Richard Justice

W. Ramos worthy of making NL All-Star team

W. Ramos worthy of making NL All-Star team

There just has to be a place for Washington's Wilson Ramos on the National League All-Star Team. For one thing, he has been the best offensive catcher in baseball this season. For another, players like him are part of what makes the All-Star Game such a compelling event.

To see him standing out there being introduced alongside Buster Posey and Yadier Molina would be the kind of validation every player seeks. His career path has not been smooth. Too often seasons have been interrupted by muscles tearing or bones cracking.

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He did play 128 games last season, but batted only .229. Teammates were baffled. They knew he was better than that. Turns out, they were right. That is, after he underwent Lasik surgery on his eyes during Spring Training.

If he wins a batting title -- at the moment, he's eight points behind teammate Daniel Murphy (.349) -- players may be lining up for the procedure. Ramos had been a .258 career hitter before it.

"He makes everybody in here wonder if they need Lasik," Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer told the Washington Post. "Maybe I could hit .220."

Ramos, 28, leads all NL catchers in home runs (12), RBIs, (39), batting average (.341) and OPS (.952). At this pace, he'd finish his seventh Major League season with 27 home runs, 28 doubles and 88 RBIs.

That's not just good. That's historically good. In the last 79 years, catchers have finished with numbers that good just eight times. Mike Piazza did it three times. Five others did it once, and they compose a who's who: Posey, Ivan Rodriguez, Joe Mauer, Jorge Posada and Bill Dickey.

Now about getting Ramos to San Diego. That could be the tricky part. Molina has 1.25 million votes, followed by Posey at 1.13 million. Ramos is a distant third at 899,000, and online voting ends at midnight Thursday.

There's no argument with either Posey or Molina even though Ramos has better numbers. Both could be headed to the Hall of Fame. Regardless of how the numbers are dissected, if baseball is gathering its best players and biggest names in one place, they belong.

Ramos' go-ahead solo home run

That's the stature they've achieved. Molina has been selected to seven All-Star Games, won eight Gold Gloves and been to the World Series four times, winning twice. In just five full seasons, Posey has won both a Rookie of the Year (2010) and an MVP (2012) to go with three All-Star selections and three championships.

Managers typically have taken just three catchers to the All-Star Game. Ramos would need a huge boost in this final stretch to take the starting spot away from Molina.

Where it gets complicated for NL manager Terry Collins is that Milwaukee's Jonathan Lucroy also has solid credentials: .301 batting average, 10 home runs, 34 RBIs and an .865 OPS.

Collins may have to choose between Lucroy and outfielder Ryan Braun as the Brewers' lone representative. In a perfect world, both would make it. Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto prompts a closer look as well with a .303 batting average and a .751 OPS.

But as Tony La Russa once said, "These decisions are supposed to be tough. These guys are the best of the best."

This year, it's Ramos' time. Not that long ago, he was best known for a 2011 51-hour abduction in his native Venezuela that ended in a blaze of machine-gun fire. And there were the injuries. Between 2012 and 2014, he averaged just 64 games.

But the Nationals never gave up on the guy because he was still young and because he had the talent to be a special kind of player. As general manager Mike Rizzo, who acquired Ramos from the Twins in 2010, said, "We've always seen the upside. We knew he was as good an offensive catcher as there is in the game. It's really refreshing to see him come into his own."

Ramos has been so good offensively that Nationals manager Dusty Baker has begun batting him in the fourth, fifth or sixth spots in his lineup. On a team that has spent 77 days atop the NL East, Ramos has been among its most consistent producers.

"There's no doubt he should be an All-Star," Baker said.

No doubt.

Richard Justice is a columnist for Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.