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Jose Ramirez: Master of none

It’s rare you find a player among the chaff that is so good at so much, without being perfect at any one thing.

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Toronto Blue Jays Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

In baseball, we chase superlatives.

We want to know who is the best — the best fastball, the best hitter, the best fielder. It’s why we keep stats, it’s why Statcast is such a big deal, and why Brandon Guyer is anything more than just some random platoon player. But in this hunt for the best of the best, oftentimes we overlook guys who are just very good at many things. Perhaps they’re getting their place in the sun the last half decade or so, but we are still enraptured by Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge, in Billy Hamilton and Aroldis Chapman. They’re all amazing. But in terms of in-game impact, it’s likely none of these men will likely approach the total impact that, say, Ben Zobrist did in 2009 when he was worth 8.6 fWAR. All Zobrist did was everything well, nothing spectacular. This is where we find Jose Ramirez. There is nothing that the current Cleveland Indians third baseman and ultra-utilityman can’t do, and it must be noticed.

This was a narrative that began last year, when Ramirez was shunted to left field because the Indians needed to play Juan Uribe and Ramirez was younger and more athletic. Left field is stereotypically the easiest defensive position to play, it’s where you used to stuff plodding sluggers. Ramirez might be the opposite of that, and comported himself well. Then, once he found himself at third, he was, if not great, at least very good. He has the arm to play the position, the athleticism and range to get to balls and the luxury of Francisco Lindor next to him, allowing for a nice security blanket.

But this year, when Jason Kipnis got hurt and Ramirez had to play second, it was a revelation. Did anything look more natural than to see him and Lindor together at the keystone? Suddenly we could see a future that didn’t include Kipnis out there, and it wasn’t scary. But it reminded us just what Ramirez is, and what he could be. The Indians need to resign Francisco Lindor, just to make sure fans avoid ledges. But keeping Ramirez around makes the manager’s job so much easier, and everyone else so much better.

On the offensive side, it’s Ramirez’s goodness at so much that is so incredible. He’s not the most powerful on the team, and he’s not the best bat-to-ball guy (contact does matter, shush), but he’s one of them. When you think of great players in baseball, there’s what, 30 or thereabouts? Roughly equal to one for each team. Ramirez finds himself routinely in the top 25 or 30 in nearly every stat. In 2017, he’s 23rd in baseball in WAR at 1.3, 27th in wRC+ at 147, 36th in OBP at .374, his six home runs are one behind the eight guys who are tied for 23rd; the list goes on like that. Plus he’s a switch hitter, and it isn’t just for show. Last year he earned a 119 wRC+ as a lefty and 127 as a righty. That consistency rarely happens as a switch hitter. But Ramirez is either a robot, or simply a everything a baseball player is supposed to be. Either way, the Indians are in a good place.

The plodding slugger, the slappy speedster, the all glove and no bat infielder, these templates have stuck around baseball forever. They'll likely continue, because having someone who is simply excellent at one thing is still valuable when you have 25 roster spots. They’ll always find a home. But I don’t think I’m wrong when I say Ramirez is just a perfect baseball player. Yes, his teammate Lindor gets the pub and the attention, which is warranted. Lindor flashes that glowing grin, plays a flashier position and was the big prospect. But Ramirez should be the archetype for all baseball players — he runs out infield hits, hits booming homers, swipes bases and works walks. And he’ll do anything for the team defensively. He’s amazing, even if he doesn’t do anything perfect. But perfection is an unachievable ideal.

Ramirez is reality, and that’s where we live. He’s what teams need more than anything. A team of Ramirez’s would win 125 games a year and it would be beautiful baseball. Instead the Indians just have the one. We’ll have to manage with this one glimpse at unique perfection.