While Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham failed to wow White Sox fans with their hitting abilitiies, they certainly took another step in the field to become the White Sox's slickest double-play combo since ... well, I can't remember a better one. Did Ozzie Guillen have a defensive peer at second before the knee injury? Luis Aparicio and Nellie Fox?
This is going by the eye test, anyway. The defensive metrics like Ramirez, but Beckham has never scored well, and it's hard to understand why. The Fielding Bible's Plus/Minus at least offers a clue -- while scoring Beckham as 12 plays below average, it categorizes the direction of the grounder. Year after year, Plus/Minus identifies him as consistely poor at going to his right (-9; he was two plays above average to his left). I agree that Beckham is stronger going to his left, but I'd use the word stronger.
From watching him play day in and day out, I feel comfortable calling him an above-average second baseman. Maybe I could be argued into an "average" assessment if shown some charts, maps and video. "Well below average" -- and The Fielding Bible says he's 30th in runs saved among second basemen -- seems at least two bridges too far.
Anyway, back to double plays, the Beckham and Ramirez were so adept at turning two that on the rare occasion they failed -- like this bad feed by Beckham that loomed large in a 4-3 loss to Cleveland...
... it was treated like the first missed shot by the Pleasantville basketball team ("Don't touch it...").
The baby-smooth turns vastly outnumbered the ugly ones, and going through the MLB.com highlights of keystone-combo double plays, I've whittled it down to five favorites that capture their ability, variety and creativity:
No. 5: 4-6-3, Sept. 24
Beckham and Ramirez convert a Lou Marson checked-swing roller into a double play thanks to sheer arm strength.
No. 4: 4-6-3, June 5
Beckham foils a hit-and-run with a backhanded stab and glove flip that looked so easy:
No. 3: 6-4-3, July 19
With the bases loaded, one out, and clinging to a 1-0 lead, Jose Quintana jammed Will Middlebrooks so hard that it was almost to his detriment. The ball had some wicked spin on it, forcing Ramirez to make an unexpected adjustment to get a glove on it:
No. 2: 4-6-3, Aug. 3
This might be Beckham's best feed of the year when considering the degree of difficulty -- a hard-hit bouncer to his left, spinning throw and decent speed on the basepaths:
No. 1: 6-4-3, April 13
Going back all the way to the home opener for this one, Ramirez makes a diving stab and flip on Miguel Cabrera's grounder up the middle, and Beckham makes the quick pivot to prevent a run from scoring: