After the puzzling/shocking news broke earlier on Friday that the Boston Red Sox had decided to part ways with starting first baseman Hanley Ramirez in order to activate Dustin Pedroia from the disabled list, one question stood firmly in my mind:
What the F— are the Red Sox doing?
I feel like this question could be the title of a sitcom these days, and we’d currently be in the middle of at least the second or third season. I mean, there’s been so many other iterations of this – the Pablo Sandoval signing, the Carl Crawford signing, trading for Adrian Gonzalez, trading Anthony Rizzo, hiring John Farrell – at this point the show would be close to syndication.
Listen, I get the reasoning why you’d think cutting bait with Ramirez makes sense. He’s getting paid $22 million this year to bat .163 in the month of May (after hitting .330 in March/April). He was well on his way to earning enough at-bats to pick up his vesting option for next season, meaning the Sox would have to pay him another $22 million to likely bat .250 or lower. The performances of Mitch Moreland and J.D. Martinez at the plate should place Ramirez on the bench, but can you really sit a guy you’re paying that much money to on a regular basis? Plus, we all know that Hanley doesn’t have the greatest attitude, and the fact that he hadn’t yet pitched a fit when being asked/told to play first base routinely was pretty surprising.
But you’re cutting the guy that has started 44 games and hit in the heart of the order just because he slumped for a few weeks? Or because you either didn’t want to platoon him with Moreland or didn’t have the nerve to deal with whatever reaction he was going to have? Seriously?
Right now, Moreland is the better option at first base. His defense is much better than Hanley’s, and he’s currently batting .311 with more HRs than Ramirez in nearly 60 fewer at-bats. And you’re definitely not benching one of the best hitters in the AL (or according to Frank Thomas the best hitter in the game) to play Ramirez at DH.
But who’s to say that Moreland is going to continue to rake this season now that the Sox are giving him the full-time gig at 1B? Are we forgetting that Moreland hit .246 last season? Or that in four of the last five years he’s hit .246 or lower? History would seem to indicate that this isn’t going to last, and that a lengthy slump is on the horizon. Hopefully for Mitch’s sake, the Sox won’t need to make another roster move when he’s three weeks into a rough patch at the plate, otherwise Mitchy Two Bags might be sending tweets thanking the city of Boston too.
If Moreland slumps, or gets injured, who’s playing first base for the Red Sox? Do we really think that Blake Swihart can play first regularly, and more importantly, do we think that the Red Sox would be willing to let him play there? If the Sox hadn’t completely ruined/destroyed/lit fire to Swihart’s confidence/will to play baseball, then I’d be fully behind letting him have a shot at first base. But that was already an episode arc on “What the F— are the Red Sox doing?”
The Sox could always just put their scrappy little utility guy the Brock Star at first… though his production is likely to come to a screeching halt as well. There’s always Sam Travis… and his lofty .222 average in Pawtucket this season. Maybe we can convert another infielder to play 1B, since that worked so seamlessly with Hanley…
In typical Boston fashion, the only thing more puzzling than cutting Ramirez when there were other options – cutting Swihart, sending Holt or JBJ down to Pawtucket, coming up with a fake injury for Eduardo Nunez, Rick Porcello, or someone else (like they did with Hector Velazquez this season and with Clay Buchholz every single time he stunk) – was the explanation given by Dave Dombrowski and Alex Cora.
Dombrowski basically threw all the blame/credit to Cora, because he’s likely sick of being completely wrong on any/all personnel moves (see all those previous episodes above). It was all Cora’s idea, Dave wanted to go in a different direction, but Alex convinced him before his run that Hanley should go. He’s too good of a player to move to a bench role, and the team wanted to get Moreland and Swihart more ABs but couldn’t figure out how to do it with Hanley still on the roster. And this had nothing to do with the money that they owe Ramirez.
There’s a whole season worth of nonsense right there. Hopefully we get renewed for more episodes.
Your center fielder has nearly the same season average as Hanley has in the month of May, and you claim that Swihart can still play the outfield, yet he hasn’t gotten one start in the outfield this season? He can also still catch, and your catchers are hitting .209 with one home run in 50 games, and he hasn’t sniffed the plate yet either. But miraculously, cutting a first baseman will give him all these options, even playing 1B where you’ve stuck him for a grand total of four innings. Makes sense.
And if you want to get Moreland more ABs, here’s a novel idea: play him more. You can stick Martinez in the outfield (all you advanced stat people can stop about how many runs JBJ is saving in the outfield, because he’s not doing anything to earn them at the plate), play Moreland at first, and DH Hanley. Problem solved Alex/Dave. Damn, I could be a manager… I mean if John Farrell did it anyone can, right?
Don’t give me this whole “well we don’t want to pay him next season” garbage either. Your payroll is higher than the Yankees’, you claimed you didn’t want to pay a big salary to anyone last offseason and then signed Martinez for $110 million (which looks like a bargain right now), and you suck every single penny out of Red Sox Nation – love those $11 beers at Fenway, luckily, I like my drinks fruity. You’re paying Rusney Castillo $72.5 million to stay off your 40-man roster… so please spare me with this whole “can’t afford/don’t want to pay Hanley” nonsense. You can afford him, re-sign Kimbrel, and back the Brinks truck up for Betts all at the same time if you really want to.
The explanations also made it sound like Ramirez wasn’t even asked if he would platoon with Moreland or if he’d be okay with taking fewer at-bats to help the team when Pedroia was activated and in the lineup.
That alone signals that the Red Sox have no idea what they are doing. Were they too afraid that Hanley would be fine with it, because then they would risk having to give him regular ABs again if/when an injury occurs? Were they that afraid of paying his vesting option? If so, did they just realize that option would be activated by at-bats?
Did they think that Hanley would cause a scene or lead a revolt in the clubhouse if they brought the issue up with him? If he’s that much of a problem in the clubhouse, then why not just cut him in the offseason or at any point in his tenure in Boston? He seemed to be in great spirits this season and there were no rumblings of any issues or concerns with his attitude, which was a first during his time in Boston. Do we really think that he was such an important leader that the rest of the team would be up in arms if he wasn’t playing every day? And do we think that the manager wouldn’t be able to control his brigade? I mean, if Farrell was still in charge then yes that would totally be believable, but Cora is supposed to be a player’s manager and be completely in charge. He’s been in a locker room as a player and a coach, and he should be able to handle a player being upset over getting benched. If not, then he’s not the right fit here in Boston.
Maybe I’ll be wrong about this whole Hanley situation… god knows I was totally wrong (so far) about the Martinez signing. But if this ended up being the wrong move, if the Sox suddenly need a 1B or DH, if they can’t hit yet again in the postseason (Hanley rakes in the playoffs), and/or if Ramirez lands on an AL contender (please don’t go to the Yankees!), then we’ll look back at Friday and wonder why in the world the Sox’ brass made this move.
And by then, we’ll be on Season 6 of “What the F— are the Red Sox doing?”.
Adam Belue (@albinomamba44)