May 21—Someday, manager Terry Francona and others in charge of the Guardians might run out of superlatives to describe Jose Ramirez.
Now is not that time.
Ramirez's three-run home run in the bottom of the sixth inning May 20 sparked a 6-1 victory over the Guardians' personal punching bag, the Detroit Tigers. The Indians/Guardians are 78-27 in games with the Tigers dating to 2016.
Ramirez's heroics, which also included a triple to center field in the first inning, came one night after he fouled a ball off his right shin in the eighth inning of a 4-2 loss to the Cincinnati Reds. Ramirez fell to the ground in obvious pain.
An MRI showed no fracture. Still, Jose could easily have asked for the May 20 game off and no one would have questioned him. He could have said being the designated hitter would have been better for him, but, no, he told acting manager DeMarlo Hale he was fine and ready to start at third base.
"We trust him to ask him how he feels," Hale said. "He's played long enough to be truthful and say, 'I feel good enough to play third base' or maybe he needs a day off or be the DH. He's earned that right.
"We all kind of held our breath (on the foul ball). Jose being the player he is and how tough he is, I'm not surprised he wanted to play."
Ramirez loves playing for the Guardians. Fans love Ramirez and the way he plays. The fans love him for staying with the Guardians when he could have signed for more money with another team.
The contract extension Ramirez signed in March runs through 2028 and totals $141 million. During negotiations, the Guardians informed Ramirez they could not afford to pay him what he would be worth on the open market, Jose's agent, Rafa Nieves, told Sports Illustrated. Ramirez understood that, but decided he didn't need every last penny to be happy.
"When I was a kid looking for an opportunity, this is the organization that gave it to me," Ramirez said. "It was also the team I reached the big leagues with, that gave me my first contract. My dream was to stay here, in this organization. And also my daughter was born in Cleveland, too. I feel a part of that community."
Ramirez chugged around the bases and slid into third with his triple in the bottom of the first inning May 20. The familiar "Jose, Jose Jose Jose, Jose" chants started. When he stepped to the plate in the bottom of the sixth with two runners on, the chants from the crowd of 23,874 grew louder. And then Ramirez delivered.
"You get the extra motivation, extra excitement when you hear the cheers and noises," Ramirez said after the game.
Ramirez, 29, born in the Dominican Republic, truly loves playing baseball. He practically skips to the outfield for a pre-game game of catch before taking infield practice.
It is infectious to the players around him. And when the young players on the roster see how hard he works, it rubs off on them.
The Guardians traded Francisco Lindor to the New York Mets in January 2021 because they could not afford to sign him to a huge extension. Lindor wanted that big payday and got it when he signed a 10-year, $341 million contract with the Mets.
Lindor was the face of the franchise. How could the team survive without him?
"(Ramirez) is one of the best players in baseball," Francona said before a game last season. "I've tried to tell people that. When people would ask about Frankie (Lindor), I'd say 'don't forget about Jose.' He's just one of the very best players. He can beat you with his legs, too.
"He's a veteran that really pays attention. He doesn't do anything but watch the game. He's smart. He's a really smart baseball player."
Ramirez is definitely the face of the Guardians franchise now. It is fitting the organization signed him to the long-term extension the same year it switched from Indians to Guardians. It is a new era and the long-term commitment to its best player is a new philosophy for a team that will always be frugal.
The best part is, Jose Ramirez wants to be here. He proves that whenever he puts on his Guardians uniform