Reimer: Hanley Ramirez intertwined with Pablo Sandoval in Red Sox infamy

Alex Reimer
May 25, 2018 - 1:03 pm

Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

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Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval will forever be intertwined in Red Sox infamy. They were brought on simultaneously to bolster the lineup, but all they did was hasten Ben Cherington’s departure. Four years later, they’re both off the team, leaving little more than discarded panda heads and helmets covered in pine tar. 

OK, it’s a bit unfair to present Ramirez and Sandoval as equals on the bust index. Sandoval was absolutely terrible, whereas Ramirez produced one 30-home run season. As of last month, when Ramirez was sitting on a .330 batting average and .874 OPS, it looked like he was on track for another one. He hit third for 38 of the team’s 50 games. It is shocking the Red Sox decided to designate Ramirez for assignment Friday so they could make room for the returning Dustin Pedroia. The move to oust Sandoval last season was an inevitability. 

But it’s clear the Red Sox made the right baseball choice –– for now and the future. Ramirez hit .163/.200/.300 this month, bringing his OPS down to .708. That ranks 30th among 44 first basemen with at least 100 plate appearances.

With 195 plate appearances under his belt, Ramirez was well on his way to reaching the necessary 497 trips to the plate he needed for his $22 million option to vest. That means the Red Sox, who are right up against the luxury tax this season, would have had no significant financial wiggle room entering 2019. That’s bad news for a team that needs to come up with $300 million to re-sign Mookie Betts, never mind potentially keep Chris Sale and/or Craig Kimbrel. 

Mitch Moreland is better than Ramirez in all facets of the game right now. The veteran is slashing hitting .311/.390/.612 in 25 starts. Numbers like those warranted more playing time. Moreland is also a much better defender than Ramirez. 

The beginning of Ramirez’s Red Sox career began comedically, with him smashing home runs and looking completely lost in the outfield. Then he banged into a wall and the season ended disastrously. At the end of 2015, Sandoval and Ramirez were two of the top culprits for the Red Sox latest last-place finish. 

To make matters worse, the Red Sox flourished at the end of the year, when both Sandoval and Ramirez were out of the lineup nursing enigmatic ailments. 

Sandoval’s 2016 campaign ended April 10, when he broke his belt and tore his shoulder in his first start of the season. At that point, it was impossible for Sandoval to sink any lower. Ramirez, back with an infused personality and surprisingly good defense at first base, smacked 30 home runs and helped lead the Red Sox back to October.

But that was the only period in which the Red Sox got consistent production from Ramirez, who also missed portions of the 2017 campaign with another shoulder injury. The Red Sox outlaid more than $200 million to bring Ramirez and Sandoval in. It will go down as maybe the most futile spending spree in franchise history.

There is little doubt it’s one of the most curious. Less than 12 months earlier, then-CEO Larry Lucchino boasted about the Red Sox’ newfound fiscal responsibility at the Boston Baseball Writers’ Dinner. He mocked the Yankees for splurging in free agency. The Red Sox, stockpiled with young talent, had found a better way. 

Then one last-place finish later, they reversed course. Ramirez and Sandoval were introduced. The party was back on. 

The Red Sox have kept spending since then. They brought in Dave Dombrowski, who’s given David Price the richest deal in team history and paid J.D. Martinez $110 million. The entire farm system is almost gone as well.

But aggressiveness is Dombrowski’s MO. Cherington, meanwhile, was always viewed as a conservative operator. It just seemed strange the Red Sox would spend so lavishly on clearly declining players soon after declaring they were no longer going to do that. 

They are paying the price for their recklessness. With Ramirez now DFA’d, the Red Sox owe $35 million in dead money to players this season. Sandoval and Allen Craig, who was acquired midway through 2014, are collecting the other checks alongside Adrian Gonzalez. 

On a whim, the Red Sox decided to switch course and sign Ramirez and Sandoval. They are an expensive reminder that impulse shopping almost never works out. 

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