CHICAGO -- Under the circumstances, Alexei Ramirez’s position as the second-leading vote-getter at shortstop in American League All-Star balloting makes it seem as if he is in the lead.
Nobody really thought anybody other than Derek Jeter would win the popular vote at AL shortstop this season, not with the 20-year veteran and future first-ballot Hall of Famer in his farewell season.
So of the players being judged primarily on production, Ramirez has captured the attention of the voting public. Jeter had 602,525 votes as of Tuesday afternoon, while Ramirez had 472,537.
Ramirez’s .320 batting average was eighth in the AL at the start of play Tuesday, while his .376 batting average at home led the league. He was third in hits with 65, tied for fourth with 20 multihit games and was fourth in batting average with runners in scoring position at .393.
"For me, it would be a tremendous honor to be able to participate, to be recognized for putting in hard work and doing everything I've done to get here," Ramirez said through a translator. "It would be a tremendous honor."
Ramirez has been on a noticeable decline ever since his standout rookie season of 2008, in which he batted .290 with 21 home runs and 77 RBIs. He did win a silver slugger award in 2010 as the best hitter at his position but failed to meet that standard in successive seasons.
His struggles reached a peak in 2013, a year that started with his father-in-law being killed during spring training. Playing in an understandable fog, Ramirez battled aspects of his game. With some apparent closure now, Ramirez has been better than ever.
"I think everybody has different levels going through things; his was pretty traumatic," manager Robin Ventura said. "Some guys, it becomes tougher when things like that happen. This year, he seems to be pretty focused on what he’s doing and going about his business. It’s not that he didn’t care or try hard: It’s part of going through life and things happening and, sometimes, you can’t compartmentalize it."
In the AL, nobody is playing a better shortstop than Ramirez this season, but he’s too modest to put his name up there with the best in the game at his position.
"No, I don’t think that," he said. "If others believe that, think that about me, the fans and others think that, that’s great and I’m honored that anyone would think that about me. I’m just concentrating on playing every day, playing the game right every day."
And barring a June collapse, he figures to be playing in his first All-Star Game, which takes place July 15 at the Minnesota Twins' Target Field. It’s a game he’s kept his eye on, even if he hasn’t been playing in it.
"I absolutely watch it," he said. "I think it's fun, especially last year with [Oakland A's outfielder Yoenis] Cespedes playing in the game. These are the best players in baseball, and I absolutely watch it. I enjoy watching it. I think it would be a tremendous honor to be there."