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A month or so ago I did a blog on the relatively unknown "Cuban missle". The 6'3" beanpole rookie 2nd baseman for the White Sox who is very generously listed at 185lbs. (I'd guess he's closer to 170 than 185). Being as he's still largely overlooked by most baseball reporters I figured it was time for an update on one of the biggest reasons the White Sox have remained at the top of the AL Central for most of the year. 

I'll start by reminding everyone that Alexei is a SS by trade who can also play the OF. He was a long shot to make the team in spring training with Orlando Cabrera's name written in ink at SS, two players ahead of him at 2nd base, and with 3 players ahead of him in CF (Ironically the position recently acquired Ken Griffey Jr. now plays daily). Ramierez defied the odds by earning the job of backup 2nd baseman/utility player in spring training by adapting to 2nd quite quickly and hitting the ball all over Arizona in March (Along with Danny Richar first having visa problems getting into the country then getting hurt early in spring training). 

As I mentioned in the first blog, he was brutal in April. It was "clear" to all of us arm chair GM's that Alexei needed to hit the minors for some seasoning. I mean, the kid went 4 for his first 33, a robust .121BA. He was swinging at everything and usually looked bad doing so. Even us die hard fans were muttering to ourselves "no wonder nobody else even tried to sign this guy" after the Sox snagged him with a paltry 4year/$4mil deal. "Alexei must go" was something of a rallying cry on the South Side. He might not speak English, but I'm pretty sure boo's are a universal language. 

I mean, come on. The kid had NO plate discipline at all. I thought I was seeing the real life version of Willie Mays Hayes, a fast skinny kid who thought he should be a power hitter just because he led some Cuban league deemed the equivalent of between A ball and AA ball in HR's last year. Vicious uppercut swing, no discipline, swings at anything thrown in the same area code.

Even worse, he looked lost at 2nd base at times.

May 1st rolled around and I'm openly questioning why this guy is still on the big league roster. It was OBVIOUS he wasn't ready for the big leagues. Well, obvious to those of us who know alot about the game, but don't know what's going on outside of what we see on television. 

In May Juan Uribe got hurt. Now, Uribe is perhaps the streakiest hitter in the majors but at least when he get's hot you know he can carry an offense for a week or two before going into a prolonged slump. And he was a solid if not spectacular fielder anywhere on the infield with a rocket of an arm. Crap. The Cuban kid who should be learning the craft in AA is now the everyday 2nd baseman of my favorite team. Danny Richar who was supposed to be the opening day 2nd baseman until he got hurt (and was eventually traded in the Griffey deal) still wasn't ready. 

I can't emphasize how wrong I was. There aren't adequate words to explain how happy I am that the White Sox have far more sense than I do. Why? Let's start with defense. This kid who had never played 2nd base before (and it showed early on) has been nothing short of spectacular most of the time, making plays that would make most managers absolutely cringe look almost routine.

You kidding me?

Double Play?

His baseball instincts are immeasurable on the field.

But what about at the plate? Glad you asked. Not only does he have the highest average on the team at .309. Not only does he have more HR's and RBI than power hitting Paul Konerko. He is also THE most clutch hitter on a team that is third in MLB in runs scored. More clutch than Dye. More than Quentin. More than Crede.

2 outs runners in scoring position he's hitting .342

Late and close he's hitting .333

Bases loaded he's hitting .461 with two grand slams

Throw out his horrible April and Alexei has hit .328 since May 1st. That would be good enough for 5th in all of MLB right now. Only .002 out of 4th. 

Ozzie Guillen described him this way {paraphrase}: "He doesn't fear any pitcher because he doesn't know who they are to begin with. We face Beckett and most of the team is groaning, Alexei doesn't. He has no idea who Beckett is and doesn't care, he just hits whatever is thrown to him." I can see Ted Williams turning over in his grave with that comment. The guy doesn't study pitchers? Nope. He just goes up there and hits, adjusting on the fly, like a 12 year old little leaguer would. He might look silly the first two or three times up, then all of a sudden with the game on the line he makes the proper adjustments and gets it done in crunch time. 

Yet he's STILL only the 5th or 6th name you hear mentioned when it comes to rookie of the year talk among fans because the national media hasn't paid much attention to this young phenom who scouts obviously much smarter than I called a "much better fielding version of Alfonso Soriano" when he was signed. I rolled my eyes when I first read that. Not so much, anymore. 

 

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