Mic'd up Francisco Lindor stole the show at MLB All Star Game

Mic'd up Francisco Lindor stole the show at MLB All Star Game

Francisco Lindor stole the show with his personality at the 2018 MLB All Star Game. (Source: AP Images)Francisco Lindor stole the show with his personality at the 2018 MLB All Star Game. (Source: AP Images)
CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) –

The 2018 MLB All Star weekend was memorable for a number of reasons. 

The homerun derby, the home run derby at the All Star game (a record ten), and Francisco Lindor.

Major League Baseball mic’d up the Cleveland Indians shortstop during the game at Nationals Park in Washington. 

Lindor was just being his normal, energetic, charming and charismatic self.

The only difference is he was on a national stage, and baseball fans got a glimpse of what Clevelanders see every night. 

The fans were loving it, and so were the players.

For the Indians that participated in the game here are there stats: 

  • Michael Brantley was 1-for-2 with an RBI
  • Lindor was 0-for-1
  • Yan Gomes was 0-for-3 
  • Jose Ramirez was 0-for-2 

The Tribe’s next matchup will be on the road against the Texas Rangers on Friday, July 20, at 8:05 p.m. 

Copyright 2018 WOIO. All rights reserved.

Who Needs A World Series? The Indians Are Dominating The All-Star Game

Who Needs A World Series? The Indians Are Dominating The All-Star Game

When Major League Baseball’s All-Stars take the field Tuesday night in Washington, the Cleveland Indians will be quite well-represented. With starting third baseman Jose Ramirez leading the way, the Tribe has six total players on the American League roster, tied with the Houston Astros for the most in MLB.1 It’s a fitting honor for this star-powered season in Cleveland: The Indians currently boast four players — Ramirez, Francisco Lindor, Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber — each on pace to put up at least six wins above replacement,2 which, if it holds up (grain of salt), would tie them for the most by any MLB team since 1901.

That kind of star performance is nothing new for the Tribe, though. Since the All-Star Game began in 1933, only seven franchises (the Yankees, Cardinals, Red Sox, Dodgers, Reds, Giants and Braves) have sent more total players to the midsummer classic than Cleveland has. And no team’s top players have done more to help their league win during the game itself, especially on the pitching side. The franchise may not have won a World Series since 1948, but it does shine brightly on at least one high-profile stage.

I figured all this out by crunching a simplified version of WAR on the stats from each All-Star Game in history. This WAR doesn’t use defensive metrics3 or fancy adjustments for extra bases gained, but it does judge a player’s basic hitting and pitching stats relative to the environment in which they were produced. (For batters, this mainly meant calculating runs above average using weighted on-base average; for pitchers, this involved a 50-50 blend between the value of not allowing earned runs and the value of performance in categories a pitcher directly controls — walks, strikeouts and home runs.)4

By all those numbers, here are the franchises who have the best All-Star Game WAR over time, divided by the number of years they’ve existed (through 2017):

In terms of value from batters (per season that both the team and the All-Star Game existed), the Indians rank fifth behind the Cardinals, Red Sox, Tigers and Diamondbacks. That’s pretty good, and it comes thanks to players such as third baseman Al Rosen (career 1.247 All-Star OPS) and catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. (who was named MVP in 1997). But the pitching side is where Cleveland has really distinguished itself, easily ranking No. 1 among all franchises (topping the Dodgers and Reds). That’s largely due to the efforts of 1930s/40s-era Tribe hurlers Mel Harder and Bob Feller, who show up as the top two pitchers in All-Star history according to WAR. In 25⅓ combined All-Star innings over nine appearances, that pair allowed just 1 earned run, good for a miniscule ERA of 0.36.

Now, we should note that it’s no coincidence the All-Star Game’s most valuable pitchers played early in the game’s existence. Back then, pitchers like Feller were allowed to log three to four innings at a time, as opposed to today’s trend of letting each pitcher on the roster get about an inning of work apiece. Obviously, it’s easier to rack up big WAR totals if you get to throw more innings — provided you’re effective the way Harder and Feller were.

But that isn’t to say no modern players are near the top of the All-Star WAR ranks. Mariano Rivera ranks ninth among pitchers after allowing zero earned runs in nine innings of work, and Randy Johnson ranks 11th. On the hitting side, Derek Jeter enhanced his status as baseball’s biggest star with a 1.184 OPS and the third-most All-Star WAR of any position player.5 And Mike Trout is zooming up the list — because of course he is — with a 1.533 OPS and the seventh-most WAR of any hitter, compiled in only five appearances.

