Our time without baseball has led to countless online discussions about past teams, games, and players. It has been interesting to read opinions on former rosters that I was not yet alive to see or was too young to remember. However, some of these discussions have pertained to relatively recent teams, and I have been surprised at the lack of positive recognition that Alexei Ramirez has been garnering. In my opinion, Ramirez is one of the top three or four shortstops in franchise history, obviously behind hall-of-famers Luis Aparicio, Luke Appling, and arguably behind Jose Valentin. Yet, I have seen some questionable names picked above Ramirez.
I don’t have anything against Ozzie Guillen, Juan Uribe, or Tim Anderson, but the idea that any of them were better shortstops over their White Sox careers than Alexei Ramirez confuses me. Guillen, who played 13 seasons with the White Sox, certainly has longevity on his side, but not much else. His offense left much to be desired, and I would not be surprised if some are letting his very successful stint managing the team cloud their judgment about him as a player, much like the opposite has happened to Robin Ventura since his less fruitful managing years.
Juan Uribe absolutely had memorable moments with the team, but his offense saw a steep and steady decline after 2004, and it did not rebound until he left the team after 2008. His role as the starting shortstop on a World Series-winning White Sox team was crucial, but an objective look at his resume in comparison to that of Ramirez suggests that Uribe was the inferior player while in Chicago.
Tim Anderson may have more of an argument than the prior two names, partially because he is just entering his prime and figures to remain with the White Sox for several years. Therefore, if someone wanted to argue that Anderson will be better than Ramirez once his career is over, I would understand, and perhaps even agree. But, to this point, I do not think one can say that Anderson has had a better career than Ramirez did.
Of course, Ramirez was not a star, but he provided the team with eight years of underrated and stellar defense along with passable offense (with the occasional solid offensive year). His many grand slams, including his iconic go-ahead shot against the Tigers (above) in September of 2008, make him a unique and memorable player. Additionally, his tremendous range at shortstop saved dozens of runs (35, to be exact, if you are a fan of the Defensive Runs Saved metric) for the White Sox pitching staff. He may have had occasional hiccups with simpler plays, much like his aforementioned successor, but he more than made up for them with his propensity to record outs on plays that other shortstops could not even dream of making.
To me, once you get past the two hall-of-famers, the all-time great White Sox shortstops are clearly split into two tiers. The first includes Ramirez and Jose Valentin. The second features Guillen, Uribe, and Anderson (for now, at least). Ramirez may not have as much of an emotional connection to White Sox fans as some of those names, nor does he have the benefit of career uncertainty like Anderson, but he does deserve to be remembered as a stabilizing and dependable force in the White Sox lineup for nearly a decade.
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