Behold the wonder that is Jose Ramirez, baseball player.
Everything that is great about baseball, underdogs and life itself, all wrapped up into one penguin-sized package of perfect baseball bliss.
Francisco Lindor may be the face of baseball, but Jose Ramirez is its soul.
Or should be.
He’s darn near the perfect player.
He’s a 10 across the board: in talent, temperament, comportment, character, humility, selflessness and joyfulness.
He plays with an infectious spirit and spunk absent in too many of his contemporaries. He’s an indefatigable diamond dynamo. Day in, day out, night in, night out, game in, game out, he gives the paying customers their money’s worth.
He’s Jose Ramirez, baseball player.
Behold the wonder.
All of this came to mind while watching Ramirez’s final at-bat in the middle game of the Indians’ three-game series in Cincinnati, an 8-1 thumping of the Reds on Tuesday that pushed the Indians’ record in the dog days of August to 10-3, as they continue to gird their loins for another foray into October baseball.
The Indians won 10 of their first 13 games in August, most of them blowouts, outscoring their opponents 65-32. In six of the 13 games the Indians held their opponents to one or no runs.
The stampede was led, of course, by the most baseball-ish baseball player in the world, the slugging speedster with the sing-songy name, “Jose! Jose! Jose! Jose!” Ramirez.
In Tuesday’s day at the office, Jose went a Jose-ish 3-for-5, including a double, a home run, two RBIs and the usual dirty uniform. But it was his last at-bat, in the ninth inning, in which nothing happened, that was the most interesting.
Ramirez struck out, but only in the opinion of home plate umpire John Tumpane, who called strike three on a pitch Ramirez rightfully ignored, because it was 6 inches to a foot off the outside corner of the plate.
It was your basic ninth inning of a blowout, let’s-get-this-thing-over-with called strike three. It’s was also the kind of called third strike that would be a tantrum-trigger for most players.
But Ramirez never flinched.
He walked briskly to the dugout without comment, without gesture, without the far-more-common “Are you freaking kidding me?” death stare that most players would have given the umpire.
But Jose Ramirez isn’t most players, and no players are Jose Ramirez.
As a general rule, great hitters don’t argue ball/strike calls. Miguel Cabrera doesn’t, Manny Ramirez didn’t. Most of them didn’t. Most of them don’t.
Why? Because great hitters don’t consider a bad strike call to be that big of a deal. Why? Because of their supreme confidence in their ability. They don’t argue calls because they don’t fear their at-bat or question their greatness. They believe they’ll get a hit on the next pitch, or the one after that.
Lesser hitters — i.e. 97 percent of the hitters in the major leagues in any given year — go apoplectic over a bad strike call because for them, that bad strike call reduces by — help me out here, analytniks — 33 percent (?) the chances of them getting a good pitch to hit.
So for mere mortals, a bad strike call is “are you freaking kidding me?” time.
But not for Jose Ramirez, who marched regally, without protest, away from Tumpane with taunting disdain. Great hitters can make their point without arguing it.
Let’s put aside for the moment that inside that penguiny frame is an almost unheard-of combination of power and speed, a toolsy daily double that gives Ramirez a fighting chance to become the first American League player in 109 years to lead the league in home runs AND stolen bases in the same year.
The last, and only, player to do it is Ty Cobb in 1909, when he led the AL with nine home runs (two fewer than Ramirez hit in May), and led the AL with 76 stolen bases (10 fewer than Ramirez’s six-year career total).
That’s the complete list. Ty Cobb.
That’s the kind of company Ramirez is keeping.
But more than the numbers, and there are plenty of those, one more amazing than the next — Ramirez has 22 more walks than strikeouts; Mike Trout has two more walks than strikeouts; Mookie Betts has three more strikeouts than walks — it’s the way Ramirez plays the game that makes him so appealing.
He plays, especially when running the bases, with controlled abandon, trending toward reckless abandon, except that it never produces reckless results, because Ramirez has one of the highest baseball IQs in the game.
He plays like his hair and pants are on fire, and he never gets burned. He just doesn’t. His baseball instincts are Robbie Alomaresque.
He’s a near perfect player, who respects the game and plays it better than that chunky body would seemingly allow.
He is Jose Ramirez, baseball player.
Behold the wonder.