Hanley Ramirez was one of my least-favorite players last year. No point in beating around the bush about it; read any of my 2017 articles and there’s probably at least one dig at the DH.
But can you really blame me? In the Red Sox’s first season without David Ortiz, Hanley Ramirez was abysmal; there’s really no other way to describe him. He batted a career-low .242 with just 23 home runs and a shockingly-low 62 RBIs. He stranded more runners on base than he batted in runs. While his teammates experienced disappointing drop-off’s in their stats from 2016 to 2017, Hanley seemed to fall off a cliff. His 2016 numbers had been 30 homers, 111 RBIs, and a .286 batting average. 2017 Hanley was not the Designated Hitter David Ortiz had groomed to replace him.
In fairness, Hanley spent a large chunk of the season on the DL, beset by injuries that would eventually require off-season surgery. But his attitude, one of reticence and sullenness, was what really ticked me off. He didn’t seem like he wanted to be here, and Red Sox Nation can sniff out a bad vibe like a bloodhound in a British hunting party.
This season is young, but we’re seeing a completely different Hanley Ramirez. He has 29 RBIs, nearly half his 2017 total. With 6 homers, he’s still far from his teammates Mookie and JD, but a strong start. After getting nailed in the hand by Yankees pitcher Sonny Gray, he homered in his first at-bat back. And he’s batting .271.
But it’s not just his performance at the plate; mentally, Hanley seems like a new man. He announced during spring training that he plans to have a 30-30 season, and he’s already more than 10% of the way there on both fronts. He looks happy and carefree. He’s becoming a team leader. He’s taken to tweeting little postgame recaps on his personal Twitter, cheering on his teammates and celebrating their success. I imagine it’s what 2004 would’ve been like if we’d had Twitter back then.
Hanley joking around with fans and goofs off in the dugout during games has been a highlight of the season for Red Sox Nation; we love to see our team have fun as much as we love to see them win. On Mother’s Day, he danced around in the pink catching gear. Yesterday, he brought a megaphone around with him pre and post-game, and announced to fans, “don’t worry, in 3 days, we’re back!” All signs point to success for the slugger, and he seems to be enjoying it as much as we are.
Hanley Ramirez isn’t taking himself too seriously this season, but he’s serious about baseball. That’s a welcome, winning combination.