Hanley Ramirez is proving me wrong.
That’s something I never thought I would say, as long as he was playing first base for the Boston Red Sox. But yet, here we are, and it couldn’t feel better.
Back in February, as players trickled into Spring Training, I flipped out when Ramirez decided to leave the team for a quick trip to Miami during the first optional weekend for positional players. I also crushed Pablo Sandoval for showing up looking like a slob and telling us he had nothing to prove.
As you know, Sandoval didn’t prove me wrong. He lost his starting job to Travis Shaw. And now he’s out for the season after having shoulder surgery earlier this week.
While I never root for an injury, the fact of the matter is the Red Sox have been just fine without Sandoval. And since he’s done for the year, I really don’t feel the need to spend any more time talking about him. The same can’t be said for Ramirez, who has exceeded all of my expectations at a position he never played until this year.
I told you he would be a disaster at first base. I was wrong. At least, that’s he way it looks through the first month of the regular season.
Ramirez is an infielder by trade. He played shortstop for most of his Major League career. He also played nearly 100 games at third base in 2012. But last year, he played left field. We all know how that worked out.
Part of the problem with Ramirez in the outfield was his seemingly low interest level. So low, that the idea of putting in extra work seemed inconceivable.
So far, Ramirez seems to enjoy being back in the infield. The responsibilities are different than at shortstop or third base, but he’s handling them just fine.
I think part of that success — zero errors through the first month — has to do with a renewed passion for the game. Ramirez’ attitude is a pleasant surprise. He’s putting in the effort, he’s hustling every single night, and he’s having a lot of fun doing it.
Oh yeah, he’s also producing at the plate.
Wait, what’s that? There are people telling you Ramirez is struggling offensively because he only has two home runs through his first 23 games of the season?
Right. About that. You see, here’s the thing. In my world, to judge a man by his slugging percentage and, ultimately, his .OPS in the first week of May is absurd.
Obviously the hope is that Ramirez averages more than one home run a month. But let’s not get so caught up in the stat-game that we’re no longer acknowledging batting average. Because following Tuesday night’s loss in Chicago where he hit his second home run of the season, Ramirez’ average was .284 and his RBI total was 16. Yet, some can’t get over the fact that it was only his second long-ball of the year.
I’ve taken too many calls on my radio show and received too many tweets from people expressing their concerns with Ramirez’ approach at the plate this year. They don’t like how he’s driving the ball to the opposite field. They’d rather see him pulling everything down the left-field line or ripping balls into the Monster seats.
I’ll tell you what I told them. If Ramirez continues with his current approach, those things will come.
His home run in Chicago on Tuesday was hit to right field. You shouldn’t have a problem with that. Also, you shouldn’t have a problem with his two-run single that he hit up the middle on Sunday night against the Yankees that tied the game at 3-3. Had Ramirez abandoned his current approach in that at-bat, he would’ve never even got a piece of Nathan Eovaldi’s slider, low-and-away.
The 2015 Ramirez would have pulled his head out while trying to put it on the Mass Pike. He would have swung-and-missed. His helmet would have been bouncing in the dirt.
Right now, Ramirez is using the opposite field and is playing much better defense than I ever would have imagined.
He’s proving me wrong. And I have no problem with it.