Boston Red Sox: Hanley Ramirez sheds bust label with home run binge

Hanley Ramirez has been on a second half tear that has changed the way Boston Red Sox fans view him and his lucrative contract.

A year ago we were bemoaning the fact that the Boston Red Sox were saddled with Hanley Ramirez and his burdensome contract. My, how things have changed.

Ramirez wasn’t even able to take the field last September after the team shut him down for the season and there were many among us that hoped that he would never return wearing a Red Sox uniform. We bemoaned the 4-year, $44 million contract that the previous front office regime handed him and waited for the team to pawn Ramirez off on some other franchise.

After a season marred by injury, poor performance and adventures in the outfield, Ramirez was tagged with the dreaded bust label.

Now here we are, winding down Ramirez’s second season since his return to the Red Sox organization, only to find that the much maligned veteran has suddenly become a vital part of this lineup. While the young All-Stars that make up the cornerstone of the team’s future have struggled down the stretch, it’s the 32-year old Ramirez that is carrying the team on his back to keep the Red Sox atop the fiercely competitive AL East.

Ramirez has been on a tear in the second half, smashing 17 home runs and driving in 52 RBI in 52 games since the break, leading the team in both categories over that span.

His heroics were never more on display than they were Thursday night when Ramirez smashed a three-run walk-off homer off of New York Yankees closer Dellin Betances with two outs in the ninth inning.

His blast to center field delivered what may be the biggest win of the season for this team. Not only because the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry is making a comeback, but they also have a Baltimore Orioles team that had just taken two straight at Fenway nipping at their heels in the division race. Boston could not afford a third consecutive home loss to a division rival and Ramirez knew it when he stepped to the plate. He would later comment that he was “trying to go to the moon,” with his massive swing and he very nearly did.

Fun fact: Thursday night was only the second time in franchise history – and the first since 1908 – that the Red Sox have beaten the Yankees after trailing by 3+ runs with two outs in the ninth inning. Ramirez’s home run wasn’t merely another tally in the win column, it was historic.

Ramirez is now up to 25 home runs for the season, the most he has hit since 2008 when he was with the Florida Marlins. He has now also become the third Red Sox hitter to reach the 100 RBI mark this season, tying him for fifth in the American League. It’s becoming increasingly likely that he’ll surpass the career-high 106 RBI mark that he set in 2009 and his current .848 OPS would be the highest he’s produced since 2010. Basically, he’s hitting like the three-time All-Star that he was earlier in his career.

There was no shortage of reasons to complain about Ramirez last year, but he’s been revitalized in Year 2 in Boston. His production this season has been well worth the hefty salary he earns, making last year’s disaster a distant memory. The bust label can be tossed aside, as we are now seeing the hitter we thought we were getting all along.

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