Hello, Hanley

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Hello, Hanley

As a Red Sox fan, you learn very early never grow attached to prospects. They're just as likely to end up as the centerpiece in a blockbuster as they are a future staple in the Sox line-up.

Sure, there are a few exceptions. Most recently Will Middlebrooks, then obviously guys like Jonathan Papelbon, Kevin Youkilis, Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedrioa and Jon Lester. But for every one of them there's a Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo, Craig Hansen, Justin Masterson, Anibal Sanchez, David Pauley, Brandon Moss, Josh Reddick and many more who get shipped out before ever making a serious impact.

The biggest example of the last 10 years?

None other than Hanley Ramirez.

Hanley was 16 when he signed with the Sox in the summer of 2000, and it wasn't long before he was touted as a future star the Sox most exciting home grown prospect since Nomar. But after only two big league at-bats, he was traded to Florida in exchange for Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell.

Of course, you know this already. You know that Ramirez went on to win the Rookie of the Year in his first season with the Marlins, and became one of the National League's most dynamic players. You know that in his first five years in Florida, Ramirez hit at least .300 with 20 home runs and 30 stolen bases every single season. You know that he led the league in runs one year and won a batting title in another. You know he made three All-Star games and won two silver slugger awards.

You also know that he never would have made to Florida if Theo Epstein hadn't taken his sabbatical.

It's one of the worst kept secret in the Sox organization (and that's saying something): Theo never wanted to let Hanley get away. And for that reason not the mention the fact that he turned into such a superstar Ramirez is a guy I've always followed a lot closer than the hundreds of other former Sox prospect floating around the majors.

Even though he's never been known as a terrific guy, I've always been a Hanley Ramirez fan. And on the random occasion when the Sox and Marlins get together, it's always fun to grab a look at what could have been. Lately for Ramirez, that hasn't been much.

A shoulder injury derailed his 2011 (he hit only .243 with 10 homers in 92 games) and this season hasn't been much better. Well, the power number are back (he has 11 homers) but is only hitting .259.

We'll see if he can turn back the clock against the Sox tonight in Miami.

(For his career, Ramirez has played six games against the Sox and has been pretty quiet, hitting only .292 with one home run and one RBI.)

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Report: Third base among 'major upgrades' Red Sox seek by trade deadline

Report: Third base among 'major upgrades' Red Sox seek by trade deadline

Despite still being owed more than $42 million after this year, Pablo Sandoval's days with the Red Sox appear numbered. So, it's no surprise that landing a third baseman at the trade deadline is a priority.

That's among the "major upgrades" the Sox are seeking by the July 31 deadline, MLB.com columnist Mark Feinsand reports.

With Sandoval now on his second disabled list stint of the season - this time with an ear infection - after turning into what Feinsand calls "a horror tale for the Red Sox," and with fill-ins Josh Rutledge and Deven Marrero holding down third, it's apparent that the position is a glaring need.

"Sandoval is basically a non-entity at this point," a source told Feinsand. "They need to make a move there."

Feinsand mentions the usual suspects - Mike Moustakas of the Royals and Todd Frazier of the White Sox - as possibilities. Also, he wonders if former MVP Josh Donaldson could be pried away from the Blue Jays (if "Dave Dombrowski knocks their socks off") with an offer and if Toronto is still sputtering at the deadline?

Those other upgrades? "Boston is also looking for pitching, both in the rotation and bullpen," Feinsand writes. Again, no surprise there.

Drellich: Red Sox' talent drowning out lack of identity

Drellich: Red Sox' talent drowning out lack of identity

A look under the hood is not encouraging. A look at the performance is.

The sideshows for the Red Sox have been numerous. What the team’s success to this point has reinforced is how much talent and performance can outweigh everything else. Hitting and pitching can drown out a word that rhymes with pitching — as long as the wins keep coming.

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At 40-32, the Sox have the seventh-best win percentage (.556) in the majors. What they lack, by their own admission, is an intangible. Manager John Farrell told reporters Wednesday in Kansas City his club was still searching for its identity.

“A team needs to forge their own identity every year,” Farrell said. “That’s going to be dependent upon the changes on your roster, the personalities that exist, and certainly the style of game that you play. So, with [David Ortiz’s] departure, his retirement, yeah, that was going to happen naturally with him not being here. And I think, honestly, we’re still kind of forming it.”

To this observer, the vibe in the Red Sox clubhouse is not the merriest. 

Perhaps, in the mess hall, the players are a unified group of 25 (or so), living for one another with every pitch. What the media sees is only a small slice of the day. 

But it does not feel like Farrell has bred an easygoing, cohesive environment.

Farrell and big boss Dave Dombrowski appeared unaligned in their view of Pablo Sandoval’s place on the roster, at least until Sandoval landed on the disabled list. 

Hanley Ramirez and first base may go together like Craig Kimbrel and the eighth inning. Which is to say, selfless enthusiasm for the ultimate goal of winning does not appear constant with either.

Dustin Pedroia looked like the spokesperson of a fractured group when he told Manny Machado, in front of all the cameras, “It’s not me, it’s them,” as the Orioles and Red Sox carried forth a prolonged drama of drillings. 

Yet, when you note the Sox are just a half-game behind the Yankees for the American League East lead; when you consider the Sox have won 19 of their past 30 games, you need to make sure everything is kept in proportion.

How much are the Sox really hurt by a lack of identity? By any other issue off the field?

Undoubtedly, the Sox would be better positioned if there were no sideshows. But it’s hard to say they’d have ‘X’ more wins.

The Sox would have had a better chance of winning Wednesday’s game if Kimbrel pitched at any point in the eighth inning, that’s for sure. 

Kimbrel is available for one inning at this point, the ninth, Farrell has said.

A determination to keep Kimbrel out of the eighth because that’s not what a closer traditionally does seems like a stance bent on keeping Kimbrel happy rather than doing what is best for the team. The achievement of a save has been prioritized over the achievement of a team win, a state of affairs that exists elsewhere, but is nonetheless far from ideal — a state of affairs that does not reflect an identity of all for one and one for all.

Maybe the Sox will find that identity uniformly. Maybe they’re so good, they can win the division without it.