Yesterday, Dave Dombrowski held a press conference, as he has been known to do. During the conference, he mentioned Hanley Ramirez. He said that the team was fully committed to having Hanley at first base in 2016, and he was too.
People went nuts.
I have no idea why.
First, let’s cover the point that, yes, of course that what he would say during a press conference. He’s not going to sit there publically and say, “Yeah, this guy is a waste of a roster spot. Trust me, if I could deal him tomorrow I would even if I had to eat all of his contract.” Who would that help? What if he then can’t move Hanley? How would that work out next spring? How would that help him find a trade partner? He would have to at least pretend that Hanley had some value to the team, or every negotiation would be a waste of time. Even if he didn’t mean it.
But, of course he means it. Why wouldn’t he?
Most of the reaction yesterday was “I’d rather have Shaw at first.” This reaction would scare me more if it wasn’t so easy to dismiss. Clearly if you’d rather have Shaw at first, you just aren’t thinking and going for the quick sound bite. Because, in order for Shaw to play first base, Hanley can’t be. So, what are you doing with Hanley? That’s actually an important question…because you have to pay the man. So if you cut Hanley, or trade him and eat his contract, you’re still paying the money. So, now you’re paying Travis Shaw $20 million to play first base. Now, if you don’t think Hanley’s worth $20 million, Shaw sure as heck isn’t.
It’s always interesting to me how fans love to project numbers. They love to assume that a young player who has a decent couple months is going to be an all-star next year. By the same token, a guy who has a down couple months is lousy and needs to be dumped. They’re doing that with Hanley and Shaw. Look at the numbers. Taking a quick check of the oWAR on baseball reference shows Shaw with a 1.2 and Hanley with a 0.8. This was Shaw’s performance at the pressure-less end of a lost season, compared to Hanley playing hurt when the games still counted. This was quite a drop for Hanley, who just last year was the NL leader in slugging percentage. This was, of course, the first such season for Shaw. So, which one do you think has the best chance of being better next season? The guy who’s done it his entire career, or the guy who had a good couple months?
You can think that Ramirez is overpaid. He just might be. But, that doesn’t mean he needs to be shipped away to have an inferior/riskier player take his place. If that were true, the Sox wouldn’t need this “ace” thing that fans keep clamoring for. Rick Hill would be that guy.
My other favorite reason for dumping Hanley is because his bad attitude poisoned the team. Really? That’s what you’re picking as the reason for the Sox demise? Ok. I’ll play along. Who did he poison? His best friend on the team was David Ortiz. They probably spent the most time together. Did Hanley bring down Ortiz’s stats? Ortiz and his 3.2 WAR? Did he drag down the production of the guy who hit 37 HR and drove in 108 runs? With his 913 OPS? I think it’s safe to say that Hanley didn’t do a thing to those numbers. Ok. Who else? Can we dismiss Mookie Betts? And Xander Bogaerts? Thanks. Brock Holt and his all-star appearance? No effect from Hanley there. Dustin Pedroia had an off year. What about him? Maybe. Although, people keep insisting to me that Pedroia is everything that the Red Sox need. That his attitude actually brings up the rest of the team. (Why we’re so excited about a player whose attitude led a team to last place three out of four years is a story for another day.) So, obviously Hanley would never be able to penetrate the force field of Pedroia’s personality. Who else you got? Blake Swihart? I think I’d argue that the rookie probably exceeded a lot of expectations. Especially after being thrust into the role. The other outfielders? Was Jackie Bradley struggling because of Hanley’s attitude? Doubt that. Frankly, not sure there was all that much common time between the two anyway. Shane Victorino? Did he not come back from an injury because Hanley was a bastard? Really? Can’t bring myself to think that. Mike Napoli? Sure, he had that great spring, and just fell off the face of the earth during the season. Pablo Sandoval? He had a pretty horrid season of his own. But, are we thinking that a poor attitude of a player affected a seasoned vet and a guy with three rings? Wasn’t Nap one of the leaders in 2013? Did he go from a leader to a follower all of a sudden? Not buying that either. Anyone else? I can’t bring myself to say Hanley needs to go to help save the clubhouse. In fact, when you actually think about it instead of trying to get retweets on a 140 character opinion, you see it's the obvious conclusion.
Which is why I want to see Hanley at first base for the Red Sox on Opening Day.