Hanley Ramirez was one of the top prospects in baseball when the Boston Red Sox traded him to Florida in November 2005. Over the next nine years Ramirez matured into one of the League’s most lethal offensive threats despite his shaky defense. That was the player Red Sox fans thought they were getting when Boston brought Hanley back to Fenway 10 years later by way of a 4 year, $88 million deal. But, it didn’t happen.
Ramirez’ first full season in Boston started in unfamiliar territory in more ways than one. With young star SS Xander Bogaerts in the line-up, the Sox moved Hanley to left field. Left field in Fenway is one of the toughest in the game because of the unpredictability of the Green Monster. A ball could careen off it and roll 5 inches or 50 feet. This transition would have been tough on any player but Hanley had a devil of a time. In addition to his defensive struggles, the Dominican slugger’s usually potent offense went MIA as he batted a paltry .249 with 19 HR and only 53 RBI.
So, it should come as no surprise that Red Sox and baseball fans everywhere called it ludicrous when the Sox announced Hanley would transition again in 2016, this time to first base. Ramirez worked diligently with Sox infield instructor Brian Butterfield in Spring Training to ease the move, and it has paid off.
The Hanley of old is back in 2016. In addition to looking better defensively than he ever has in his career (only 4 E3’s in 950 total chances at first base) his offense has also returned. As of September 16, Ramirez is batting .284 with 25 HR and 100 RBI (he needs seven more for a new career high).
The turnaround that Ramirez has made in 2016 mirrors that of his team. The Red Sox are smack dab in the heart of what is becoming a thrilling pennant race in the AL East. Currently Boston leads the division by 2 games over Baltimore and Toronto (New York is only 5 back).
Ramirez’ arguable biggest hit of the season came last night. With the Red Sox down 5-3 in the bottom of the 9th to the Yankees, Hanley nailed a towering 3 run walk-off homer off All-Star Closer Dellin Betances to give Boston a thrilling comeback win. It was Boston’s first walk-off moonshot against the Yankees since 2013.
If he isn’t already a favorite for it, Ramirez’ name can’t be far from Comeback Player of the Year talks. His reemergence has helped get Boston where they are. If he keeps it up over the final 2 and a half weeks of the season, the Red Sox chances for October look pretty good.