The Apathy Surrounding the Red Sox Is Deafening

Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval have seemingly checked out on the season, and nobody appears to care.

Nine years ago, it appeared as if Manny Ramirez was quitting on the Red Sox. He pulled himself out of the final game against the Yankees on that fateful late August weekend, in which a five-game sweep kiboshed the Red Sox’s postseason aspirations, because of a supposed hamstring cramp. Ramirez returned to the lineup two nights later, but eventually left that contest with a sore knee. The Red Sox sent their mercurial slugger for an MRI, and the results came back clean.

But yet, Ramirez only played in seven of the team’s final 28 games that season. Columnists questioned his professionalism, and sports talk yakkers called for his head. Callers to the sports talk shows said a lot worse.

This season, another Ramirez has missed significant time with an ambiguous injury while the Red Sox play out the string. But instead of uproar, there’s apathy. And that’s perhaps the biggest sign that the Red Sox aren’t what they once were.

Hanley Ramirez remains on the disabled list, which is where he’s been ever since September 5. Ramirez hasn’t appeared in a game since August 27 with what the team is labeling as “shoulder fatigue.”

When asked how Ramirez injured his shoulder, interim manager Torey Lovullo said he “wasn’t really sure.” The Red Sox announced several weeks ago Ramirez’s short-lived career as a left fielder was mercifully over, and he would likely play first base the next time he appeared in a game this season.

Nearly one month later, Ramirez has yet to play his new position. Lovullo said he’s healthy, but the team won’t activate him until he can play defense. In other words, Ramirez hasn’t fulfilled the expectation even though he’s had almost four weeks off.

Ramirez suggested Tuesday he’s finally ready to give first a try, but the Red Sox wouldn’t commit either way. They’re running out of time if they want to get a peek at Ramirez before the season is out, considering there are only 12 games left.

It’s a bizarre chapter in what has been a disastrous first season back in Boston for Ramirez. The fact that the Red Sox banished him to the DL earlier this month is telling, considering rosters are expanded. There was no need for it, except perhaps to send a message.

But yet, there’s been nary a peep about Ramirez around these parts for weeks. The same can be said for Pablo Sandoval, the other failed free agent signing from the winter.

The Portly Panda was removed from Sunday’s game after tagging up from third base because of “light-headedness.” Lovullo announced Tuesday Sandoval has a “significant upper respiratory infection,” whatever that means.

Sunday wasn’t the first time this season Sandoval drained himself from running, as he took himself out of a game in July due to dehydration. After that episode, manager John Farrell admitted Sandoval’s weight needed to be addressed.

The $184 million Red Sox are finishing out the year without two of the biggest culprits for this lost season, who also happen to be the highest-paid players on the team. But you wouldn’t know it if you read the newspapers or listened to talk radio. None of the Globe‘s or Herald‘s general sports columnists have penned pieces about Ramirez or Sandoval recently, and the only substantial Red Sox talk on WEEI, the team’s flagship station, has been Dennis & Callahan groaning about David Ortiz receiving a luxury car for his 500th home run.

The lack of outrage here isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Caterwauling about a grown man’s shoulder injury or weight would be pretty silly. But it’s what sports fans are supposed to do, and that passion seems to be missing when it comes to the hometown nine.

“When the Red Sox have bad seasons, people don’t stick around to piss and moan on sports radio or social media. That’s unique to the last 10 years,” longtime Red Sox beat writer Sean McAdam told me when we spoke recently.

You have to care about something in order to be angry about it. Right now, it seems as if Red Sox fans are about as invested in the team as Ramirez and Sandoval appear to be.

Three losing seasons in four years will do that to a fan base, but it’s a stark contrast from where this city used to be. Not too long ago, Ramirez’s and Sandoval’s situations would’ve probably been full blown scandals. Now they’re just footnotes.

That may be better for our health, but it’s certainly not better for the Red Sox.