Why It's Too Early to Give Up on Hanley Ramirez Regaining His Stardom in L.A.
The last time the Los Angeles Dodgers swung a midseason trade for a guy named Ramirez, he single-handedly carried them to a National League West title.
That was back then, and that was Manny. This year, the Dodgers acquired Hanley Ramirez from the Miami Marlins and expectations have been sky high for the former batting champ.
You can't deny the immense talent that Ramirez brings to the Dodgers. He can hit for average and power, he steals bases, and plays two infield positions. Most importantly, he gives the Dodgers a legitimate third bat in the lineup behind Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier.
That being said, he was traded for a reason. Ramirez had worn out his welcome in Miami, commonly labeled as a diva in the clubhouse and publicly chided for a lack of effort by his equally polarizing manager, Ozzie Guillen.
Ramirez's numbers suffered over the last two seasons: a shoulder injury complicated things further in 2011, but as a fully healthy player in 2012, his statistics stayed well below the level baseball fans have come to expect.
Despite being a career .300 hitter, Ramirez is hitting just .251 between both teams this season.
He also stole 51 bases two straight seasons at the beginning of his career. The 162-game averages over Ramirez's eight seasons in the big leagues are impressive: .300 average, 25 homers, 84 RBI and 39 steals.
In 2012, he's hitting .251 with 15 homers, 63 RBI and 16 steals. There is plenty of time for Ramirez to reach the 25/84 line, but he won't nearly approach his normal batting average or steals numbers.
Will Hanley Ramirez return to form in L.A.?
At age 28, Ramirez has the chance to put up some more huge seasons in Los Angeles as he enters his prime. The reasons are numerous and the motivation is high. But it's definitely too early to give up on Ramirez regaining his stardom.
First of all, 28 is really the entrance of a player's prime. Ramirez has plenty of good years (health pending) left in that bat of his.
In Miami, he was in a losing environment with an incredibly frustrating manager, on a team that he felt disrespected him by bringing in a new shortstop over the offseason and moving Ramirez to third base.
Now in Los Angeles, Ramirez is under new ownership who is willing to spend a seemingly limitless amount of money to build a winner. His new manager is calm and collected and respectful. He is playing alongside some of the most talented teammates in the game. And most importantly, he gets along with these new teammates.
Though Ramirez has yet to put up mind-boggling numbers for the Dodgers since the trade, he has definitely made an impact. For example, in a game in San Francisco, Ramirez hit a 10th-inning, go-ahead homer to set the pace for what would be a sweep to put the Dodgers in a first-place tie with their rivals.
It's a small sample size, but Ramirez seems to already be improving his swing in Dodger Blue. In 70 at-bats since the trade, he's hit .274 with 1 home run and 15 RBI (in 16 games).
The Dodgers offense as a whole has yet to click with Ramirez, Kemp, Ethier and another new addition in Shane Victorino. When it does, Ramirez is bound to put up even bigger numbers.
There's no telling where the Dodgers will be over the last few weeks of the season, but given that Ramirez has come up huge in crucial situations so far, it's very safe to assume that he will be big down the stretch.
So, baseball fans, don't give up on Ramirez yet. He's in a much calmer atmosphere, with veteran teammates and better management. He has all the tools to return to form and may be much closer than anyone thinks.
A full season as a Dodger might see another 30/30 season or 50 more steals or a metaphorical star on the Dodger walk of fame.
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