There have been many beloved Cleveland athletes over the years: Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, and LeBron James to name a few. Jose Ramirez has become the next admired Cleveland athlete. Most cynical Cleveland baseball fans expected Jose Ramirez would just be the next Cleveland star to be traded for assets as he was approaching the end of his contract. The Dolans have always been hesitant to dig in their pockets and pay the top players what they are worth. Francisco Lindor was the most recent star to be traded. He was always destined for the bright lights in New York City. From the beginning, the situation with Jose just felt different, he wanted to stay in Cleveland at all costs.
Jose Ramirez was only 17 years old when he signed with the then Cleveland Indians out of the Dominican Republic as an international free agent in 2009. Jose debuted in the Arizona Fall League in 2011, and quickly climbed the ladder by hitting .325 in 48 games. After quick stops in A ball and AA with the then Akron Aeros, Jose Ramirez made his MLB debut in 2013 at just 20 years old. At the time of his debut Jose Ramirez was the #9 ranked prospect in the system. Despite his top 10 ranking, there was always an underdog mentality with Jose. Scouts thought he was too short and stocky to be a longtime impactful MLB player. Ramirez was no stranger to struggles early in his career. He went back and forth between AAA and the majors until 2016 when he made the MLB opening day roster. He would never look back.
2016 was a magical season for the Cleveland baseball team. Jose Ramirez played a huge role in the team reaching the World Series. Jose received MVP votes as he hit .312 with 11 home runs and 76 RBI. Although Jose Ramirez broke on the scene in 2016. It was in 2017 until now that Jose Ramirez has quietly established himself as one of the best players in all of baseball. Since 2017, Jose has finished top 3 in MVP voting three times, won a silver slugger three times, and has been an All-Star three times. He led all of baseball in doubles in 2017 with 56. Just a year later in 2018 he hit a career high 39 home runs.
Trade rumors started to circulate during the 2021 campaign as Jose Ramirez continued to dominate. The baseball world just assumed Jose Ramirez would be the next superstar shipped out of town due to the frugal ownership. What these pundits did not consider was just how badly Jose Ramirez wanted to remain in Cleveland with the organization that raised him. So, what made a kid from the Dominican Republic want to call Cleveland home despite his agent, and other friends telling him to go elsewhere for more money? Stability.
It was the beginning of Spring Training, the lockout had just ended, and players were starting to gather in Goodyear, Arizona. Most guys were just happy to be back on the field. Jose Ramirez spent the early parts of April arguing with his longtime agent Rafael Nieves demanding he find a common ground with the Guardians leadership to get an extension done. According to a recent ESPN article, Rafael Nieves stated that he and the team “were on two different planets” when it came to specific dollar amounts. Jose did not care about the specific dollar amounts. He wanted to stay in Cleveland through a retooling, and be the face of the Guardians.
Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez came up through the Cleveland minor league system together. They became close friends although their personalities could not be more different. Jose Ramirez goes about his business, he lets his play on the field speak for itself. Lindor is outgoing, big smile, and was determined to get paid at his market value. Both players loved by Cleveland fans. Lindor became open to a trade when he realized Cleveland would not pay him what he deserved. Jose made his priorities clear: he wanted to retire in Cleveland, have his number retired, represent Cleveland in the Hall of Fame, and bring a World Series to Cleveland. Jose and Lindor are just not the same.
Jose Ramirez had many other options that no rational person would have been mad at him for considering. Contenders were after him including the San Diego Padres and Toronto Blue Jays. He could have waited until he hit the market after the 2023 season to cash in for significantly more money. None of that mattered to Jose. The trade rumors swirling on the morning of April 5 spooked Ramirez enough to demand that Nieves get a deal done with the Guardians. When the goat speaks, people listen. Before the team left Goodyear for Kansas City, the two sides had agreed to a 7-year, $141 million extension. Sure this is a massive deal, the largest in the Dolan’s entire ownership tenure, but it still did not match what Jose Ramirez is worth to this team. The Dolan’s told Jose upfront that they could not afford that, but Jose told them he did not care. That he would rather take less money to be happy here rather than hold out for more money in another city. Cleveland could finally collectively exhale, and wrap our heads around the fact that our superstar could very likely retire a Cleveland Guardian.
To no one’s surprise, Jose Ramirez has followed up the extension with another stellar start to the 2022 season. He was AL player of the month in April, and is hitting a cool .315 with 7 homers and a league leading 27 RBI. He is 5th in the league with a 1.054 OPS. Cleveland sports fans are so used to not being able to have nice things that this is almost impossible to understand how one of the best players in the game chose to take significantly less money to call the city of Cleveland home. We are witnessing greatness every time this kid from Bani, Dominican Republic takes the field.
What is loyalty exactly? A strong feeling of support or allegiance. I do not think loyalty is a strong enough word to describe the relationship between Jose Ramirez and the city of Cleveland. Although still arguably underpaid, not only did Ramirez obtain generational wealth from the city he loves. He also insisted a full no trade clause be included in part of the deal. He wanted to make sure he was in control of his own destiny. He did not want to be included in any more trade rumors. Jose was just a 17-year-old kid begging for an opportunity in 2009. Cleveland gave him that opportunity and he has not forgot that. His daughter was also born in Cleveland, Ohio. These are the factors that are important to Jose Ramirez, not holding out for every last dollar. Thank goodness for that. I am not sure how we will be describing the legacy of Jose Ramirez in Cleveland when it is all said and done, but I know that “loyal” is only scratching the surface. One thing I do know for sure is that Jose Ramirez is in Cleveland to stay. Lets all just appreciate the greatness we get to witness everyday because remember: A kid from the Dominican Republic CHOSE to call Cleveland home.