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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Forget David Ortiz, the guy Hanley Ramirez needs to get on speed dial is Jim Rice

They'll be tougher off the Wall. (USA Today)

Some good-natured ribbing took place on Sports Radio after Hanley Ramirez's press conference today, when the new Red Sox left fielder admitted that he has yet to speak this week with new teammate David Ortiz -- his "big brother" in baseball since Ramirez first signed with Boston back in the early '90s. 

Hopefully the two will connect soon, but if Ramirez really knows what is good for him, he'll meet up with another Red Sox slugger early and often in the months to come:

Jim Rice.

Forty years ago, rookie Rice came to Boston and earned himself a spot in the 1975 starting lineup with his prodigious bat. Rice was such a great hitter that the Red Sox moved six-time Gold Glove-winning left fielder Carl Yastrzemski to first base and planted Rice in front of the Green Monster. 
The '75 Sox outfield (L-R): Rice, Lynn, Evans

The rookie certainly didn't remind anybody of Yaz in those early days, but Rice worked as hard at his fielding as he did his hitting. Coach Johnny Pesky hit him hundreds and hundreds of fly balls, and the result was that Jim Ed became a very competent outfielder -- especially at Fenway.

In 1983, while he was winning the American League home run (39) and RBI (126) titles, Rice was also tied for second in the majors with 21 outfield assists -- many of them coming on balls hit off the Wall that he turned into outs at second base. 
Rice has his eyes on this one. (Getty Images)

Sox manager Ralph Houk said of Rice's fielding, "I don't think people realize just how good he is; he gets to most balls, and especially those hit to his right. I don't know of anybody who is better than he is playing the wall." No less an authority than Peter Gammons said Rice deserved a Gold Glove that year.

From behind the desk at NESN, Rice still looks like he could snap a bat in half with a check-swing. Chances are he could also show Ramirez some of the tricky bounces one encounters in left field at Fenway, both in the real digs at Yawkey Way and down at Fenway South in spring training. Rice didn't have the luxury of a practice Monster in Florida when he was playing; hopefully Ramirez will take advantage of it.
Rice still looks good. (NBC Sports)

Another area where Ramirez could take a lesson from Rice is toughness. During his three peak offensive years of 1977-79, the future Hall of Famer played in 481 of Boston's 484 games. It took real trips to the disabled list to knock Jim Ed from the lineup; last year Ramirez was sidelined in 23 of LA's first 103 games by finger, thumb, hand, shoulder, and calf injuries without ever going on the DL.

Ramirez may never be a Hall of Famer, but if he wants to live up to his press conference promise to play hard and well for Boston, he can take a lesson in both areas from the Cooperstown inductee who is around Fenway every day.

Or he could always try what the last Ramirez to play left field at Fenway did -- steal Wally's glove!

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