I’d been feeling a little sick to my stomach for much of the spring and had passed it off as a flukey cold or maybe a tick bite. I finally went to my doctor who checked me over, took some tests and then sat me down.
Well, nothing shows up, she said, but I do have a question for you: Have you been watching Hanley Ramirez play left field?
Bingo! Of course.
How can anyone follow the 2015 Boston Red Sox and not become ill? This is a team of high expectations and low reality. That reality includes horrible starting pitching, horrible hitting, and the horror of watching Hanley Ramirez patrol left field. Truth is, Hanley does not so much patrol left as he does explore it. I know this because I saw a lot of Sox games on TV in April and May before despair and disillusionment set in and my health declined.
Here are some things I saw: Hanley drifting (perfect word choice) back to the wall on a fly ball, then ducking — as if a water balloon had been thrown at him — as the ball dropped harmlessly at the base of the wall, having passed through the general area of where his glove would have been had he been standing up straight. Hanley meandering (again, on the money) towards the left field foul line more or less tracking a pop fly which eventually lands at his feet — below the general area where his glove would have been had he stuck it out — as the batter pulls into second for a double. Hanley launching (three for three!) a short throw to third that adopts the kind of parabola normally associated with NASA. The runner is safe . . no slide required.
To be fair, Hanley Ramirez’s play in left field is not the only reason the Red Sox are four games under .500 in a weak American League East division. They have a team batting average of .241, next to last in the league; their starting pitchers — five guys not named Jon Lester — are giving up almost six runs per game, also next to worst; sluggers like David Ortiz and Mike Napoli are not slugging; GM Ben Cherington gambled that converting the hard-hitting, newly-acquired Ramirez from shortstop to left field would pay off.
So why am I picking on Hanley? Because I go way back with baseball and adhere to that trite, pretentious philosophy that there is a right way to play the game. Granted, the Red Sox of the 50’s played the game a lot of ways besides “right” (google Don Buddin) but certain time-honored truths were instilled in me, mainly by my father. Truth #1 was that defensive fundamentals — making the plays and getting outs -— are the difference between winning and losing. I’m sure Hanley is trying, but so far the fundamentals are escaping him and runs are scoring as a result.
But, hey, there are four months left in the season and anything can happen. Maybe the pitchers will pitch, the hitters will hit, and Hanley Ramirez will begin to remind us of Yaz, Rice . . or even Manny. My health can wait.