CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – Much has been made of the departures of Rajai Davis and Mike Napoli, each of whom brought their own unique traits to the diamond, but were regarded more so for their veteran leadership.
As the defending American League Champions have stumbled to a 49-45 record, even more has been made about the departure of two names with 24 years of MLB experience between them.
Both produced between the lines though to varying and perhaps exaggerated extents in some cases. The same could possibly be said for what the two contributed in the clubhouse.
That is not to say that the veteran presences were not appreciated and helpful to a degree, but count Manager Terry Francona as a man who sees the ultimate leadership to be of the unspoken kind.
Enter Jose Ramirez.
The 25-year old All-Star starter is not known as an active leader, in part because of his age and experience; partly because of the language barrier for the primarily Spanish-speaking third baseman.
With a .398 weighted on-base average in 2017 and a career UZR of 10.4 at third base, Ramirez has let his play do the talking.
“I know he likes to play and the way he plays is beneficial, like as a leader,” the skipper said. “I would always prefer if you had to choose one or the other, take the guy that leads by example. That’s a really good way to lead.”
Francona also noted that he invokes the name of fellow All-Star Michael Brantley for the same reason.
“He’s not the loudest guy in there,” Francona said.
What adds to Ramirez’s unspoken leadership ability even further is that willingness to be on the field at all times, like Francona said, but also play whatever position he is asked.
Serving as a “super” utility-man, Ramirez has spent a handful of time at second base during the beginning of the season with the injury to Jason Kipnis, then moving back to the position at which he earned his Summer Classic start.
Since Kipnis’s latest injury, Ramirez has bounced between the two positions with the presence of Erik Gonzalez, primarily a middle infielder, and Giovanny Urshela, a defensive-minded third baseman.
There is something to be said about flexibility and leadership going hand-in-hand.
“It’s huge,” Francona added. “We even talked about it when he signed his contract. We just wanted to make sure he understood that that could still happen or we might need it to happen. He doesn’t do it grudgingly, he just does it and it really helps us a lot.”
As for the language barrier being a potential wall between that leadership ability expanding, the manager dismissed the idea.
“I do know that his teammates really like him, which is a good thing,” Francona said before cracking a joke.
“Sometimes he starts talking, it’s fast. Like I don’t know if the Spanish guys understand him. He gets going pretty quick.”