Sunday night, Jose Ramirez became the first Cleveland Indian elected to start the All-Star game since Juan Gonzalez (yes, really) way back in 2001. It is an honor that is indisputably deserved, as Ramirez has been the best third baseman in the American League all season. Hell, if the season ended today, Ramirez might just be the favorite for American League Most Valuable Player. On the season, he is slashing an obscene .325/.379/.584 with fifteen home runs (already a career high), 42 RBI, 26 doubles, and, again, a career high with 4 triples. Folks, we’re only in July.
I can’t believe we’re here, and that’s my own damn fault.
I remember when Ramirez debuted in 2013 and hit .333 in a mere 15 plate appearances and looked like a promising piece for the future–
—That’s a total lie. The first time I remember thinking about Jose Ramirez, he was Tito Francona’s designated bunter in 2014, when he slashed a pathetic .262/.300/.346 and logged 13 sacrifices. Ramirez got off to a bad start in sporadic action in 2015 and I was ready to forget him forever. Again, that’s a lie — I didn’t even designate any thought to him, except to be frustrated when he struck out or seemed out of his element. He ended 2015 with a .219/.291/.340 slash line, and he was completely off the radar (or so I thought).
Then, 2016 happened, the glorious year that it was. Ramirez came out of nowhere, hitting .312/.363/.462 with 11 HR, 76 RBI, and 22 SB in 152 games. He even garnered some votes for Most Valuable Player, coming in 17th in the voting. Still, however, I didn’t take Ramirez seriously. I mean, did you see his 2015? .219 batting average! No power! Snooze!
I take back everything I’ve ever said about Jose Ramirez, even if he strikes out in every apperance from now until the end of the season. The American League All-Star-starting third baseman has been nothing short of transcendent this season, nothing short of incredible, and nothing short of an MVP candidate. Ramirez’s 2016 was great, but people rightfully pointed to his .355 AVG with runners in scoring position and decried him as a fluke (I include myself in this group). Again, he’s a guy who doesn’t walk a lot, and he doesn’t hit for power, and he had unsustainably high luck with RISP to inflate his value – how could he sustain it into 2017?
Well, I’m happy to report that not only did he sustain it, he learned how to bake a fantastically delicious humble pie along the way. I already mentioned that Ramirez has a .963 OPS this season (good for 8th in all of baseball), but he is still posting an OPS of .813 with RISP. That’s a drop off from his .880 OPS with RISP last season, but its still eighty freaking points south of his OPS in all situations in 2017. I’m in awe of Ramirez, and I’m in awe of the contract that the Indians signed him to this past off season. The following does not need any advanced statistical knowledge, but it might require a Not Safe For Work tag, because it feels like some sort of front office-related crime has been committed.
In 2017, the Indians will pay Ramirez $971,400. Next year, they’ll pay him $2,828,600. In 2019, they’ll pay him $4,150,00. In 2020, that number “jumps” to $6,650,000″ and again to $9,400,000 in 2021. In 2022, the Indians can elect to pay Ramirez $2,000,000 to go away, or exercise an $11,000,000 team option, followed by a $13,000,000 team option in 2023. Assuming all of the options are picked up, that is $47.9 million dollars over the next 5.5 years, for someone who has played like an MVP-worthy player for a season-plus now. Mike Trout, who will be 26 next season, will make $34,083,000 just next season.
Oh, and Ramirez doesn’t turn twenty-five until mid September, or, if you prefer the optimist in me, some two weeks after the Indians clinch the Central Division.
Francisco Lindor might get all the glory, but Jose Ramirez has been better than the Indians SS in 2017, and he might just turn out to be the better player.
Yep, I said that.