By Mark Gonzales, Tribune reporter
9:46 PM CDT, October 10, 2012
Of all the disappointments that surrounded the White Sox's collapse in the final two weeks of the season, Alexei Ramirez was one of the first players to hold himself accountable.
The Sox's shortstop isn't one of the team's higher-profile players, yet there have been expectations that his production at the plate would increase instead of level off as it has the last two seasons.
So it was refreshing to hear Ramirez tell a group of reporters on Sept. 28 that 2012 was one of his worst years and that he was determined to improve.
"I'm more upset with myself because I know I can do better than what I'm doing," Ramirez told reporters.
The damage caused by the middle of the order is done, and the Sox are at home while the Tigers are striving for the World Series.
Meanwhile, Ramirez will rest before embarking on workouts at his South Miami home.
It's a good thing for the Sox that Ramirez, 31, is on a mission to improve. With uncertainties at third base and catcher, the Sox will need Ramirez to produce more at the plate in addition to his solid defense.
When the Sox moved Ramirez from second base to shortstop following his remarkable 2008 rookie season after leaving Cuba, the hope was that Ramirez would become more selective and more productive at the plate in addition to making a smooth transition from the other side of the diamond.
While Ramirez has provided Gold Glove-caliber defense the past two seasons, his offense has been very respectable for a bottom-of-the-order hitter but average, at best, for someone who once was projected as a No. 2 hitter.
Ramirez batted a career-low .265 that was offset somewhat by his .336 batting average with runners in scoring position. He led all American League shortstops with 73 RBIs and stole a career-high 20 bases, but he hit a career-low nine home runs (none after Sept. 7).
Slow starts are common with Ramirez, a lifetime .220 batter in April, as well as bouts of anxiousness at the plate and an occasional baserunner lapse. But he should be able to perform with a clear mind next year now that his parents arrived from Cuba on June 25 after his not seeing them for about five years.
Ramirez is in the second year of a four-year, $32 million contract, and it would be slightly crazy to suggest he's expendable. He played in 156 games or more in each of the past three seasons, and he hasn't lost a step at short. He possesses a strong arm while working smoothly with second baseman Gordon Beckham.
Ramirez also was part of the reason the Sox were more effective in nailing base stealers, as he showed a greater commitment to holding his ground more frequently at second with runners sliding hard into the bag.
Infielder Carlos Sanchez impressed in the minors, but he's only 20 and might need half a season of Triple-A seasoning before the Sox put him in the majors for good at a specific infield position.
Ramirez, meanwhile, will be counted on in 2013 to improve his production at a spot somewhere higher than eighth in the order.
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