GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Their respective entrances to the big leagues were drastically different. Jose Ramirez was relatively unknown when he arrived to the Majors from Double-A five years ago with a swagger in his step and the bravado of a seasoned star. Francisco Lindor had the spotlight fixed on him
GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Their respective entrances to the big leagues were drastically different. Jose Ramirez was relatively unknown when he arrived to the Majors from Double-A five years ago with a swagger in his step and the bravado of a seasoned star. Francisco Lindor had the spotlight fixed on him from the day he was drafted.
Their backgrounds no longer matter. Ramirez and Lindor are now both cornerstones for a Cleveland club determined to win a World Series and form one of baseball's most dynamic duos. Ramirez still walks with his chest out, and Lindor continues to flash that smile that has made him one of the young faces of this game. Their sense of style behind the scenes sometimes sums up their style of play, too.
Ramirez runs like his hair is on fire while legging out double after double, and he has sported fire-orange locks atop his head over the past couple of seasons. Lindor is more precise in his acrobatics as the Indians' shortstop and has embraced the national attention. This spring, he arrived to camp with platinum-dyed hair to match the diamonds that often dangle around his neck.
"Lindor doesn't have as much flow as I have," Ramirez quipped.
They came up through the Minors together and now push each other with the Tribe. Lindor has been named to two American League All-Star teams, was the AL's Rookie of the Year Award runner-up in 2015 and picked up both Gold and Platinum Glove Awards in '16. Ramirez started for the AL All-Star team at third base last summer and finished third in balloting for the AL Most Valuable Player Award. They both won Silver Slugger Awards in '17.
There are plenty of reasons to tune in to watch the Tribe -- chief among them the talented starting rotation led by two-time AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber -- but Lindor and Ramirez are the real show. Each night, there is a chance that Lindor does something in the field to drop fans' jaws, and Ramirez is always looking for a way to use his aggressiveness to catch his opponent by surprise.
"Jose's fun to watch," Lindor said. "He's impressive. Every time he comes up to hit, you know he's going to get a hit or do something fun."
Last season, Ramirez and Lindor accomplished feats on the field that put them among the franchise's all-time great duos. They joined Albert Belle and Manny Ramirez (1996) and Hal Trosky and Earl Averill (1934 and '36) as the only teammates in Cleveland's long, storied history to each have at least 80 extra-base hits in the same season. Ramirez paced the AL with 91, while Lindor collected 81.
In 152 games, the 25-year-old Ramirez turned in a .318/.374/.583 slash line to go along with 29 home runs, 56 doubles, six triples, 83 RBIs, 107 runs scored and 17 stolen bases last season. His 56 doubles were the most in a single campaign by a Cleveland batter since 1926 and the third-highest total in club history. Ramirez's .957 OPS ranked fourth in the AL and his extra-base hit total was tied with Giancarlo Stanton for the most in the Majors.
"We've hit him in the middle of the order for quite some time," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I think before the league realized what was going on, we were hitting him fifth a lot. He may not look like it when you look at him, but when you watch him, he's a really good hitter."
Lindor, 24, played in 159 games, during which he posted a .273/.337/.505 slash line with 33 homers, 44 doubles, four triples, 89 RBIs, 99 runs scored and 15 steals. His 33 homers marked the most in one year by a middle infielder in Indians history, topping a record that stood since 1948 (Joe Gordon, 32). Lindor also set a Major League record for the most homers in one season by a switch-hitting shortstop. He finished fifth in AL MVP voting.
"He's still really young," Francona said. "I think his better days are ahead of him. And I think that bodes really well for us, because his aptitude is so good and he wants to be not just good, he wants to be great."
That is true of both Lindor and Ramirez.
Ramirez was originally signed at 17 years old out of Bani, Dominican Republic, for $50,000. Lindor received the largest signing bonus for a position player in Tribe history at the time ($2.9 million) after being taken in the first round (eighth overall) in the 2011 MLB Draft. None of that matters now. They are now at the same level on the same field, and they have the same goal: Leading the Indians to a World Series triumph.
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.