Alexei Ramirez is the owner of one of the more bizarre streaks in sports. He's played 158 games in each of the last four seasons. Not 158 games or more, 158. This is not some slavish devotion to playing every game, it's like his contract extension stuck him with a crappy paid time off plan and he's just stuck.
It actually, by all accounts, is a slavish devotion to playing every game from Ramirez, but they actually managed to nail him down to the bench four times per year. It's an admirable accomplishment, and a testament to his durability for those who generally think of him as the guy who rolls around like he's shot when he gets grazed by a pitch, but at 33 years of age, the Sox would be wise to guard against diminishing returns.
Shortstop is an intensely physically demanding position to defend, as evidenced by our tolerance of a large swath of players who can do nothing else on the diamond except that. Ramirez's intense athleticism and range has made him a valuable asset despite an average or worse bat throughout his career. I would probably kvetch about working a 33-year-old to death if everything was gravy, but all of Ramirez's consistently sterling performances with defensive metrics (UZR, DRS, Runs +/-) ran screaming downward in 2014 while his bat collapsed in the dog days of September (.569 OPS).
Defensive metrics, especially single seasons of them, are typically regardless as worthless in these parts. I listen to them in the way you listen to drunks when they all start yelling about the same thing at once. Yet even in this case, they could be yelling in confusion. A huge spike in his "out of zone" plays (140, compared to a previous career-high of 78) last season probably nods that metrics are having trouble reading Ramirez now that the Sox are aggressively shifting like never before. Assumptions about Ramirez's performance in cold/hot, beginning/end have been subject to just complete randomness that it's safe to just assume nothing is representative.
The Sox have never had a need to run Ramirez into the ground, but perhaps removing the specter of an 0-4 with four strikeout day from Leury Garcia will remove any latent hesitancy. The professional bench solutions the Sox have secured gives them flexibility they should enable. Carlos Sanchez has plus-athleticism, if not ideal range and strength for short, but mixed in there throughout his trip through the minors. Even soon-to-be 30-years-old Emilio Bonifacio has over 100 games at the position in his major league career, including a handful in 2014. Between them, there should be enough to give Ramirez three-to-four days off per month, and take his game total down into the 130 territory.
There's no logical reason not to do it and be cautious about preserving a--sadly--aging player--which leads me to believe there's an interpersonal, not logical reason that Ramirez is allowed to serve his inhuman workloads. He's the longest-tenured position player on the club and stripping away points of personal pride might not be the best way to handle him.
But that's Robin's problem! And not something I can speak to as an outsider blogger in the first place. All I can do is lob ideas for improvement at him that might be personally untenable. It's a great position to be in. Wouldn't want to switch.
BEHOLD, A WORTHY NOTE:
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