By Dick Flavin
Boston Red Sox Poet Laureate
and New York Times Best Selling Author
HAS ANYBODY HERE SEEN HANLEY?
Now that the dust has settled, the duckboats have been parked, and the trophy has been
repaired after being wounded by the in-coming barrage of beer cans during the parade,
what would you say was the key moment that allowed the Red Sox win the World Series?
Not the moment that Manny Machado made that final, futile swing that ended with him
on one knee, genuflecting in the direction of the Red Sox dugout (although that was
sweet, wasn’t it?); I’m talking about the moment that made it all possible; the division
title, the pennant, the World Series victory, and the duckboat parade.
I submit that moment came at 11:30 on the morning of Thursday, May 24 th .
That’s when president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski’s phone rang. On the
other end of the line was manager Alex Cora with a bold and even courageous
suggestion. There had been a plan in place to trade little-used catcher and jack-of-all-
positions Blake Swihart the following day in order to make room on the roster for Dustin
Pedroia, who was coming off the disabled list (Pedroia wouldn’t be off the list for long;
his bad knee flared up again after only three games, putting him out of action for the
season.). Cora advocated for keeping Swihart and giving another player his walking
Does anyone remember Hanley Ramirez? I didn’t think so.
Ramirez was one of the high profile, and high priced, members of the team. He’d been
one half of the twin signings (twin disasters?) that were announced on the same day back
in November of ‘14, the other half being the immortal Pablo Sandoval. The two would
cost the Red Sox a total of 183 million dollars, plus one belt buckle, to replace the one
which the, dare we say, chubby, Sandoval famously popped one day while taking a
mighty swing. In addition, it eventually cost general manager Ben Cherrington his job,
which is why Dave Dombrowski was brought to Boston in the first place. Everything in
baseball is interconnected, isn’t it?
The signing of Ramirez was a cause for celebration in Boston. He had been signed by the
Red Sox originally and was an elite prospect, but he was traded to the Miami Marlins
prior to the 2006 season as the key component in a deal that brought Mike Lowell and
Josh Beckett to Boston. He won National League rookie of the year honors in 2006 and
was the National League batting champion in 2009. But red flags were raised along the
way. In 2010 he was benched for lack of hustle by Marlins’ manager Fredi Gonzalez
when he just jogged after a ball, allowing two runners to score. It led to a war of words
and the ultimate firing of Gonzalez. In subsequent years with the Los Angeles Dodgers
he developed a tendency toward injuries and was often out of action.
Ramirez had a lousy year for the Sox in 2015, a pretty good one in ’16, then another
stinkeroo in ’17 when he batted .242 with 23 home runs and a measly 62 runs batted in.
He’d been off to a good start this April, but that quickly faded, and he was batting only
.163 for the month of May and was hitless in his last twenty-one plate appearances. Still,
it would be a shock to the baseball world, including Ramirez himself, if such a big name
player were to be dumped.
Dombrowski and Cora had a relatively new relationship, the rookie manager was less
than two months into his first season at the helm, but he had already earned the baseball
ops boss’s respect; he had a feel for the clubhouse and for the needs of his team.
Dombrowski took his advice to heart, the trade-Swihart plan was put aside, and at 3:45
the next morning, when the team returned from a road game in Tampa Bay, Ramirez was
given the word that he was history.
It seems now that he is ancient history. He has been seen or heard from since then about
as often as Jimmy Hoffa. And the Red Sox have never looked back. In July they acquired
Steve Pearce, something which could never have happened if Ramirez were still on the
roster. That’s the same Steve Pearce who was named MVP of the World Series. He and
Mitch Moreland have worked in tandem to handle the first base duties ably and
Ramirez came to town with the reputation of someone who could be a divisive force in
the clubhouse. He had been just that in his tours with the Marlins and the Dodgers, but it
was never an issue with the Red Sox. In fact he was exceedingly funny and accessible,
especially with children. But would he have been a problem if he had been demoted to a
bench-warmer, which would have happened if he stayed with Boston? That’s something
that we’ll never know. Thank goodness.
By saying goodbye to Ramirez the Red Sox ate approximately 15 million dollars, what
was due him for the remainder of 2018, but saved 22 million bucks from a vesting option
for 2019 that Ramirez was on track to reach. They will still be paying Sandoval for 2019.
Sandoval, as a matter of fact, has made a bit of a comeback as a back-up third
baseman/first baseman with his original team, the San Francisco Giants. In fact the
Giants announced at the end of October that they are picking up the option on his
contract, which is for the major league minimum of $550,000. The balance of the $18
million that he’s owed will be paid by John Henry and friends.
And what of Hanley Ramirez? Will he magically reappear in 2019 from the dust bin of
baseball history to make a dramatic comeback with some other team?
To borrow a phrase from that great baseball savant, Rhett Butler, “Frankly, my dear, I
don’t give a damn.”