Disappointingly, Jose Ramirez is not a finalist to be a starter at this year’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game in Seattle.
The outcome does not come as much of a surprise as Ramirez had gotten off to a horrid start in the early voting results. During MLB’s June 12th update Ramirez found himself in 9th place among American League third basemen behind the likes of DJ LeMahieu (his 21 RBI was lowest among qualified 3Bs) and Anthony Rendon (35 games played at the time, and also, ya know, nearly fought a fan in Oakland earlier this year). Ramirez was 2nd among AL third basemen in Wins Above Replacement at the time.
Even with the strong WAR number, some may think that Ramirez’s performance could possibly be at fault for the lackluster voting results. Up until a three-home run showing on May 8th, he hadn’t shown much in the way of power on the season. Also, Ramirez only has five steals to date even with this year’s rule changes making it easier to swipe bags. Lastly, while he remains as solid in the field as ever, there are no major defensive highlights that stick out from Ramirez this year. In short, while Ramirez’s overall production screams “All-Star!” and his personality provides backing vocals, his play early this year wasn’t especially flashy. And without the right flash, all that shouting might have fallen on deaf ears.
But as was foretold by his sudden home run outburst of the 8th, Ramirez heated up over the course of the month of June. He followed that day’s performance with another home run on the 9th and carried that momentum in the weeks following that first ballot update.
Just a little over a week later on June 20th, Ramirez had lifted himself up to 4th among AL third baseman in votes. That improvement came over a period of time that saw him hit .323 and slug .548 with six RBI. He would also take over the lead for WAR among AL third baseman during this time period.
Unfortunately, despite climbing the ladder to fourth place, Ramirez would still see the vote gap widen between himself and 2nd place vote-getter Josh Jung of the Texas Rangers. Jung, along with Blue Jays third baseman Matt Chapman are now locked into the head-to-head vote that will determine the AL’s starter at third.
Ramirez very well may still make the All-Star game. Every team must have a representative and at this point, it seems the only likely Guardians would be Ramirez or closer Emmanuel Clase (perhaps both even). However, if Ramirez were to make it now it will be by the grace of being acknowledged by his peers. All-Star reserves are selected largely (but not entirely) by a player vote. While Ramirez’s distinct combination of both flair and competency may have gone underappreciated by the fans, I would be astounded if it gets neglected by the players themselves. Hosey feels like your favorite ballplayer’s favorite ballplayer. He plays really hard, is incredibly respected in his own and opposing clubhouses and knows how to mix the fun of playing baseball for a living with behaving like a pro on the field.
Maybe more importantly, while the players are also subject to their own biases, I have a lot more faith in them selecting appropriate All-Stars at this point than I do fans. All-Star fan voting has always been a popularity contest. To a point, it should be. The All-Star Game should be about affording fans the chance to see their favorites on the field all at once. At the same time, in recent years MLB All-Star voting reminds me disturbingly of our worst tendencies in more politically severe elections. Specifically, it’s all about inspiring your base to come out to the polls.
In 2016 when the Kansas City Royals dominated the All-Star voting coming off their World Series Championship, that was the blueprint for this sort of thing. That fanbase came out inspired to vote for their players both star and journeyman alike. More recently, this is how the likes of Jung gets more than double the votes of Ramirez. The Rangers are good (like really good) for the first time in nearly a decade. Jung is a young and important piece of that ascension. Their fans are feeling the enthusiasm, and understandably.
On the other hand, as we approach the halfway mark of the season, the Guardians’ outlook remains lukewarm at best. They remain below .500 while playing in the worst division in baseball and with most indications being that they remain pretenders as opposed to serious contenders. All of this comes off of last year’s exhilarating 92-win season with the youngest team in baseball. This team was supposed to take a step forward. That hasn’t happened. That’s a recipe for Jose Ramirez to get overlooked. Quite frankly, I think this is more the answer to his poor performance in the polls than his early lack of flashy counting stats and web gems.
Basically, because the Guardians at large haven’t inspired a lot of excitement, the fans replied in kind and did not stuff the virtual ballot box with votes for Hosey. To further make this point, the Guardians only had two more players who barely eclipse the top 10 at their positions: Josh Naylor and Andres Gimenez.
So, it’s a shame that the fans didn’t feel the fervor to send Ramirez to Seattle, but really, I wouldn’t take it too much to heart. His absence from finalist voting isn’t so much an indictment on his play this year as it is an indictment on the Guardians not meeting expectations.
That’s honestly a worse outcome holistically, but at least we shouldn’t feel like our star player isn’t being directly slighted.