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Stephen Vogt already had an opinion of José Ramírez.
They both started to break into the Majors around the same time. Vogt bounced around from Tampa Bay to Oakland to Milwaukee to San Francisco to Arizona to Atlanta and then back to Oakland until he was done with his playing career at the end of the 2022 season. Throughout that time, he could see Ramírez from afar.
“It comes down to the way he walks on the field,” Vogt said. “That walk tells you everything you need to know about him.”
It’s one thing to know Ramírez as a competitor. But it’s another to know him as your own player. Vogt is in the awkward stage of trying to reach out to his team without imposing on their sacred offseason time. But the first-time manager, who hasn’t met most of his new roster, also wants to establish some form of relationship with his guys before Spring Training gets underway.
In the few words he’s exchanged with Ramírez, Vogt learned that everything he believed from watching him as an opponent was true.
Vogt found out that his superstar third baseman -- who earned the largest contract in club history, has five All-Star nods and is entering his age-31 season -- wanted to spend his offseason playing winter ball.
“He's never going to stop working,” Vogt said. “He's never going to stop fighting. He's never satisfied. He's going to continue to want to be the best version of himself, and he's going to make improvements over and over and over.”
Members of the Guardians’ front office have said that Ramírez only takes a few days off after each season before he immediately gets a bat in his hands. Before he started playing in his home country, the Dominican Republic, in November, he was already swinging and fielding ground balls in his free time.
“It appears that he loves baseball,” Guardians general manager Mike Chernoff joked.
Clearly, Ramírez doesn’t need extra reps. He has established quite the reputation with his organization, finishing in the top 10 in AL MVP Award voting in six of the past seven seasons while logging 11 years in the big leagues. He’s not doing this for work. He’s doing it for fun.
“How awesome is it that José loves playing baseball that much that he just wants to play?” Guardians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti said. “It has nothing to do with money, it has nothing to do with anything else; he just loves playing baseball in the Dominican.
“It’s pretty cool.”
Ramírez loves having the opportunity to play in front of a home crowd. Instead of worrying about his numbers, he simply wants a chance to take the field in the Dominican Republic.
“I can't wait to hear him tell me about his experience doing it,” Vogt said, “and I couldn't be more happy for him and his family.”
When a player doesn’t need extra time on the field, it can be concerning for a team to sit back and hope that an injury doesn’t occur. Although Antonetti and Chernoff may feel some anxiety, they were excited to support Ramírez in this decision.
“José’s really smart,” Antonetti said. “He’ll do everything he can to control what he can.”
Vogt will have time to get to know Ramírez inside and out. Maybe he’ll learn some minor details about the third baseman’s life that wouldn’t be obvious to the public. But he doesn’t need to study too much more about Ramírez as a player. What he brings to the table has been evident for the past decade to everyone in the game.
“I can't wait to get to know him better and watch him play every day,” Vogt said. “I've loved watching him play -- well, hated watching him play because he kills us -- but I can't wait to be on the same side as him and see the way he leads our group by example.”
Vogt addressed the media on Tuesday afternoon at the Winter Meetings. Among the plethora of topics he addressed regarding his new role and the upcoming season, Vogt was also asked about what his first few weeks as the Guardians’ manager have been like. Here’s what he had to say:
“Yeah, the best way I would describe it is I got thrown into the deep end of the pool with my hands tied behind my back and then one cinder block, and I'm kicking the cinder blocks off and I've got one arm out so I'm able to get to the surface now.
“It's just been a lot. But all good. I'm realizing how big and how many resources the Cleveland Guardians have in order to help me with this onboarding process. The way that Chris and the group have really laid it out, it's getting me on board enough every day to where I'm handling a lot, but I've never felt overwhelmed. I've never felt like I've had too much on my plate.”
The 10th annual Winter Meetings auction runs until Thursday at 10 p.m. ET, and there are several experiences and items to bid on -- all benefiting Stand Up to Cancer.
The auction, which is live now at MLB.com/wintermeetingsauction, offers special opportunities, including meet-and-greets with Mike Trout and other stars, All-Star Week tickets, a chance to throw out the first pitch at a Guardians game and other autograph signings and ballpark experiences. Since its inception in 2012, the Winter Meetings Charity Auction has raised nearly $2 million for a variety of causes.
Stand Up to Cancer was chosen as this year’s beneficiary because two beloved members of the MLB leadership team -- MLB’s senior vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion Billy Bean and Catalina Villegas, MLB’s DEI director -- were both diagnosed with cancer this year.
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