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Ramirez Never Rests…Literally

Throughout his time with the White Sox, Alexei Ramirez has been graced with some nicknames. The most common is certainly “The Cuban Missile,” but my father and mother like to call him “Bones” and “The Cuban Skeleton” due to his lanky frame.

Despite being poked fun of for his skinny body type, Alexei Ramirez could be earning a new nickname this season: “Iron Man.”

Ramirez is the only White Sox player this season to have started every game up to this point. He’s one of only 12 players in the Majors to do so this year. Out of those 12, Ramirez is the oldest player at 31 years of age.

PLAYERS WHO HAVE STARTED EVERY GAME THIS SEASON

Player Age OPS
Miguel Cabrera (Tigers) 30 1.104
Mike Trout (Angels) 21 .939
Evan Longoria (Rays) 27 .915
Edwin Encarnacion (Blue Jays) 30 .890
Prince Fielder (Tigers) 29 .853
Adam Jones (Orioles) 27 .843
Manny Machado (Orioles) 20 .842
Howie Kendrick (Angels) 29 .834
Hunter Pence (Giants) 30 .829
J.J. Hardy (Orioles) 30 .743
Alexei Ramirez (White Sox) 31 .655
Starlin Castro (Cubs) 23 .590

The list includes names like Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Evan Longoria: guys one would characterize as indispensable in a lineup.  However, Ramirez has not been anywhere close to that tier of players in 2012. While he’s been pretty steady at the plate this season, his power numbers are WAY down (just one home run and a slugging percentage that’s at a career-low of .348). His defense has left much to be desired as well, as Ramirez’s 11 errors are tied with Starlin Castro for the league lead at shortstop.

In fact, Ramirez and Castro are the only players on this list who fall in the bottom half of the league amongst qualifiers in OPS (before Sunday’s action, Ramirez was 138th at .655, while Castro was 151st at .590) and lead their respective positions in errors.

Castro’s playing every day because he’s just 23 and plays for a Cubs organization that considers him maybe the biggest part of the club’s future, but why is Alexei getting no rest considering his age and lack of production? While the fact that he’s a potential trade chip and the Sox want to ride whatever’s left of him while he’s in Chicago could be a reason why, the biggest rationale behind it is likely because there’s just no one on this ball club that can play the position.

Jeff Keppinger has shown a lack of range at second base, so the team certainly would not be comfortable throwing him out there at shortstop. Gordon Beckham played shortstop in college and even played it for a few games on his AAA rehab stint last month, but he’s so strong at second base and the Sox would probably like to avoid taking a defensive hit at both positions, which would presumably happen if Beckham moved over to shortstop to spell Alexei for a game. Angel Sanchez, who was supposed to be Ramirez’s backup, didn’t stick.

All of the above means that while Ramirez doesn’t produce like a typical indispensable player would, he essentially is for this ball club. Given the state of the position on the current roster and that there’s really nothing down in AAA that figures to help the team in the near future, it’s not out of the question that Alexei Ramirez can go the entire season without missing a start.

Playing all 162 games isn’t as rare as one might think, as it happens at least once every couple of years. However, it hasn’t happened for the Southsiders since Albert Belle played them all in 1998, and that was the only time it happened in White Sox history for a 162 game season. Belle also played four games at designated hitter that year, so if Ramirez does play every game at shortstop, he would be the only player in club history to start all 162 games in the field.

There’s a lot of baseball left to be played, and who knows what will happen to Ramirez. Heck, there’s a decent chance he may even get traded. For now though, all we are hearing is how the Sox and Ramirez believe that “The Cuban Missile” does not need a day off and that he’s handling the wear and tear of the season with no issues. So, it appears that a day off for Ramirez isn’t on the agenda for Robin Ventura and his staff.

Ramirez has disappointed at the plate and in the field this year, leading me to begin calling his season a “Cuban Missile Crisis” (ya see what I did there?). However, in a year full of underachievers and bad health, Ramirez has been steady and can be counted on to be out there every day.

Maybe “The Cuban Missile” isn’t the right name for him anymore. “The Cuban Tank” or “Iron Man” could be more fitting.

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