Alexei Ramirez and the White Sox' Cuban Missile Crisis
Alexei Ramirez burst on the scene for the White Sox last season as an answer to their need at second base. The unheralded Cuban was signed by the White Sox after a tryout that only had a dozen or so teams in attendance.
It didn’t take long for Ramirez to show his complete game. I can recall a local sports radio host spending an entire show remarking about Ramirez’s “baseball IQ.”
It seemed as if Kenny Williams had really gotten a steal in the “Cuban Missile.” Ramirez hit .290 with 21 homers and 77 driven in while only making a little over $1 million. When Ramirez came up with the bases loaded late in the game against the Tigers in the 162nd game of the season, the fans rose to their feet and cheered wildly, as if everyone already knew what the outcome of the at-bat was going to be.
Ramirez wasted no time and drove the first Gary Glover fastball he saw into the left center field bleachers, and like that Ramirez cemented himself as a permanent fan favorite—or at least it seemed that way.
Flash forward to this season. Orlando Cabrera was let go because of the great play of Ramirez, and shortstop became Alexei’s new home. The Cuban Missile was also moved from his home in the seventh spot of the lineup up to the two hole.
Fans and critics alike were not worried at all about the changes. Reports from within the White Sox organization were that Ramirez was a “natural shortstop” and that by hitting in the second spot he’d see more fastballs, which would suit his style of batting (wildly swinging at everything).
As it turns out, Ramirez is as much of a natural shortstop as I am. He has already bobbled and overthrown his way to 13 errors this season after only having 11 all of last year.
His hitting has regressed, as well. His average is down 17 points from last year, but more than that his power is experiencing an outage. He slugged .475 last season compared to just .405 this year.
To bring it almost nearly full circle from last year, the Cuban Missile came up with the bases loaded recently against the Indians and the crowd didn’t stand and cheer wildly, nor chant his nickname. Instead, there was a universal groan that a better, more clutch hitter, wasn’t up in this situation.
How quickly things change.
So where do the Sox and Ramirez go from here? The Cuban export still holds promise, and is also very affordable. But at some point the Sox need to decide whether Ramirez’s potential in a trade is more valuable than the potential he holds to be an everyday shortstop for the next five to 10 years.
Also, the White Sox have depth in the infield. Heralded Cuban defector Dayan Viciedo is slugging away in Double-A, and current Rookie of the Year contender Gordon Beckham was a shortstop up until midway through this season. So a change back toward the middle of the diamond should be no problem.
From this blogger's perspective, I feel the Sox should take advantage of their young infield depth and blast the Cuban Missile off to a new landing pad.
This article can also be found on Good Guys Wear Black.
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