CLEVELAND -- Jose Ramirez did not win the American League's Most Valuable Player Award on Thursday night, but it did not feel like a defeat for the Indians' versatile infielder. Ramirez has been searching for the spotlight for the past few seasons and finally forced the baseball world to pay
CLEVELAND -- Jose Ramirez did not win the American League's Most Valuable Player Award on Thursday night, but it did not feel like a defeat for the Indians' versatile infielder. Ramirez has been searching for the spotlight for the past few seasons and finally forced the baseball world to pay attention.
The AL's top honor went to Astros second baseman Jose Altuve in balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, with Yankees slugger Aaron Judge finishing as the runner-up. Ramirez placed third in the voting, but the fact that he worked himself into the national conversation was a victory in itself for Cleveland's catalyst.
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"He's turned himself into one of the best players in the game," Indians manager Terry Francona said this season. "Defensively, he's really good. Offensively, he's really good. Shoot, he's just really good."
Altuve took home the AL MVP with 27 out of 30 first-place votes, garnering 405 points overall. Judge received two first-place votes and ended with 279 points, while Ramirez collected one first-place vote, 22 third-place votes, six fourth-place votes and one sixth-place vote for 237 points. The Indians also had shortstop Francisco Lindor (fourth with 143 points), ace Corey Kluber (seventh with 101 points) and designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion (20th with four points) among the players to receive MVP votes.
Ramirez, 25, was arguably the Indians' MVP in 2016 -- and he earned the local BBWAA's Bob Feller Man of the Year Award to that end -- but he elevated his performance even further this year. The switch-hitting infielder bounced between second and third base, turned in stellar defense and led the Majors in doubles (56) and extra-base hits (91, tied with Marlins slugger and National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton).
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With Ramirez providing a high-contact, consistent and powerful bat in the heart of the lineup, the Indians captured their second straight AL Central crown and won an AL-best 102 games. Ramirez manned second base when injuries flared for Jason Kipnis, and slotted into the lineup's third spot when Michael Brantley fought health woes of his own. Ramirez remained steady offensively and defensively no matter his role.
"He keeps adding another dimension to his game," Kluber said this season. "Last year, on the fly learning to play left field. And then all of a sudden turning into an everyday third baseman, when second base is actually his natural position. He hasn't missed a beat by playing other positions. While doing that, performing at the plate the way he has is really impressive."
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In 152 games, Ramirez hit .318/.374/.583 with 29 home runs, 83 RBIs and 107 runs scored. He became the first player in Indians history to record at least 56 doubles and 91 extra-base hits in a season, and joined Carlos Delgado (2000), Todd Helton (2000), Joe Medwick (1936, '37), Hank Greenberg (1934) and Chuck Klein (1930) as the only players in MLB history to hit those marks in a single campaign.
"It's just been working hard, day in, day out," Ramirez said via team interpreter Anna Bolton during MLB Network's MVP announcement show. "And putting in the extra work. Lifting weights, working on my legs and working on getting stronger. Getting a good swing on the ball. And thankfully we had good results."
The 56 doubles by Ramirez were the third-most for one year in club history, trailing only George Burns (64 in 1926) and Tris Speaker (59 in 1923). Only Albert Belle (103 in 1995), Hal Trosky (96 in 1936) and Player Page for Grady Sizemore (92 in 2006) managed more extra-base hits in one season in team history. During an incredible stretch from June 14-19, Ramirez compiled 14 extra-base hits, becoming the first player in modern MLB history to achieve that many in a seven-game span.
Ramirez's showing earned him the starting nod at third base in the AL All-Star Game, helped him pick up an AL Silver Slugger Award at third base and made him a finalist for a Gold Glove Award at the hot corner. It was not, however, enough to push Ramirez past Altuve or Judge in voting for the league's MVP. His top-three finish did make it clear that the time has come to take notice of what Ramirez has been doing for the Tribe.
"Jose had such a great breakout year this year," Indians general manager Mike Chernoff said recently. "It's amazing to see a player who's moved around so much -- he started in left field two years ago, third base, and then even in-season moving from third to second -- to be able to put up the offensive season that he did this year, it's a huge credit to him and his dynamic athleticism."
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.