Hanley Ramirez knows. He is not stupid. He is not clueless. This is his 13th year in the big leagues and his third season in Boston, and Ramirez knows he’s getting ripped in multiple media platforms.
He knows some folks think he simply doesn’t want to play first base. He knows there’s a perception that he’s a handful to manage. He admits to being immature and something of a manager-killer in his early big league life, but he wants you to know that’s not what’s happening now.
“It’s not like that,’’ Ramirez said while standing at his locker before batting practice Wednesday before the Red Sox played the Twins. “Fans believe what they hear. Those guys that are saying that about me should come in here, in the clubhouse, and do interviews and ask teammates. Don’t just create things that are not good for the team.
“We win as a team and we lose as a team and I’m one of the veteran guys here. We have a lot of young guys here and it’s not good for them to hear that.
“Tell them I can go live on the radio, too. They can ask me questions so the fans can hear because that’s not what is going on . . . I’m happy to be here. I get along with all of my teammates. They have my back.’’
After a redemption/breakout season in 2016 in which he hit .286 with 30 homers and 111 RBIs while playing 133 games at first base, Ramirez has struggled this season, particularly against lefthanded pitching, which he usually mashes. He’s missed 15 games with shoulder and knee injuries and is hitting only .241 with 10 homers and 29 RBIs. He has played only two games at first and there’s a widespread notion he simply doesn’t want to go back to the infield.
“Do you believe that?’’ he asked. “You’ve got to let everybody know that I’m here to win. I played left field my first year. I played first base last year. I’lll play anywhere. I just want to win.
“You’ve got to let everybody know that it’s not like that. My heart is the Red Sox. Those things you hear, sometimes they put bad things on friends’ heads. It’s not true. I want everybody to know that I’m here to win and I’ll do anything.
“I was drafted by the Red Sox [in 2000]. I belong here. I want to win here. When I got traded [in 2005], I was upset. This is my team.’’
Swell. But are you an easy player to manage or a hard player to manage?
“Easy,’’ Ramirez said. “John [Farrell] knows. I hit seventh, I hit sixth. I hit fourth. I got no issues.’’
I asked the Sox manager if Ramirez was tough to manage.
“No,’’ said Farrell. “I wouldn’t say a hard player to manage. I wouldn’t say Hanley’s different than other guys in that clubhouse.’’
Does Farrell ever experience anything like what Terry Francona went through with Manny Ramirez?
“I can’t speak to what Tito went through with Manny,’’ said the manager, who was here with Francona and Manny Ramirez in 2007 and 2008.
Hanley Ramirez, who was hit by a pitch in the left knee Sunday, took grounders at first base before Wednesday night’s game but was not in the starting lineup. It would not be a surprise to see him in the lineup Thursday night against Minnesota.
I asked Hanley about the widespread notion that he simply doesn’t want to play first base anymore.
“Why would I do that?’’ he asked.
Maybe because you just want to be David Ortiz from now on, I submitted.
“David’s going to be the one and only David,” he said. “I want to be out there. I want to be on first.’’
OK, but sometimes we think you’re just messing with everybody.
“I don’t mess with people,” he said. “I believe in karma. I’m a karma guy. So everything goes around.’’
But you were a handful when you were younger.
“When I was in Florida [2006-12],’’ Hanley acknowledged, “I was doing some things that I’m not supposed to do. It’s not happening here. Back then I was just happy to be in the big leagues and sometimes I would do things like every rookie. But it’s different when have a veteran guy come to you and say, ‘Don’t do that.’ ’’
Does it bother you that some fans think you don’t care?
“I care,” he said. “This game is about hustle and play hard. It’s what I’m doing here. Nothing else. The fans know that. But they got guys on the radio throwing things out there that are not true.
“We’re in first place. I’ve had a couple injuries. I’m just trying to help out any way I can.’’
So you haven’t been making up the shoulder injuries?
“No. That’s karma, man,” he said. “That stuff comes around. I got kids. I got a daughter. I don’t make [expletive] up. The fans know. You can see when someone’s not happy to be here. I am happy to be here.’’
Farrell gets the last word:
“This guy had his best year career-wise from an offensive standpoint a year ago. We know it’s not up to that level yet, but we’re not going to give up on him by any means.’’