Speaking of modern entities, at the other end of the All-Star WAR spectrum from the Indians are the Miami Marlins and Colorado Rockies, who look terrible even after adjusting for how comparatively few chances they’ve had to rack up appearances. (Each franchise entered MLB in 1993.) Interestingly, the Astros join them among the teams whose players have done the least in the All-Star Game over the years. Houston has had plenty of top-line talent to represent it, but Jose Altuve and Craig Biggio combined to go 1-for-23 in their All-Star appearances, and Roger Clemens gave up 3 earned runs in two innings as an Astro, to go with a handful of other high-profile flops.

The good news for the Astros is that they’ll get a bunch of chances to reverse that trend in Tuesday’s game. At the same time, the Indians will get plenty more opportunities to pad their all-time numbers. Bauer and Ramirez might never catch up to Feller and Rosen, but they do have a lot of illustrious history on their side.

Check out our latest MLB predictions.

Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer is the anti-hero baseball needs

Indians pitcher Trevor Bauer is the anti-hero baseball needs

WASHINGTON – From his unique training regimen to his scientific approach to pitching to his polarizing personality, Trevor Bauer may be the most misunderstood player in baseball.

Bauer’s personality, charitably described as “unique,” can have a tendency to rub people the wrong way.

But the one that’s the easiest to understand about him: he’s an All-Star.

“I’m me. Like me. Love me. Hate me. Whatever,” he says. “Hopefully, you just remember who I was.”

This season, he’s been hard to forget. The Cleveland Indians right-hander ranks second in the American League in ERA (2.24), third in strikeouts (175) and third in Wins Above Replacement (4.5).

He’s one of the main reasons the Indians are 7½ games in front of their closest competitors in the AL Central Division at the All-Star break, the largest lead in baseball.

MORE ALL-STAR GAME COVERAGE

However, he’s also made headlines for other reasons. There was the public back-and-forth with some Houston Astros players after he suggested they were finding creative ways to get more spin on their pitches.

Shortly after he made those comments, the Indians faced the Astros, which rekindled memories of his frosty relationship with fellow AL All-Star Gerrit Cole of the Astros when the two were college teammates at UCLA.

“I’m not afraid to be disliked,” he said. “I’ve been disliked a majority of my life, actually, by a lot of people.”

However, there are usually two sides to every story. And the truth ultimately lies somewhere in the middle.

“Growing up you’re either popular or you’re not. You’re cool or you’re not. You’re smart or you’re not. But very few things in life are black and white like that,” he said Tuesday at All-Star media day.

Then came Bauer’s epiphany.

“There was one day I woke up in the morning, my junior year of high school, I looked in the mirror and said, ‘What’s so wrong with me? Why do I have no friends? Why do people dislike me? Why am I not popular?’

“I was like, I don’t see anything wrong with me. I like who I am. I like where I’m going in life. I’m just going to be myself and that’s it,” he said. “And so from that day, that’s what I do.”

Bauer admits that attitude may have a lot to do with his success. He’s also a believer in some unusual training methods, which include long-toss before games, elaborate stretching exercises and the use of a lighter ball in some drills designed to improve velocity.

Whatever the methods, Bauer is having a career year. He’s improved his performance to an All-Star level, in part, because of the addition this spring of a devastating slider to his pitch mix.

After he threw the pitch less than 1% of the time in 2016 and 5.6% last year, he’s upped its usage to 13.5% this season – but only after using high-tech tools to monitor his spin rate and analyzing video at 2000 frames per second.

The key was measuring his slider against some of the best in the game.

“As the season progressed and I got more film of it in game situations and was able to identify what was going on I was able to compare it to … (Mike) Clevinger’s, (Marcus) Stroman’s and (Corey) Kluber’s and look at the different ways it came out of our hands.

As a result, Fangraphs rates Bauer’s sixth-best slider as the sixth-best in the majors in terms of effectiveness, at 11.6 runs above average.

“I don’t want to say (I’m) stubborn, but … I’ve stuck to things that I’ve been advised not to do or told aren’t going to work that end up working because I have a belief in myself and I have a belief in the reason that I’m doing those things,” he said.

