Thursday, Feb. 3, 2011
Posted 12:02 p.m. Updated 5:02 p.m.
By Brett Ballantini
The surprising news out of the press conference announcing Alexei Ramirezs contract extension is less that he hopes to be a lifetime Chicago White Sox, but that he may well pass the torch to a son once his time on the South Side is through.
While the slender shortstop on Thursday laughed off the idea that his 2010 Silver Slugger was just the first of many future awards for him, he noted that the silver bat will find a home in his two sons room. His oldest boy (who also goes by Alexei, pronounced Alex-ay as opposed to his fathers Ales-ay) already has hit at U.S. Cellular Field, at just five years old spraying the ball around the infield during batting practice last summer.
Perhaps that adds additional meaning to Ramirezs wishes to forever remain in Pale Hose?
I have always talked with agent Jaime Torres about being a lifetime White Sox, and Im proud of what Ive done so far for the team, Ramirez said. I hope to accomplish much more in the future. If Im lucky enough to play for the White Sox my entire career, Ill be happy to do that.
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Ramirez freely admitted that the extension was more a question of when, not if, saying he and Torres have been in constant contact with the White Sox and he decided to extend once we felt we had the best deal we could. GM Ken Williams told CSNChicago.com at the time of Adam Dunns signing last December that he hoped to at least have extension framework in place by spring training, so the relative speed of Ramirezs extension indicates that the proceedings were exceedingly cordial.
Ramirezs four-year, 32.5 million contract extension keeps him on the South Side at least through the 2015 season. The contract will pay the rising star 5 million in 2012, 7 million in 2013, 9.5 million in 2014 and 10 million in 2015. The White Sox will have an option to keep Ramirez for 2016 at a price of 10 million, or buy him out for 1 million. To finish up the final year of his original contract, Ramirez will be paid 2.75 million in 2011. It goes without saying this is the largest contract bestowed on a shortstop in White Sox history, and fuzzy math pegs only seven other shortstops in baseball history having garnered bigger deals than Ramirezs.
Ramirez originally signed with the White Sox on Jan. 22, 2008 and carries a career .283 average, 54 home runs and 215 RBI into 2011, which will be his fourth major-league season. While his rookie campaign of 2008 was a slightly better offensive season, the Cuban Missile dominated AL shortstops offensively in 2010. Ramirez proffered a .313 on-base percentage and .431 slugging percentage (first among shortstops) for a .734 OPS. He led AL shortstops with a .282 batting average, 18 home runs and 252 total bases. He finished second among campocortos with 70 RBI, third with 165 hits and tied for third with 29 doubles.
Ramirezs .282 batting average qualifies is the fourth-best in history by a White Sox shortstop and his 18 longballs were the sixth-most. He was named to the Sporting News 2010 AL All-Star Teamin Pale Hose annals, only Luke Appling (1936, 1940, 1943) and Luis Aparicio (1968, 1970) have been so honored. The three-year vet is the first White Sox player since Carlos Quentin in 2008 to win a Silver Slugger, and just the ninth player in team history overall.
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Comfort with the White Sox threaded throughout Ramirezs media session on Thursday, a comfort that began from his very first moments with the White Sox in the form of support from a former Gold Glove shortstop, manager Ozzie Guillen.
It really comes down to when I first got to the White Sox, I felt at home, like in Cuba, Ramirez said. I felt comfortable, like it was the right place for me. Ozzie didnt know me, but Ive polished by game under him and Im appreciative of him for his faith in me.
Guillen has long promoted Ramirez as a future Gold Glove winner and was aghast to hear that it was Derek Jeter and not Ramirez winning the honor in 2010.
The main thing Ozzie has instilled in me is confidence, Ramirez said. He trusts what I can do on the field and the decisions I make. He played shortstop, and knows it takes confidence to succeed there. Hes trusted me with the position, and thats helped.
As for a Gold Glove, Ramirez laughed at the notion hell be a future winner and again mentioned how honored he was just to be under consideration.
I dont expect to win awards, he said. I just want to play better, every game, every season. Leaving Cuba, that was always my goal.
The AL Gold Glove was thought to be a two-man battle between Ramirez and Elvis Andrus of the Texas Rangers, but in a surprising and disheartening move, AL managers and coaches bestowed the honor on Jeter, forever one of the weakest shortstops in the league.
The Fielding Bible Awards, which are selected by an expert panel of 10 analysts who study defense and defensive metrics for a living, felt differently. Only one player is honored across baseball per positionthus Troy Tulowitzki was the 2010 FBA shortstopbut Ramirez finished third in the polling, well ahead of any other AL candidate. A number of factors are taken into consideration by the panel, but Ramirezs AL-leading 768 chances, indicating supreme range, surely didnt hurt.
Ramirez has added muscle while retaining his flexibility this offseason to bolster his thin frame, but laughingly said he doesnt know how much, because I havent been on a scale.
White Sox second baseman Gordon Beckham noticed his double-play partners increased strength right away, while the two worked out together last month in Miami at Camp Cora. Both infielders have noted their need for unorthodox communication, but both are very optimistic about their future together.
We dont speak the same language, but we get along really well, Ramirez said. I feel comfortable with him as my double-play partner, and weve been getting better all along.
A hidden key to a successful all-in 2011 season is the performances of the middle infielders; Beckham labored through an atrocious beginning to his 2010 season, while Ramirez historically has been a slow starter (sporting a career .511 OPS in MarchApril, almost 200 points worse than his mark in any other months).
The weather and cold have affected me to a point, but Ive learned to adapt to it, Ramirez said. I have some ideas on how to do even better early this season. I know what to expect now.
While doubtlessly Ramirez is not so comfortable with the cold hed like to be in Chicago digging out of this Februarys blizzard, he was seen grasping at snowflakes during SoxFest last month, reporting that it was the first time hed ever witnessed a snowfall. Ramirez admitted rather sheepishly that after playing in the cold for three seasons hed like to put all those slow start questions to rest. Still, he knows that he wasnt the only one to blame for getting out of the gate sluggishly in 2010.
This spring training we need to get working and focused on coming out of the gate a little better, he said. Were all working hard toward doing that and having a great year.
As of February and this record-breaking extension, its already been a pretty good year for Ramirez.
Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.