Consistency is not normally something delivered from the fifth starter slot, and that was eloquently exemplified by Freddy Garcia tonight who managed to not do any of the things right he did on Saturday. For their part, the Sox matched him with uninspired at-bats, baserunning gaffes, three runs entirely provided by home runs, and another dose of really bad Alexei Ramirez defense. Well played Freddy, you made an absolute ass of me. For some reason I thought all Freddy really needed was to have decent life on his fastball to thrive, but Mr. Garcia deftly turned his greatest strength into his greatest weakness. Rather than use his breaking ball as a strikeout pitch, he used it to get behind nearly every hitter, or he hung it up in the zone in order to set up that game of tee ball that broke out in the bottom of the third inning. Let it never be said that the Freddster (Just came up with that!) isn't crafty.
Ozzie, probably still flabbergasted that this team won a game in Toronto, decided to bring in Randy Williams. Randy is nothing if not a modern marvel. How on earth does he have a lower ERA than WHIP? In layman's terms, would you ever bet that someone would average less runs allowed per 9 innings than they average baserunners per inning?!?! In the short ten games that this season has been going on, the answer is simple; Ozzie brings Randy in to clean up disaster situations, Randy is a complete disaster, but the runs get charged to the pitcher before him. Like tonight, where Ozzie called upon Randy to clean up a two-on no-out situation, he quickly allowed a bases clearing double, which dumped all the runs on Freddy, then got out of the inning. No talented left-handed pitcher has ever rotted in the minors from ages 30-34. Randy Williams has, but that's because he's not talented.
Alexei Ramirez on the other hand, is very talented in most senses. He's athletic, has great speed, a ton of pop (especially for his size), and a penchant for coming up big in big moments at the plate. I don't know Alexei, and Alexei doesn't speak much English, so it becomes very hard to gauge his personality, or how contemplative he is of a person. Baseball is undoubtedly the reason he was able to get out of Cuba, so it'd be absurd to think that he doesn't think deeply about the sport and the way he plays it. Which it makes it more sad the fact that Alexei Ramirez plays well....dumb. He's impulsive, loses focus, and is caught trying to do too much at least once a game. The term free-swinger was invented for him, he'll never post a season with even 75 walks without a massive change in his approach, and most use his surprising amount of power as the justification for placing someone with such little plate discipline in the lineup. Despite his blazing speed, Alexei has never become a clever enough baserunner to become an effective stealing threat.
But the main thing that drives my examination of Alexei is that he is unmitigated disaster at shortstop. It's made worse by the fact that he is at shortstop, the absolute heart of the defensive infield. Big moments on defense are often in the hands of Alexei, and he is typically ill-prepared. Two big errors by Alexei were at the heart of the extra-inning loss to Minnesota last Friday, and Alexei was certainly error-prone at short last season. Yet a great deal of Alexei's struggles are beyond statistics. Anyone can watch a Sox broadcast and listen to Hawk regularly assail Alexei for being out of position; at crucial instances he fails to adjust to double play depth, or properly hold runners. Part of this could be directly related to Alexei being the only Spanish speaker in an English lineup, but it doesn't make him any less ineffective, and it doesn't explain his consistently poor judgment. He regularly tries to make throws he can't make, exemplified tonight when he spoiled a splendid run-saving stop that he had made by taking an ill-advised throw at third that flew to the backstop. No error was charged because the runners just happened to not advance. Earlier in the game, Alexei made a crazily errant throw to first while running toward a grounder in the whole that allowed Vernon Wells to reach, revealing that there's a good chance that Alexei just doesn't possess the arm strength for the position. So far this season Alexei's troubles have been compounded by the fact that he hasn't pulled his weight at the plate. However, it's very early, he's a warm-weather player, and he struggled mightily in the early months of his breakout rookie season. There's not reason to worry in that regard. But one should worry as to why Ozzie has repeatedly made absolutist statements in regards to Alexei's job security at short. Despite being not only decent at second base in '08, but borderline great, Alexei is considered immovable from a position he has struggled at ever since being placed there, even though a natural shortstop in Gordon Beckham is lined up right next to him in the infield.
To me, Alexei Ramirez is a vital energy player who I would always want in the White Sox lineup, but he cannot be the dangerous troublemaker for opposing teams that he was in '08 if he's hanging his head everytime he comes in from the field. I think taking Alexei away from shortstop would take a great deal of pressure off of him, and allow him to fluorish once more.
I mean...it's not like he can play any worse. Jesus Christ.