“A lot of those things are playing out now in my favor, where if I would have stopped doing them four or five years ago, I probably wouldn’t be where I’m at right now.”

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How Jose Ramirez went from too small to a star to an artist at the plate

How Jose Ramirez went from too small to a star to an artist at the plate

Heading into the All-Star break, there are four hitters in baseball with an OPS over 1.000. All four are in the American League, and all four will be starting in the All-Star Game. Mike Trout, you’ve heard of him. And you know Mookie Betts, the starting right fielder of the Boston Red Sox. And designated hitter J.D. Martinez was the big bat in last winter’s free-agent class, and now he’s earning every penny at the plate for Boston.

But the fourth player? It’s José Ramírez, the 5-foot-9 third baseman for the Cleveland Indians whose numbers have turned heads and quickly earned the respect of teammates and votes from fans.

But the thing about Ramírez taking his place among the best hitters in the game is that it wasn’t expected, it wasn’t predicted, it wasn’t foreseen. That’s because when he started to pursue his dream of being a professional baseball player at age 15 in his native Dominican Republic, Ramírez found most doors leading to the majors being slammed in his face.

Back in 2008, despite being one of the top-performing players in the Dominican Prospect League, Ramírez would hear phrases such as, “He’s just a filler player,” “He’s way too small” and, the one that bothered him most of all, “He’ll never be a star.”

Ramírez grew up in Baní, a city approximately 40 miles southwest of the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo, well known for its plantains and artisanal coffee, and for being former All-Star shortstop Miguel Tejada’s hometown. Ramírez grew up dreaming of being like an all-world hitter named Ramírez — Manny. But he had to settle for the nickname of “Mini-Me” due to his small size.

“I knew it would be hard for me [to get signed] because [scouts] are always looking for a Mike Trout, a Bryce Harper. Those kind of guys; big, strong guys. I imagine that [José] Altuve had the same thing happen to him. I guess nobody believed Altuve could be what he has become. Sometimes your size, a smaller body, one does not attract attention or anything and nobody believes in you,” he said.

“I always excelled in the DPL, but no one would ever really believe in me,” Ramírez explained in a one-on-one interview with ESPN. “Only my coach, Enrique Soto, he always supported me. He always told me, ‘You’re the best player here; the thing is no one knows about it.’

“There were players getting millions in signing bonuses; big boys that were worth a lot of money,” Ramírez added. “Enrique Soto told Ramón Peña [who led Cleveland’s Latin American scouting from 2009 to 2016], ‘You’d give $2 million to those guys and you won’t give $200,000 to José Ramírez? He’s the best player here, and he’s going to make it to the majors really fast.’ And they negotiated and negotiated, and Ramón Peña said he wouldn’t pay more than $50,000. The day he signed me, [Peña] said, ‘Enrique has no idea what a bad deal he just made!'”

Even after signing, Ramírez did not have it easy, even though he just kept hitting despite being among the youngest players at every level on the way up. His stature was always seen as a strike against him. But after splitting the 2013 season playing second, third and shortstop at Double-A at 20 years old, he earned an initial cup of coffee when rosters expanded.

“I won’t mention any names, but there are people even in this organization who said they were not going to bring me up to the big leagues, that I was not ready,” Ramírez said. “I never said anything to them, I tried to remain humble, but I always knew I would prove them wrong.”

He earned a return to the majors for the second half in 2014 — aged just 21 years old — but struggled to stick in 2015. But since he made it back to the majors to stay in August 2015, he has done nothing but hit, delivering a .775 OPS for the rest of 2015, an .825 OPS with 60 extra-base hits in 2016, topped by last year’s breakthrough to a .957 OPS and a third-place finish in AL MVP voting. Indians manager Terry Francona would be the first one to point out that you underestimate “Josie” at your own peril.

“Josie has made himself what he is,” Francona explained. “When he first came up, we had to send him back twice because he was struggling. We knew he’d be a good utility player because he could move around; he could run a bit. And then, once he got going … it’s amazing when people understand, ‘Man, I can belong here.’ Then all of a sudden you just don’t belong — ‘I can thrive here.’

“He is a player that you can win with,” Francona said. Then he added, “He is a player that you can anchor your team around him and win.”

