Jose Ramirez not a utility player.
He is not a utility guy, or a utility infielder, or a utility man, or a utility belt. Unfortunately, portions of the national sports media and blogosphere don’t appear to understand this.
Michael Baumann posted this article on The Ringer and makes the grave mistake of referring to Jose as such. I understand the desire to do so — Ramirez shows skill at multiple defensive positions and wields offensive talent that scales well anywhere except first base (for now). That completely misses the following: A player who is versatile is not, by necessity, a "utility player". Even though Baumann attempts to praise Ramirez , he misses the fact that using the term to describe him at all is an insult.
When you call someone a "utilityman", you're referring to a very specific thing: a glove-first guy who schlepps around major league rosters filling in at the corner outfield and middle infield spots throughout the year, usually hitting around .220 or so. They float just above replacement level and help fill in gaps on rosters or give the everyday players a chance to rest. That's the broad understanding of it, anyway.
This isn’t the first time an elite player has been incorrectly referred to as a utility player. Ben Zobrist put up some of the best value numbers in all of baseball for five consecutive years. People started calling him a "Super-Utility Guy", which is still idiotic; he's started fewer than 140 games in a season once since 2008. Those aren’t Mike Aviles numbers, and that’s not “utility”. If he'd played somewhere other than St. Petersburg during his peak I think the country would have a better grasp of what valuable versatility in a star player looks like.
Versatility is not utility. It's not Batman's grappling hook, or Hawkeye's boomerang arrow. It's a legitimate superpower when it is combined with Ramirez’s willingness to play wherever the team needs him, and do so well above replacement level.
But no. Instead, we have writers with national reach pushing a poor understanding of an underrepresented, rising star. Baumann writes, "If third-base prospect Nolan Jones turns out to be really good in two or three years when he comes up, Ramirez will probably move again."
The only situation in which I see Jose moving again is to second, and that's only if Carlos Santana doesn't re-sign and Jason Kipnis moves to first, or if Kipnis gets traded before his contract expires. By the way, that won't be a "utility" thing; it would be a permanent move again.
Regardless, that kind of speculation doesn’t have anything to do with the present. The reality is that, right now, Jose Ramirez is the best third baseman in the American League. I look forward to hearing his name announced as the starter for the American League All-Stars tonight.
There is another way of looking at this, though. When Joel Hammond came onto the Let’s Talk Tribe podcast earlier this year, he explained that Ramirez uses slights like this as fuel. It’s the thing that drives himself to become better than he was the day before, every single day. So go ahead: call Ramirez a “utilityman”. Call him Bam-Bam. Call him whatever you want. I’ll look forward to the day when he hangs 8.2 WAR at whatever position he plays and single-handedly knocks your team out of playoff contention.