By Ty Anderson, 985TheSportsHub.com
Red Sox front office head Dave Dombrowski wants you to know that he made the final call for the organization to designate veteran Hanley Ramirez for assignment on Friday.
But he wasn’t afraid to tell you that it was manager Alex Cora’s idea.
Not to psychoanalyze things (as fun as that is, especially in sports), but that pass-it-around approach alone seems to speak to the fact that this group knows that this is something that has the potential of biting them in the ass.
And if you ask me, it undoubtedly will.
According to Dombrowski, that aforementioned final call was made on Ramirez for a number of reasons; Dustin Pedroia, activated on Friday after missing the first 50 games of the season due to offseason knee surgery, had finally finished his five-game rehab run with Triple-A Pawtucket. The Red Sox did not want to give up on third-string catcher Blake Swihart or lose him for nothing, and trading somebody like Brock Holt or Eduardo Nunez didn’t appeal to them. Cora also wanted to play Mitch Moreland more, and he didn’t believe that the 34-year-old Ramirez would handle sitting on the bench well.
Well, that’s a lot.
Let’s first be honest about Hanley’s May: It’s been horrendous.
Last night, which saw Ramirez strike out three times in four at-bats en route to a 6-3 loss in Tampa Bay, was probably the low point of his season. And after finishing the first month of the season with a .341 average with three homers and 17 RBIs in 22 games, No. 13’s May to forget has seen his average drop down to .254 with just six homers and 29 RBIs. It’s been undeniably bad, and the Red Sox needed something to change. Or at the very least ease back on Hanley’s reckless swings while he got his swing back to where it needed to be.
But to ditch your No. 3 hitter and a proven postseason performer because of your belief in a career-long, platoon-friendly talent, redundant spare parts that aren’t producing at top-tier levels, and a third catcher you’ve refused to play is… dumb.
And this sub-idea that you couldn’t have a co-existing lineup featuring J.D. Martinez, Moreland, and Ramirez all playing at the same time is garbage, and just dishonest. In fact, that lineup trifecta — with Moreland at first, Martinez in left, and Ramirez as the designated hitter — was Cora’s go-to in 15 of Boston’s 50 games this season. The Sox posted a 9-6 record and outscored their opponents 82-67 over that 15-game sample. The Red Sox offense has produced the same with that combo as they have with other lineup variations.
The simple way to add Pedroia to that mix would have been to have him sub in for Nunez at second base.
Appeasing those playing time requests took 45 seconds of thought, and something that could have been accomplished at the expense of somebody far less important to their 2018 success in what is a definite win-now year.
In essence, you could have had Pedroia return and also work on ‘fixing’ Ramirez. In no world should these things have been viewed as mutually exclusive, especially given some of the other weaknesses and redundancies on the Boston roster.
Also: Moreland, while off to a tremendous start with a .311 average and seven homers, has not hit lefties well. That’s remained true even with this hot start, as he’s hitting just .240 (6-for-25 with one homer) against left-handed pitching this season. Moreland is one of nine Sox batters hitting .240 or worse against lefties this season, too. Ramirez, meanwhile, was batting .333 (fourth-best among Boston hitters) and posting an .854 OPS (third-best on the team) against lefties this year.
Finding a platoon situation that benefitted everybody, and didn’t turn Ramirez into a true ‘bench player’ was there.
And while we’re throwing numbers out there, here’s some more: Ramirez is hitting .389 with three homers and nine RBIs six games against the Yankees this season. The Red Sox currently lead the Yankees for first place in the division by a single game, and have another 13 head-to-heads with the Yankees on deck, including a regular-season finale series. That series could make the difference between the division title and a one-game playoff, and you’d prefer Hanley’s bat in there.
Ramirez was also hitting .423 with five RBIs in seven postseason games with the Red Sox since 2016, including a .571 average in last year’s four-game first-round loss to the Astros. Given how terrible Boston’s offense has been in back-to-back postseasons, and with American League loaded up on pitching, robbing your lineup of that bat seems… again, dumb.
Contrary to what Dombrowski is peddling, this was not a ‘baseball move’ related to this season. This was 100 percent done so that the Red Sox could avoid paying Ramirez for his $22 million vesting option in 2019, which was creeping up on them like there was no tomorrow due to Hanley’s plate appearances tallying up without any sort of injury there to slow him down.
If you were on board with this move because of the potential $22 million vesting option actually kicking in, get over it.
The Red Sox are already a luxury tax regular, and have as much as dead money on their books as the Oakland A’s do for their entire payroll. I think at this point we’re all a lot smarter than to believe that the Red Sox have a legitimate budget or will shy away from spending money if they think it will truly make a difference. The J.D. Martinez story that dominated this past offseason and this team’s recent history easily dispel all of that. Hanley’s money would have nothing to do with the Red Sox re-signing a piece of their currently-affordable core, nor would it hold them out of any free agent additions.
Oh, and it’s not your money. And if you think it is, or that it genuinely affects your life as a fan, realize that tickets behind a pole already run you $65 before fees and a player tee runs you almost $40 at Fenway, so how much worse is it really gonna get? The average fan has been priced out since before the days of Carl Crawford, so don’t try to use that lame excuse to spin this into something it’s not until/unless the Sox spend or do not spend that $22 million on something real.
The fact of the matter is that the Red Sox got decidedly worse on Friday.
And for no real reason. At least as it pertains to their 2018 chances at a World Series.
Which is all that’s supposed to matter given this team’s spending everywhere else.
Ty Anderson is a digital producer for 985TheSportsHub.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of 98.5 The Sports Hub, Beasley Media Group, or any subsidiaries. Have a news tip, question, or comment for Ty? Follow him on Twitter @_TyAnderson.