And just like that, the former prospect too small to take seriously is too big for the Indians to win without. Paired with all-world shortstop Francisco Lindor, his gifts help the Indians trade punches at the plate with the big-budget, star-laden lineups in New York or Boston, which gives them two franchise players to keep contending with for years to come. But where Lindor could become a free agent after 2021, Ramírez is already locked in as an Indian through 2023 after signing a five-year contract with two team options.

He’s well worth the investment. Hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo considers Ramírez to be gifted with some of the best hand-eye coordination and pitch recognition in baseball. “He’s really a natural good hitter,” Van Burkleo noted. “He’s got very good quick-twitch reactionary-type athleticism … the way his mind works and his calmness, the fearlessness. It’s just a perfect combination.”

That combination has helped Ramírez deliver in almost any situation the Indians might need, creating an in-game problem opponents can’t work their way around. And in today’s reliever-dominated game with opponents always looking to gain matchup advantages, Ramírez’s balance can be even more important. In addition to being dangerous from both sides of the plate, he ranks in the top 10 in OPS against both opposing starters and relievers this season, with nearly identical OPS marks and strikeout rates against both.

“He’s such a good hitter that the guys coming out of the pen — yeah, they’ve got great stuff, but they’re not going to overmatch a hitter with his skills, because he can really hit anything,” Van Burkleo said. “I think the fact that he doesn’t expand in the zone often is one of his strengths. He’s also a very smart hitter.”

Fourteen-year veteran Edwin Encarnación, one of the most respected power hitters of his generation, is one of the biggest beneficiaries from his teammate’s exemplary pitch-recognition skills. Encarnación explained that the level of Ramírez’s pitch-recognition abilities are like those of players with much more experience in the majors.

“I think that’s why you have to tip your cap to Ramírez, because he has done it in such a short time,” Encarnación said. “He has an approach, he as a plan for every at-bat. … I always watch him; we always talk about the pitcher we’re facing.”

“That’s a great advantage for Eddie because they’re both really smart hitters and to be able to feed off each other is great,” Van Burkleo said. “We were playing Milwaukee, and [Jeremy] Jeffress came in, who’s got a good fastball and a good breaking ball. Eddie told me when they were on deck that Ramírez said, ‘He’s going to throw me a first-pitch curveball and I am going to hit a home run.’ And he threw him a first-pitch curveball. He didn’t hit a home run, but he had a rip at it. He was right on.”

As a result of his planning, prescience and power, what Ramírez can do gives the Indians an asset much like a diminutive slugger who powered last season’s champs, the Houston Astros, and inspires the same kind of respect.

“José Ramírez is like an Altuve, they’re not big guys,” Encarnación said. “No one never expects players of that size to hit 30 home runs in the big leagues. And yet they do. They not only hit 30 home runs, they hit over 30 doubles and hit over .300. I think that’s incredible. Since I get to see José Ramírez every day, I’m not surprised by the numbers he has put up, but I am surprised by the strength that he has from both sides [of the plate].”

Since the start of August 2015, when he returned to the major leagues to stay, the switch-hitter has hit both right-handed and left-handed pitchers almost equally well, crushing righties at a .305/.369/.547 clip and lefties for .309/.356/.513 while striking out about just 10 percent of the time against both.

“I think people still don’t believe in his qualities as a player,” Encarnacion said. “But I speak as a player, and I believe he should be on any list [of top hitters] because he is a tremendous hitter.”

Indians first-baseman Yonder Alonso goes even further, saying a Ramírez at-bat is nothing short of a work of art.

“When Ramírez steps out to the plate, we may see it as a game or as an athlete going out there and doing his thing, but it really is an art. This guy is a painter; this guy is like Picasso,” Alonso said last week as Ramírez drew close to hitting his 30th home run of the season before the All-Star break, after hitting 29 last season. “What he is doing is beyond what we are seeing now in the game, where you see a lot of guys hitting .220, and hitting 30 home runs. But he’s a guy who is hitting .330, with an on-base percentage of .400.

“It’s artwork what this guy does every day.”

Teammate Andrew Miller compares Rodriguez to Altuve, as well, but also to Dustin Pedroia, his former Red Sox teammate and the 2008 AL MVP.

“That’s one of the beauties of baseball; you can’t overlook guys because of their stature,” Miller said. “There’s certainly an advantage to being built like Aaron Judge. But we’ve all found out that somebody like that, like a José Altuve, they can go up there and be MVP-type players. Dustin Pedroia won an MVP. I think Josie is there. I am as a big a fan of Pedroia as there’s ever been, and I think Josie is there, and I think he’s going to be there for a long time.”

