José Ramírez is one of the best players in Major League Baseball. The perennial All-Star from the Cleveland Guardians has produced some great seasons in his big-league resume. Ramirez has been an All-Star in five of his first eight full-time big-league seasons and, on six occasions, has finished in the top 10 in the Most Valuable Player voting. He has also won the Silver Slugger on four occasions, cementing himself as one of the best offensive players in his position. Ramirez is playing in the Dominican Winter League for the first time since the 2015-16 season when he was not yet a full-time MLB player.
Ramírez is now dawning the legendary Leones del Escogido colors instead of his original team, Toros del Este. Ramirez played 107 Dominican Winter League games for Toros del Este from the 2012-13 season until the 2015-16 season. In those 107 games, Ramirez produced a slash line of .285/.352/.379 with 4 HR and 52 RBI. Ramirez also played in the Caribbean Series representing Toros del Este on a team that also featured Dominican baseball icons Miguel Tejada and Fernando Tatis, Sr. During that series, Ramirez played in 7 games and hit for an OPS of .772, and had a home run and four runs batted in.
José has hit the ground running in his second stint in the Dominican League for Leones, the 16-time League Champion and 4-time Caribbean Series Champion. Leones are currently in fourth place in the standings of the Dominican League, having played themselves back into a playoff spot after a slow start. Ramirez’s addition could not come at a better time, as Leones are in the middle of a five-game winning streak that has them primed to make a run for the championship during the second half of the season. The Leones have outscored their opponents 43-12 during this winning streak. In his first two games back in the league, Ramirez hit a home run, 3 RBI, and two hits in his five first at-bats. He has also drawn three walks, as those who have followed his career are familiar with his keen eye at the plate.
It is unclear how long Ramírez will stay with the team past the season or if he will play in the Caribbean Series. But the fact that Ramirez is playing in the Dominican League today is a testament to his commitment to the sport’s growth in his native country, like that of Acuña in Venezuela. Ramirez would not have to play to make an impact in the league; he could show his support by wearing the uniform, which would still show significant commitment. Jose Ramirez doesn’t need to work on his swing during the Winter. Whatever he has been doing in the offseason during the past seven years has made him one of the best in the world in this game. But, because Ramirez chooses to play, a person in the Dominican Republic who otherwise could not have seen a player of that caliber play during his prime will be able to see him play. A youngster in the Leones clubhouse will tell his grandchildren that even though they never made it to the big leagues, they shared a clubhouse and dugout with the great Jose Ramirez one winter. A child will fall in love with baseball in the Dominican Republic because José Ramírez signed his baseball. That is worth mentioning and a perfect indictment of what the Winter leagues in the Caribbean are all about.
Photo By: Redaccion LIDOM/www.lidom.com