramirez, Pablo Sandoval and the Red Sox reaction to them.

Sandoval has the worst season of his career after signing for huge dollars in Boston, and how does he respond? By showing up the next year looking like he swallowed the bat boy

Ramirez has a 2015 season where he became a laughing stock in left field, was out of the lineup for over 50 games and didn't hit a home run after the All-Star break, and how does he respond? By loafing through a couple of days of ground balls using a borrowed glove before taking the weekend off.

So Sandoval is fat and Ramirez doesn't even have his equipment ready to go. Should we really be shocked? Ramirez is one of the great dogs in all of professional sports. And Sandoval clearly has no problem with the fact he's let himself go, stating for the record yesterday that "I didn't try to lose weight.''

But the cherry on top is the reaction of the Sox. Crank up the excuse generator.

Late last season and into the winter, interim manager Torry Lovullo and new president Dave Dombrowski talked about Sandoval needing to lose weight. Manager John Farrell in January went so far as to say he had lost 20-22 pounds.

But yesterday, with Sandoval exploding out of his shorts, Farrell was left to do some typical double-talk and sunshine-blowing. He said the Sox might have anticipated there was a  "potential'' for weight loss, but that "no specific number was given.'' He made sure to point out that Sandoval was in better shape than he was at the end of last year, which might technically be true (but probably isn't). Either way, how could he be in any worse shape? Is that even possible? 

As for Ramirez, Butterfield had to tap dance as well. He said that during their half-speed drills there was "no panic to his (meaning, Mike Napoli's) glove.''  He said Ramirez was "bending well,'' that he was "confident'' and "energetic.'' 

So energetic that he then left camp for his home in Miami. Perhaps to get his glove. Meanwhile, the local Domino's franchises in Ft. Myers rejoice. Sandoval's still there. 

E-mail Felger at mfelger@comcastsportsnet.com. Listen to Felger and Mazz weekdays from 2-6 p.m. on 98.5 FM. The simulcast runs daily on Comcast SportsNet. 

How Martinez rose from ashes of Astros release to Red Sox stardom

How Martinez rose from ashes of Astros release to Red Sox stardom

Good things come to those who wait. And while it’s hard to knock the results of the Houston Astros’ “process,” a new piece from Sports Illustrated details how J.D. Martinez has them wishing they waited a little longer.

Coming off an age-25 season that saw him hit just .250 with a .650 OPS, Martinez was desperate to change in 2013. After all, with limited speed and a below-average glove, Martinez’s bat was his livelihood.

“J.D., you’re not even a career .700 OPS hitter,” said then-Astros hitting coach John Mallee. “You don’t steal bags. You’re not a Gold Glover. You have to hit… You can make enough money to live off of, at least until you become too expensive to keep around. But that’s it. Unless you change something.”

After studying perennial All-Stars like Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, and Ryan Braun, Martinez realized his entire swing needed an overhaul, and turned to Astros teammate Jason Castro for advice. Martinez’s journey with Castro is a long one, taking him from Houston to California to Venezuela and, finally, to Kissimmee, Florida, home of the Astros’ Spring Training complex.  

MORE RED SOX

With a new swing in his toolbox, a revamped enthusiasm and energy, and a desperation to prove himself, all Martinez needed was an opportunity. But the Astros didn't oblige. Houston -- coming off a 111-loss season -- released Martinez after just 18 exhibition at-bats, not even seeking anything in return. Martinez couldn't make the worst team in the league.

Instead of sulking, however, Martinez was motivated -- driven to make the Astros' lack of confidence in his adjustments haunt them.

"You guys are going to see me," Martinez told Houston teammates José Altuve and Dallas Keuchel after being released. "Don't worry about it. I'll be good. I promise you."

Martinez caught on with the Detroit Tigers and the rest, as they say, is history. He used his new swing to slug his way to the top of a myriad of offensive categories and now, four years after being released, there is perhaps no more feared slugger in baseball than Martinez, who has two more home runs (37) than his team has losses (35).

Martinez’s road to the top has been long, but serves as a reminder that in a sport increasingly driven by data, the game is played by humans, and not even the most thorough algorithms can compute a human’s drive to succeed.

NBC SPORTS BOSTON SCHEDULE