Yet for all the 25-year-old Ramírez has already achieved, there are still times he feels like he did a decade ago back in Baní — someone not recognized as one of the top players in the game, not yet at least.

“It makes me feel good sometimes to think about the fact that nobody thought I could do this. I was too small … I had no future. But I was always the hardest worker. No one would ever work harder than me,” Ramírez said.

And it’s that ethic, that skill, and what his teammates say is his artistry at the plate that might make him baseball’s latest little big man to win an MVP award.

How Jose Ramirez went from 'too small to star' to an artist at the plate

How Jose Ramirez went from 'too small to star' to an artist at the plate

Heading into the All-Star break, there are four hitters in baseball with an OPS over 1.000. All four are in the American League, and all four will be starting in the All-Star Game. Mike Trout, you’ve heard of him. And you know Mookie Betts, the starting right fielder of the Boston Red Sox. And designated hitter J.D. Martinez was the big bat in last winter’s free-agent class, and now he’s earning every penny at the plate for Boston.

But the fourth player? It’s José Ramírez, the 5-foot-9 third baseman for the Cleveland Indians whose numbers have turned heads and quickly earned the respect of teammates and votes from fans.

But the thing about Ramírez taking his place among the best hitters in the game is that it wasn’t expected, it wasn’t predicted, it wasn’t foreseen. That’s because when he started to pursue his dream of being a professional baseball player at age 15 in his native Dominican Republic, Ramírez found most doors leading to the majors being slammed in his face.

Back in 2008, despite being one of the top-performing players in the Dominican Prospect League, Ramírez would hear phrases such as, “He’s just a filler player,” “He’s way too small” and, the one that bothered him most of all, “He’ll never be a star.”

Ramírez grew up in Baní, a city approximately 40 miles southwest of the Dominican capital of Santo Domingo, well known for its plantains and artisanal coffee, and for being former All-Star shortstop Miguel Tejada’s hometown. Ramírez grew up dreaming of being like an all-world hitter named Ramírez — Manny. But he had to settle for the nickname of “Mini-Me” due to his small size.

“I knew it would be hard for me [to get signed] because [scouts] are always looking for a Mike Trout, a Bryce Harper. Those kind of guys; big, strong guys. I imagine that [José] Altuve had the same thing happen to him. I guess nobody believed Altuve could be what he has become. Sometimes your size, a smaller body, one does not attract attention or anything and nobody believes in you,” he said.

“I always excelled in the DPL, but no one would ever really believe in me,” Ramírez explained in a one-on-one interview with ESPN. “Only my coach, Enrique Soto, he always supported me. He always told me, ‘You’re the best player here; the thing is no one knows about it.’

“There were players getting millions in signing bonuses; big boys that were worth a lot of money,” Ramírez added. “Enrique Soto told Ramón Peña [who led Cleveland’s Latin American scouting from 2009 to 2016], ‘You’d give $2 million to those guys and you won’t give $200,000 to José Ramírez? He’s the best player here, and he’s going to make it to the majors really fast.’ And they negotiated and negotiated, and Ramón Peña said he wouldn’t pay more than $50,000. The day he signed me, [Peña] said, ‘Enrique has no idea what a bad deal he just made!'”

Even after signing, Ramírez did not have it easy, even though he just kept hitting despite being among the youngest players at every level on the way up. His stature was always seen as a strike against him. But after splitting the 2013 season playing second, third and shortstop at Double-A at 20 years old, he earned an initial cup of coffee when rosters expanded.

“I won’t mention any names, but there are people even in this organization who said they were not going to bring me up to the big leagues, that I was not ready,” Ramírez said. “I never said anything to them, I tried to remain humble, but I always knew I would prove them wrong.”

He earned a return to the majors for the second half in 2014 — aged just 21 years old — but struggled to stick in 2015. But since he made it back to the majors to stay in August 2015, he has done nothing but hit, delivering a .775 OPS for the rest of 2015, an .825 OPS with 60 extra-base hits in 2016, topped by last year’s breakthrough to a .957 OPS and a third-place finish in AL MVP voting. Indians manager Terry Francona would be the first one to point out that you underestimate “Josie” at your own peril.

