What A Difference A Year Makes

If you had told me at the beginning of the season that Hanley Ramirez would be the talk of Boston in September, I never would have believed you. If you told me a year ago that the Boston Red Sox were going to be the frontrunner in the American League East, I did not see that as a remote possibility. But here we stand in September, where both of these statements are true.

The Boston Red Sox made history this weekend beginning on Thursday night, where they hosted a four-game series versus the New York Yankees. They swept the Bronx bombers, winning three come-from-behind games, filled with clutch performances by many, but most notably by Hanley Ramirez. Thursday night Ramirez hit a 99 MPH fastball into the centerfield bleachers scoring the runs needed to win. Final score: 7-5 Red Sox. Sunday he would go on to hit two home runs in that game. He played stellar defense at first base. Monday night when the Sox traveled to Camden Yards to play a beat-up Orioles team, Ramirez snagged a diving catch to the right of first base to get a crucial out for surging Rick Porcello.

The real Hanley Ramirez stood up this season. The Ramirez that is locked in and engaged and is an exceptional offensive player. He is real. He is here. The conclusions one must come to about last year’s performance are 1) Ramirez was far more injured than he let on, 2) he was a diva about his placement in left field. 3) and because of all of these factors Ramirez just did not care. He gave up.  He was not the player that his statistics had shown him to be throughout his 10 years in the league.

The statistics show what a difference a season makes. Last season he scored 53 RBIs. This year he scored 106 RBIs thus far, plus 28 home runs, including the incredibly clutch bombs hit over the weekend. The batting average does not tell you all that much. Hanley is at .294 today and hit .249 last year. Prior to 2015, he had a batting average of .283 or better. This is what Red Sox ownership expected when signing a four-year contract with him for $88 million dollars. Today, he proudly earns that paycheck. Today, fans ask sarcastically, Pablo who?

Everything is coming together very nicely for the Boston Red Sox. Hanley is the change we wanted to see in this team for the last three years. However he is not the only one performing exceedingly well. Every member of this team contributes each game. Mookie Betts has been nothing short of unbelievable every single start. Two diving catches in a row on Sunday night, lots of doubles and a few home runs sprinkled in for good measure.  Xander Bogaerts worked his way out of a slump and back into the hearts of fans with his offense. And of course, David Ortiz, who shattered a record-breaking, career high 537 home runs, once held by Mickey Mantle.  Mantle had a career high 536 home runs at the end of his career in 1968.The bullpen, too, has been impressive. But perhaps more importantly, the management of the bullpen is leaps and bounds better than it was a few weeks ago. Fans see far less Junichi Tazawa and Matt Barnes, and more Heath Hembree, Koji Uehara, Brad Ziegler, and Craig Kimbrel combinations to close games.

While many want to credit Ramirez with the Red Sox winning ways, it has been everyone involved in this Red Sox organization that made the possibility of post-season play a reality.

It is this mix of strategy, heroic performances, team chemistry, and true grit that won it for Boston in 2013 and may help get them to October again.


About the author

Kara Jackman

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Kara Jackman is an Archivist at Boston University by day and a freelance writer by night. Her work has appeared in a number of regional, Massachusetts newspapers, non-profit newsletters, and Yawkey Way Report. A diehard Boston Red Sox fan since childhood, she contributes to Sports of Boston. Her interests are many and varied thanks to her four years at the College of the Holy Cross. At http://www.karajackman.com, she blogs about music, fitness and self-improvement. Kara resides in a suburb just outside the city of Boston.