A New Contract? More Pressure? No Problem For Cleveland Guardians’ Jose Ramirez

Jose Ramirez is a manager’s dream. He’s also very popular with his general manager, and ownership. His teammates love him, and his fans break into song every time he does something dramatic – which happens quite often – at Cleveland’s Progressive Field.

But what makes him most popular among all of the above, especially the general manager and ownership, is that Jose Ramirez likes baseball more than he likes money.

Talk about old school.

There may be no team in the majors more appreciative of an MVP-caliber player, who gets his biggest kicks from the game itself, not payday, than the Cleveland Guardians.

On opening day this year Ramirez, who was nearing the stage of his career when most of Cleveland’s star players are either traded or leave as free agents, willingly signed a vastly under-market contract extension with the financially-challenged Guardians, whose only hope of keeping Ramirez was if he was willing to accept a vastly under-market deal.

Remarkably, he was.

So he did – and he hasn’t stopped hitting since.

The contract was the biggest in Cleveland Guardians/Indians history: 7-years, $141 million. Given his resume – in three of the last five years he finished in the top three in voting for the American League Most Valuable Player Award – Ramirez, on the open market, probably could have commanded something well above that $141 million figure.

But Cleveland’s 29-year-old superstar had no desire to leave Cleveland or enter the free agent market. So, he accepted that $141 million deal, which more than doubled the previous record for the largest contract in franchise history, Edwin Encarnacion’s 2017 three-year, $60 million deal.

However, what most distinguishes Ramirez’s new deal isn’t that he signed such a club-friendly deal, but what he’s done since he signed that club-friendly deal.

What’s he done since then?

He hasn’t stopped hitting.

“This kid is one of the best players in the game, and he does it every day. He’s a joy to watch,” said Guardians manager Terry Francona, after his diminutive third baseman blasted a double and a home run, and collected four RBI, in a 6-1 Cleveland victory over Houston Monday night.

Many players struggle to cope with the expectations that accompany the signing of a monster contract with a new team. One of the latest examples of that played next to Ramirez for six years on the left side of Cleveland’s infield: shortstop Francisco Lindor.

Drafted, signed, and developed into a big star by Cleveland, free agent-to be Lindor, un-signable for the Guardians, was traded following the 2020 season to the Mets, who later signed him to a 10-year, $341 million deal.

After hitting .285 with an .833 OPS over his six years in Cleveland, Lindor, in his first year and two months with the Mets, is hitting .232 with a .730 OPS. Lindor will likely return to his pre-big contract level eventually. But Ramirez has had no such slippage in his performance since signing his deal.

To the contrary, Ramirez has flourished since he decided to forego free agency in order to stay in Cleveland, at a figure $200 million below Lindor’s.

At the start of play Tuesday Ramirez was leading the majors with 41 RBI, and with good reason. He’s almost unstoppable in big moments. With runners in scoring position Ramirez is hitting an outrageous .371, with a .500 on-base percentage, .914 slugging percentage, and 1.414 OPS.

Ramirez is also leading the American League in triples. He’s fourth in the league in total bases, OPS, extra base hits, and slugging. His 10 home runs rank sixth in the league, as do his 22 walks. He also is one of the hardest hitters in the league to strike out, averaging 10.2 at bats per strikeout.

Prior to signing his new deal with Cleveland, Ramirez always seemed like a candidate to potentially not chase the last dollar, either through his negotiations with the Guardians, or as a free agent.

The bright lights, the big cities, the fame and fortune that comes with being a marquee player who does chase the dollars, the lights, and the cities, none of those are magnets for Ramirez. He’s happy where he’s most comfortable. If he has to sacrifice a few million dollars to stay where he’s comfortable, so be it.

Conventional wisdom suggests that Ramirez, as so many players do, might over-try in attempting to justify his new contract. But that’s not him. If you’re not flustered by leaving at least another $100 million on the negotiating table, you probably won’t be jittery walking to the plate with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, with the winning run at second base. . .

And your fans getting ready to break into song.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jimingraham/2022/05/24/a-new-contract-more-pressure-no-problem-for-jose-ramirez/