NEW YORK -- Well, they’re all in this thing together, until they’re not.
When the Boston Red Sox left Boston on Sunday night for their final trip of the season -- four games here against the Yankees, three this weekend in Cleveland against the Indians -- Hanley Ramirez was not with them.
The Sox gave their highest-paid player ($22 million per annum) permission to go home to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to begin his offseason rehabilitation program there, interim manager Torey Lovullo said Monday night. Third baseman Pablo Sandoval is highly doubtful to the team the rest of the way, either, Lovullo said, as Sandoval is back in Boston recovering from pneumonia. But so far, at least, he has yet to be told he can go home.
“Hanley is starting his rehab progression in Fort Lauderdale with his personal trainer, physical therapist that he’s going to have for the entire offseason," Lovullo said. “So we just thought it would be a good thing to start as soon as possible. He starts on Tuesday."
That’s just rich, isn’t it? The Red Sox medical services director, Dan Dyrek, is a world-class physical therapist, the man who took care of Larry Bird's bad back and David Ortiz's swollen Achilles tendon. They have another full-time therapist in Ray Mattfeld and as comprehensive a medical staff as you’ll find in the major leagues, and yet they think Ramirez is better off going home now to work with his own guy rather than endure one more week under their supervision. And, perhaps more significantly, at least in terms of visuals, remain a part of the team.
And not to suggest the team is pandering to Ramirez, but Lovullo said Dyrek actually is flying down this week to Fort Lauderdale to meet with Ramirez’s personal trainer to go over his program. Left unexplained is what Ramirez can do in Fort Lauderdale that he couldn’t do in New York or Cleveland, and while at it, continue the course in learning how to play first base that he was supposedly so eager to pursue.
There has been nothing about Ramirez’s late-summer injury saga that can be easily explained. The injury to his left shoulder? We all witnessed his early-May collision with the side wall in Fenway and the subsequent drastic drop in power. But the right shoulder? No one, by my reckoning, has ever pinned down its cause, with cumulative wear and tear a dubious candidate. It was described as day-to-day for some time, and then the Sox put him on the disabled list, something you don’t even have to do in September because rosters expand.
Ramirez continued to work out at first base and had some batting-practice sessions that were epic -- balls crushed with ferocious power in Fenway Park. He told at least one reporter he expected to play as soon as he was eligible to come off the DL. But then? Nothing, soon to be followed by word that Ramirez was being shut down for the season. The shoulder wasn’t coming around. Not to mention Ramirez wasn’t exactly acing his classes at first base.
So he goes home, and he didn’t even have to give a note to the teacher. The teacher gave it to him. That’s a prerogative the true leaders on this team, Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia, failed to exercise when Ortiz’s Achilles gave out after just 90 games in 2012 and when Pedroia had wrist surgery last September. They both deemed it important to stick around until the end.
Koji Uehara? He has been out with a fractured wrist since early August, and he has made every trip. Junichi Tazawa was shut down on Sept. 11 and told he won’t pitch again this season, but Lovullo said the Sox medical staff wants to keep monitoring those guys.
Perhaps that’s part of the message here. Uehara and Tazawa matter going forward. Maybe, despite all the lip service from club officials, Ramirez does not.
“You may think we’re shoving him out the door," Lovullo said Monday, “but we’re not."
Five years ago, Jacoby Ellsbury stirred a fuss -- and took some veiled shots from teammates -- when he left the club to rehab his fractured ribs at the Athletes Performance Institute. Ellsbury had a legitimate excuse to do so: He and agent Scott Boras had lost all confidence in the team’s medical staff, believing it had failed to detect a fractured rib. Ellsbury said he left because he did not want to be a “distraction” to the team.
Even so, when Ellsbury returned, he made it clear he was aware what it looked like.
"Obviously you want to be with your teammates," he said. “You're here with your teammates more than you're with your family. You care about your teammates, not just in a baseball sense, but from a personal standpoint. With all the injuries, I would call the guys and see how they were doing and see where their heads are at and rooting them on. Obviously I wasn't with them, but I was their biggest fan from afar."
Perhaps there are some of you who believe this is much ado about nothing, piling on a guy who isn’t playing anyway. Perhaps what it really represents is a meeting of the minds: Ramirez thinks he has nothing left to give, and there’s nothing the Sox want from him. Best, then, to go home.
And plan on a change of address in 2016.