Buster Olney

Buster Olney on MFB: David Ortiz's issues against lefties 'not something that you can live with for the rest of the year'

June 10, 2015 - 9:43 am
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ESPN baseball analyst Buster Olney made his weekly appearance on Middays with MFB on Wednesday afternoon to offer his take on Hanley Ramirez, David Ortiz and why the Red Sox still have a shot to make the postseason. To hear the interview, go to the Middays with MFB audio on demand page. No matter how far along in the season it is, there still are questions as to whether Ramirez is best suited for left field or not. It's been mentioned that maybe switching him to a different position could be the best way to fix the problem and still have him hit. Olney said that while Ramirez might be willing to put the time in during the offseason, having him switch over in the midst of the summer isn't ideal. "I just saw the Dodgers over the weekend, and I was talking with some guys there about Hanley and about what was going on with the Red Sox," he said. "And that conversation actually came up about do you put him at first base, do you do something else, and the Dodgers people that I talked with said one thing to keep in mind about Hanley, he does not like to be embarrassed, and that is a big issue for him. "With an offseason to prepare something like that, they sense he might be more open to [it]," Olney added, "but the idea that you would do it in season, that's not something Hanley would feel comfortable with at all because it would certainly leave him in a position at a place he's never played before where he would be embarrassed, and they say for Hanley that's a big deal." Manager John Farrell called Ramirez into his office with some of the other Red Sox leaders in Dustin Pedroia, Mike Napoli, David Ortiz and Pablo Sandoval about a week and a half ago for a meeting while they were in Texas. And though Ramirez was included with the other veterans, Olney said last year that he wasn't filling a leadership role as much as he had been in years prior. "In 2013, the Dodgers front office and people in the coaching staff respected Hanley's toughness, and they felt that Hanley, his at-bats and grinding out and staying in the lineup every day, that year, I heard that about him that they viewed him as a leader," he said. "Last year, when he was struggling after the contract stuff didn't work out with the Dodgers and they weren't re-signing him, I mean let's face it, they couldn't wait for him to get out the door. "When you're around the Dodgers this year, they believe it's a better atmosphere, and it isn't because people are saying 'Boy, Hanley's a bad guy,' " Olney continued. "It's just that their sense was last year he wasn't that happy, and maybe because he knew it wasn't going to work out there and they felt like that they a) had to solve the issue with a logjam and b) they had to get somebody other than Hanley to play shortstop. I mean it was telling that this guy who they traded for and had some success for them, they made no attempt to keep him, and they absolutely slammed the door behind him." And still plaguing an already struggling Sox offense is Ortiz's trouble hitting left-handers. In 72 plate appearances vs. lefty pitching, Ortiz has a slash line of .114/.111/.157 and has not drawn one walk. At some point, Olney said, the Red Sox have to get a feel for his thoughts on the lack of production. "As of today, there are 118 hitters in the major leagues who have at least 50 at-bats against lefties," he said. "He's got the lowest on-base percentage of all of them. ... That's not something that you can live with for the rest of the year. Either he's got to get better, or they have to find somebody who's going to be better, and they need to have a conversation with David about where he's at. "One general manager of another team said to me the other day, 'At some point, you really are 39 years old,' meaning at some point, you really actually stop being a productive player and certainly against lefties, it's been a huge issue for him," Olney said. "That lack of ability to take a walk speaks to perhaps a hitter who just doesn't want to get deep into a count." Whenever Ortiz does cut back or makes the decision to stop altogether, Olney said it will likely be the designated hitter who dictates the outcome. "The numbers are going to be the numbers, and the Red Sox are going to look to make their adjustments, and a lot of it depends on what he wants," he said. "We were just talking about Hanley and how Hanley maybe doesn't ever want to be in a position where he's going to be embarrassed. Does David want to? If David believes at some point he's not going to be able to bounce back, or if the Red Sox tell him 'Look, you're going to be a part-time player,' maybe he just decides that he doesn't want to be a platoon guy anymore because he's been such a great star during his career." Olney compared the decision to when Joe DiMaggio was nearing the end of his tenure with the Yankees. He was told the team would be shifting him over to right field so that Mickey Mantle could play center, and though he could still hit, DiMaggio opted to bow out. "At some point, David's going to have to make a similar decision," Olney said. Olney also continues to say that the Red Sox have the most "fixable roster" in the AL East, pointing to Eduardo Rodriguez as a large part of that. He noted that the trade for Rodriguez last year was not necessarily a mistake by the Orioles. "At the time that the Orioles made the trade [Rodriguez for Andrew Miller], people in that organization knew exactly why they wanted to make the trade," he said, "because they felt like they were going to take a shot at winning the World Series, and Andrew Miller was going to be a tremendous weapon for them down the stretch, and he was. That's probably the part that is not going to be remembered in 10 or 15 years when people start telling about how Eduardo Rodriguez went to the Red Sox and was an All-Star level pitcher, because that looks like what he's going to be."

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