CLEVELAND -- In 2018, José Ramírez had a quiet ending to an MVP-worthy season. When that slump carried into '19, Indians manager Terry Francona encouraged everyone to remain patient because he knew Ramírez would return to an MVP caliber soon. His bat then caught fire in June and he was lights-out through the end of the year. But the inconsistency of those two seasons caused one question to linger entering '20: Which José Ramírez would show up?
It may have been a shortened season, but the Indians third baseman was ready to show that his offensive troubles were in the past. Ramírez carried the Tribe offensively all year and forced his name onto MVP ballots over the final weeks of the season. But his efforts to secure his first American League Most Valuable Player Award came up just short.
Shane Bieber made an impressive showing in the MVP voting after winning the AL Cy Young Award unanimously on Wednesday. He placed fourth for the MVP Award with 173 points (57 points behind third place). He didn't receive any first- or second- place votes, but got four third-place votes, 10 fourth-place and nine fifth-place votes.
Ramírez is no stranger to a high finish in the AL MVP Award race. In both 2017 and ’18, he placed third before his second-place finish in 2020. His three top-three finishes over the past four seasons are the most of any Major League player in that span. But the Tribe’s 67-year MVP drought continues (last won by Al Rosen in 1953).
“I think José Ramírez is -- he’s special,” Indians reliever Cal Quantrill said in September. “He’s probably, I don’t know if you can be underrated as a top-five guy in the league, but if there’s such a thing, he’s underrated. His ability to work a count, to hit pitches that are borderline good pitches, being a switch-hitter -- the whole package. And he plays a fantastic third [base], too.”
There’s no question Ramírez was the best bat the Tribe had all season, hitting .292 with a career-best .993 OPS, 17 homers, 46 RBIs and 16 doubles in 58 games. He had a quieter August due to a thumb injury, but almost single-handedly pulled the Indians out of an eight-game losing streak in the middle of September and helped them end the season with nine wins in their final 11 games. In the last month of the season, he hit .366 with a 1.294 OPS, an .841 slugging percentage, 10 home runs, 24 RBIs and nine doubles.
“That's an MVP year, man,” teammate Franmil Reyes said at the end of the season. “Like I told you guys before, José, for me, is one of the best players in the league. He deserves the MVP. The way he carried us all the way, it was really big for the team. I'm really thankful to be playing right next to him.”
Ramírez shot to the top of the fWAR leaderboard (3.4) at the end of the year, tying National League MVP Award winner Freddie Freeman for the highest in the Majors. His 17 long balls also tied Mike Trout and Fernando Tatís Jr. for the fourth most in MLB, and his 46 RBIs tied Trout for the sixth most.
While his bat couldn’t carry the Indians beyond the Wild Card Series this postseason and his performance wasn’t enough to secure his first AL MVP Award, Ramírez still proved a lot in his shortened season. For anyone who was concerned that the MVP-like third baseman Ramírez had shown who he was in 2017 and ’18 had disappeared after his excruciating slump, he demonstrated that his bat has quite a bit of pop left in it.
“He’s been doing it for years now and I can’t wait to continue to see the success he’s gonna have,” shortstop Francisco Lindor said earlier this year. “He’s an MVP. He’s gonna win MVP one year.”