If we suddenly started reading from the bottom of the page to the top, Alexei Ramirez's career log would be a lot easier to comprehend, because it would scan like this:
Reverse Alexei's first six years look almost cookie-cutter, so much so that we can concoct a story about it. Reverse Alexei breaks into the lineup as a fresh-faced shortstop getting everyday action in his first big-league stint, maybe after a trade or an injury. His bat is a little thin, but he holds his own at the bottom of the order. While his defense is rough around the edges, his youth comes in handy on the basepaths. Over the years, he eventually develops into an everyday option. He even adds enough muscle to provide noteworthy power, although the reduction in speed costs him enough range where a move to second base is in order.
Reverse Alexei is always welcome, at least if you weren't expecting a star. Any time a position player can survive the learning curve and develop as a solid hitter while playing an up-the-middle position, that's an accomplishment for him and the organization. "Three cheers for Reverse Alexei!" we would bellow.
Alas, we read top to bottom in this sane, right-side-up world, and there's little present satisfaction as a result. The Sox have a 31-year-old fighting a two-front war, dealing with disappearing power and an increasing amount of errors in the field.
The disappearance of his sock is severe, but rooted in reason. He's been vulnerable to fastballs over the last three seasons, and opponents have gradually caught on to challenging him. At this point, he can only knock hanging breaking balls out of the park, and he's not seeing as many opportunities as he used to. The consolation prize -- he's on pace to beat his career high of 31 doubles -- isn't much of one.
One final note on Alexei Ramirez. Told the interpreter a lot was going on in his head and he'd talk to reporters in Chicago. #WhiteSox— Dan Hayes (@DanHayesCSN) June 24, 2013
At the end of Sunday's broadcast, Hawk Harrelson noted that, with the two unearned runs that scored in the eighth inning, the White Sox have already allowed more unearned runs this year (31) than they did all of last season (30).
Fittingly, Ramirez matched his 2012 error total with that eighth-inning error, and as you might guess, those two stats are related. I combed through the error logs from the past two seasons, and the difference is pretty stark.
In 2012, Ramirez's miscues led to just seven unearned runs.
In 2013, Ramirez's miscues have led to eight unearned runs ... in June alone.
It's 14 overall, and if scorers could assume the double play, it'd be 16 (there was one such unaccounted run in 2012).
While the errors are piling up, the clubhouse is being nothing but supportive. When Ramirez's two-error inning cost led to the only runs in Chris Sale's 14-strikeout defeat on June 14, the losing pitcher did what he could to console him.
And on Sunday, when Ramirez couldn't pick a somewhat-sharp grounder to his right, nobody threw him under the bus. Jesse Crain, who took the loss because of it, pointed to his error first because it set up that grounder. Ventura and Gordon Beckham followed the "Blame The K" trend by saying Kauffman Stadium's dry infield makes that play more difficult than "routine."
On one hand, this lack of response is frustrating. Good chemistry is small solace when a team can't get out of its own way on the field, and open criticism satisfies visceral urges for comeuppance and accountability.
But if Ramirez is taking these errors as hard as it seems, there's not much use in piling on, because there's nobody else. Ramirez has started all 73 games, and with two off days this week, Ventura might not feel like there's sufficient reason to break that streak. Beckham is the backup shortstop, and even if he's able to make a smooth transition to his old position, it merely creates a vulnerability at second if he's used for anything more than a spot start. So the Sox can do nothing else but cross fingers and hope that Ramirez can break out of a slump or too.
Those have been the chief problems with this season, and Sunday summed it all up a little too neatly. They inflict too much damage on themselves to go on a Toronto-like tear, and they have too many big contracts to wait out before there's a real chance at reinvention. Ramirez, with $20.5 million owed to him over 2014 and 2015, is one they didn't really need to deal with right now.