“Josie has made himself what he is,” Francona explained. “When he first came up, we had to send him back twice because he was struggling. We knew he’d be a good utility player because he could move around; he could run a bit. And then, once he got going … it’s amazing when people understand, ‘Man, I can belong here.’ Then all of a sudden you just don’t belong — ‘I can thrive here.’

“He is a player that you can win with,” Francona said. Then he added, “He is a player that you can anchor your team around him and win.”

And just like that, the former prospect too small to take seriously is too big for the Indians to win without. Paired with all-world shortstop Francisco Lindor, his gifts help the Indians trade punches at the plate with the big-budget, star-laden lineups in New York or Boston, which gives them two franchise players to keep contending with for years to come. But where Lindor could become a free agent after 2021, Ramírez is already locked in as an Indian through 2023 after signing a five-year contract with two team options.

He’s well worth the investment. Hitting coach Ty Van Burkleo considers Ramírez to be gifted with some of the best hand-eye coordination and pitch recognition in baseball. “He’s really a natural good hitter,” Van Burkleo noted. “He’s got very good quick-twitch reactionary-type athleticism … the way his mind works and his calmness, the fearlessness. It’s just a perfect combination.”

That combination has helped Ramírez deliver in almost any situation the Indians might need, creating an in-game problem opponents can’t work their way around. And in today’s reliever-dominated game with opponents always looking to gain matchup advantages, Ramírez’s balance can be even more important. In addition to being dangerous from both sides of the plate, he ranks in the top 10 in OPS against both opposing starters and relievers this season, with nearly identical OPS marks and strikeout rates against both.

“He’s such a good hitter that the guys coming out of the pen — yeah, they’ve got great stuff, but they’re not going to overmatch a hitter with his skills, because he can really hit anything,” Van Burkleo said. “I think the fact that he doesn’t expand in the zone often is one of his strengths. He’s also a very smart hitter.”

Fourteen-year veteran Edwin Encarnación, one of the most respected power hitters of his generation, is one of the biggest beneficiaries from his teammate’s exemplary pitch-recognition skills. Encarnación explained that the level of Ramírez’s pitch-recognition abilities are like those of players with much more experience in the majors.

“I think that’s why you have to tip your cap to Ramírez, because he has done it in such a short time,” Encarnación said. “He has an approach, he as a plan for every at-bat. … I always watch him; we always talk about the pitcher we’re facing.”

“That’s a great advantage for Eddie because they’re both really smart hitters and to be able to feed off each other is great,” Van Burkleo said. “We were playing Milwaukee, and [Jeremy] Jeffress came in, who’s got a good fastball and a good breaking ball. Eddie told me when they were on deck that Ramírez said, ‘He’s going to throw me a first-pitch curveball and I am going to hit a home run.’ And he threw him a first-pitch curveball. He didn’t hit a home run, but he had a rip at it. He was right on.”

As a result of his planning, prescience and power, what Ramírez can do gives the Indians an asset much like a diminutive slugger who powered last season’s champs, the Houston Astros, and inspires the same kind of respect.

“José Ramírez is like an Altuve, they’re not big guys,” Encarnación said. “No one never expects players of that size to hit 30 home runs in the big leagues. And yet they do. They not only hit 30 home runs, they hit over 30 doubles and hit over .300. I think that’s incredible. Since I get to see José Ramírez every day, I’m not surprised by the numbers he has put up, but I am surprised by the strength that he has from both sides [of the plate].”

Since the start of August 2015, when he returned to the major leagues to stay, the switch-hitter has hit both right-handed and left-handed pitchers almost equally well, crushing righties at a .305/.369/.547 clip and lefties for .309/.356/.513 while striking out about just 10 percent of the time against both.

“I think people still don’t believe in his qualities as a player,” Encarnacion said. “But I speak as a player, and I believe he should be on any list [of top hitters] because he is a tremendous hitter.”

Indians first-baseman Yonder Alonso goes even further, saying a Ramírez at-bat is nothing short of a work of art.

“When Ramírez steps out to the plate, we may see it as a game or as an athlete going out there and doing his thing, but it really is an art. This guy is a painter; this guy is like Picasso,” Alonso said last week as Ramírez drew close to hitting his 30th home run of the season before the All-Star break, after hitting 29 last season. “What he is doing is beyond what we are seeing now in the game, where you see a lot of guys hitting .220, and hitting 30 home runs. But he’s a guy who is hitting .330, with an on-base percentage of .400.

“It’s artwork what this guy does every day.”

Teammate Andrew Miller compares Rodriguez to Altuve, as well, but also to Dustin Pedroia, his former Red Sox teammate and the 2008 AL MVP.

“That’s one of the beauties of baseball; you can’t overlook guys because of their stature,” Miller said. “There’s certainly an advantage to being built like Aaron Judge. But we’ve all found out that somebody like that, like a José Altuve, they can go up there and be MVP-type players. Dustin Pedroia won an MVP. I think Josie is there. I am as a big a fan of Pedroia as there’s ever been, and I think Josie is there, and I think he’s going to be there for a long time.”

Yet for all the 25-year-old Ramírez has already achieved, there are still times he feels like he did a decade ago back in Baní — someone not recognized as one of the top players in the game, not yet at least.

“It makes me feel good sometimes to think about the fact that nobody thought I could do this. I was too small … I had no future. But I was always the hardest worker. No one would ever work harder than me,” Ramírez said.

And it’s that ethic, that skill, and what his teammates say is his artistry at the plate that might make him baseball’s latest little big man to win an MVP award.

'Yan made them pay': Dissecting Gomes' perfect throw and Francisco Lindor's 'Puerto Rican tag'

'Yan made them pay': Dissecting Gomes' perfect throw and Francisco Lindor's 'Puerto Rican tag'

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Just how good was Friday’s eighth-inning throw from Cleveland Indians catcher Yan Gomes that cut down New York Yankees base stealer Aaron Judge and helped preserve a 6-5 Tribe win?

And exactly what is a “Puerto Rican tag” anyway?

First, we’ll let Francisco Lindor, noted Puerto Rican tag applicator, shed some light on the latter.

Lindor said he did not want to show anybody up by immediately pointing into the dugout for manager Terry Francona to challenge Judge’s safe call at second base with two out and the Tribe leading 6-4.

 

“I knew I had him,” Lindor said. “[Gomes’ throw] was right on the money. Thank God Judge is 6-foot-8 so I didn’t have to go that low.”

Gomes’ throw, which came on a 3-2 slider from Tribe reliever Neil Ramirez to Yankees No. 3 hitter Aaron Hicks, arrived at precisely the perfect moment, and in the ideal location for Lindor to tag Judge.

The Indians challenged second base umpire Jerry Meals’ initial call, which was overturned in a 28 second review, giving Cleveland the final out of the inning.

Francona said the strikeout-throw out double play could not have come at a better time.

“Especially when you look and see who’s coming up,” Francona said. “It looked like Stanton was swinging three bats on deck.”

Judge told the Associated Press afterward that stealing the base would have been huge for New York, and that sometimes you have to gamble in order to win.

“You gotta take those gambles,” Judge said. “I took a risk and I was out.”

The play evoked memories of Gomes’ pickoff throw in Game 2 of the American League Division Series against New York last season. With the score tied at 8-8 in the 11th inning, Gomes fired a laser to Lindor at second that caught Yankees infielder Ronald Torreyes straying too far away from second base after a leadoff double.

Lindor caught the throw from Gomes and dropped another perfect tag on Torreyes before he could dive back to the bag.

“You just kind of have to put it in the vicinity for Lindor,” Gomes said Friday. “He’ll do some — I want to say like a Puerto Rican tag. You’ve just got to throw it around him.”

So, there we have it. Puerto Rican infielders such as Lindor, Houston’s Carlos Correa and Chicago’s Javy Baez have been known to apply some pretty flashy tags to get opposing baserunners out.

Gomes believes a secret school must exist on the island where young up-and-coming shortstops can hone their craft.

“There’s got to be a tagging academy in Puerto Rico that these guys come up in,” Gomes said of Lindor. “There’s him and a guy like Baez. Those guys can do some good tagging.”

 

Of course, the play starts with a pitch. And Ramirez made his on the play that prevented a huge momentum shift at a critical point in the game.

“To have Yan, on a slider, be able to pop it down there when he did at that moment, it was big,” Ramirez said. “Yan is one of the best in the game at getting the ball down there quick. It couldn’t have been a more perfect throw. The tag, he got him right before he got in there.”

Gomes overcame Ramirez’s slower-than-average delivery to make the play.

“Admittedly, I’m not super quick to the plate,” he said. “I think [the Yankees] thought they might be able to steal a bag right there. Obviously, Yan made them pay.”