Hanley Ramirez has arrived at Spring Training, and people have lost their minds. I suppose that on twitter, I should expect the occasional fool saying that they’re going to hide their eyes, or pretend it isn’t happening. But, even the media is solely focused on Hanley's play at first base. It’s like they’ve all pre-determined that this is going to be the story that they focus on all spring. Which, I suppose, is exactly what happened.
But, why is everyone so sure that Hanley is going to be such a failure at first? Because it’s an easy joke? Because saying “Hanley will play a solid if underwhelming first base” isn’t as much of a “hot take” as screaming that "everyone better hide their children when Hanley takes the field"?
I guess the first thing we should really do is define what “failure” means at first base. Do we really know what we’re talking about here? A first baseman probably gets about nine total chances per game. Seven or eight of those are going to be receiving a throw. The other one will be an assist or pop up. So, of those nine chances…how many do you think Hanley is going to screw up?
Let’s look at the eight putouts. Think back to a game. How many of those throws are “tough”? How many of them are one-hop ground balls to Pedroia where he throws the ball right at Hanley’s chest to get runner out by 30 feet? Or Xander? Most of them? Six? Can we assume six of the eight putouts are ones that even you could make? Honestly.
What about the other two? Can he stretch a little bit? Can he make some sort of play on a ball? Everyone seems to think Hanley was so terrible in the outfield, but he did move around a bit to make a play on the ball quite often, right? Hasn’t he been an infielder his entire career? I mean, in 2014 he had 246 assists at shortstop, for crying out loud. He’s not going to let every ball not thrown at his chest get by him.
So, nine chances per game. Six of which there can’t be any question at all he will make. So, how many of the others do people think he’s going to miss? Is he going to have the range of some other first basemen? Maybe not. Although, again, he is a career infielder. Is he going to make a perfect throw to second to start a double play? Maybe not. Although, how often does that actually come up?
So, what are people afraid Hanley is going to do?
I heard one person say that he was going to affect the entire infield. That Pedroia might think twice about throwing off-balance from his knees in a pathetic attempt to make a highlight reel if he doesn't think Hanley will bail him out and save him from making an error. (Or, something like that.) Seems to me that if an infielder is worried about the first baseman saving an error, it's probably a throw they shouldn't be making in the first place.
He's not going to make an error every game. He's not. He's probably not going to win the gold glove either...although that should be his goal. He might even be the worst defensive first baseman in the league. After all, somebody has to be. But, that doesn't mean he's a failure that is painful to watch.
Is he going to make errors? Absolutely. Will he make a dozen errors? Most likely. Will he make an error that costs the Sox a game? Sure. Lots of players do. Does that mean he's a failure at the position? Hardly. Because he's not going to be a failure. He'll be average.
Hanley's going to be just fine.