It was impossible to bypass the White Sox shortstop's impact with the bat.
Ramirez earned his first Louisville Silver Slugger Award, with the announcements coming Thursday night. The 29-year-old veteran becomes the first White Sox middle infielder to receive such an honor and follows outfielder Carlos Quentin (2008) as recent team Silver Slugger winners. Ramirez also ended a stretch of four straight Silver Sluggers for Jeter, as voted on by managers and coaches.
When focusing strictly on 2010 AL shortstops, Ramirez's numbers were virtually unmatched. He finished first at the position with his .282 average and 18 home runs, while checking in second with a .431 slugging percentage. Only Jhonny Peralta (81) and Yuniesky Betancourt (78) had more RBIs than Ramirez's 70, and the 165 hits amassed placed Ramirez behind Jeter (179) and Marco Scutaro (174).
All of these statistics were put together despite a third straight miserable April for Ramirez, a month during which he hit .221. With this award in hand, Ramirez now has a contractual decision to make.
Entering the final year of a four-year, $4.75 million deal, Ramirez can opt out of the $1.1 million he is set to earn and become arbitration-eligible. If Ramirez makes that move, as he is fully expected to do, the White Sox have the choice between exercising a $2.75 million club option for 2011 or going through the arbitration process. The White Sox would be expected to exercise the option.
Ramirez has until Dec 1 to opt out. The White Sox then have until Dec. 15 to make their decision.
AL SILVER SLUGGER WINNERS
|C||Joe Mauer, Twins||4|
|1B||Miguel Cabrera, Tigers||3|
|2B||Robinson Cano, Yankees||2|
|3B||Adrian Beltre, Red Sox||2|
|SS||Alexei Ramirez, White Sox||1|
|OF||Jose Bautista, Blue Jays||1|
|OF||Carl Crawford, Rays||1|
|OF||Josh Hamilton, Rangers||2|
|DH||Vladimir Guerrero, Rangers||8|
Credit for Ramirez's development goes to White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, who has practiced tough love during some momentary lapses for possibly the most talented player on the roster but also has shown him the ultimate support and respect. Bench coach Joey Cora deserves praise for his tireless offseason and pregame work to help sharpen Ramirez's defense at shortstop.
Most of the credit for Ramirez's growth goes to Ramirez himself. With a little better luck at the season's start, one of baseball's best five-tool bargains could soon be talked about in Most Valuable Player consideration.
Detroit's Miguel Cabreara (1B), New York's Robinson Cano (2B), Boston's Adrian Beltre (3B), Toronto's Jose Bautista (OF), Tampa Bay's Carlo Crawford (OF), Texas' Josh Hamilton (OF), Minnesota's Joe Mauer (C) and Texas DH Vladimir Guerrero join Ramirez on the full list of AL Silver Sluggers.
Frank Thomas leads all White Sox players with four Silver Slugger honors (1991, '93, '94, 2000), followed by Carlton Fisk (1981, '85, '88). In total, White Sox players have won a total of 15 Silver Sluggers.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.