Since Alexei Ramirez signed with the San Diego Padres while I was in Montreal to see the Blackhawks win their ninth straight game, e-gus stepped in with a nice overview of Ramirez's career.
And since he covered all the bases, I can hone in what might be the part of Ramirez's game that I'll remember most: his complete aversion to contact.
A lot of his brilliance -- and also his unintentional comedy -- stemmed from that particular trait. Granted, it also led to some frustration, most notably with his tendency to fall away on throws from the catcher, but you had to take the bad with the good. It was ingrained in his DNA, and it probably helped him stay on the field to continue making plays few could pull off, whether at shortstop or on the basepaths.
Over his seven years at shortstop, Ramirez was regularly the best at turning double plays thanks to one of the league's strongest arms, which allowed him to get his lower body out of harm's way with little lost. Most of the time, he needed only a pretty basic sidestep to complete a better-than-basic twin killing.
When Ramirez had a runner coming in hot, though, he made sure that neither leg was planted around the bag for very long with a spin that carried him well away from second base. The amount of coordination requires a checklist -- the foot on the bag, the transfer from glove to hand, the calibration of the throw to account for momentum. Sometimes the instinct kicked in when it wasn't necessary, resulting in a missed bag or errant/late throw, but he had a pretty good sense of its utility. Perhaps none had a higher degree of difficulty than this one:
How many times do you remember Ramirez taking a one-hop rocket off his leg, chest, or other parts of his person? Whatever the number, it's far fewer than the times I remember Ramirez making this play:
Again, this is not the kind of technique you would teach a kid. I GIF'd another play to show just how early Ramirez hides the bulk of his bulk away from the projected path of the ball before it gets there:
It must be nice to have that kind of eye-hand coordination.
I already wrote a lengthy post about Ramirez's swim move, which allowed him to salvage numerous ill-fated baserunning decisions. That became a patented maneuver for him, but he found clever ways to switch it up, like this beauty against the Yankees:
The strange, kinetic ways he threw his limbs to the plate didn't always work, but he always earned points for creativity:
During some of hockey's most violent years, Wayne Gretzky was a master at avoiding huge checks, which created a conspiracy theory that the league didn't allow players to hit him. That said, he still ran into the occasional Bill McCreary to prove that, if pricked, he would indeed bleed.
The same can be said about Ramirez. There weren't many times that a baserunner dinged him up, and when you saw how he responded to Josh Donaldson's spikes, you can see why he was hellbent on getting out of the way:
While Ramirez could dodge baserunners with the best of them, he didn't have as much control over avoiding errant pitches. When those hit him, he stayed down for a while due to a lack of natural padding. We all know this GIF:
But we should also take time to appreciate this video, which could be carved into about five different GIFs:
I feel like I'm laughing at myself as much as I'm laughing at him, because I'd probably react the same damn way if I were hit with a fastball, whether it was 85 mph or 99.
Either way, Ramirez could be excused for these moments of perceived weakness -- not just because they were vastly outnumbered by the beautiful plays he made, but also because the ends justified the means. His preference of flight over fight allowed him to fight more days than most, as this list of of White Sox players with 154-game seasons shows: