Rafael Ramírez (by ububba)

Lookit, I’m not going to try to tell you that Rafael Ramírez was a good ballplayer. He wasn’t.

But, much like that ’82 Braves team, while displaying some huge, obvious flaws, the Dominican shortstop could do a couple things well, things that could help you win… like, 89 games.

How’s that? Well, the ’82 club could mash—in fact, they led the league in runs (739) & homers (146). But, the pitching? Um, let’s call it a mixed bag. Beyond Phil Niekro (who went a fairly fortunate 17-4, while sporting a 3.61 ERA/104 ERA+) and 79 innings of Pascual Perez (3.04 ERA), the starters weren’t much. Looking at the quick & dirty, they finished last in the NL in quality-start percentage (43%).

What helped rescue the day over and over, however, was the Atlanta bullpen, specifically Gene Garber (8 wins & 30 saves with 2.34 ERA/161 ERA+ in 119.1 IP) and Steve Bedrosian (8 wins & 11 saves with 2.42 ERA/156 ERA+ in 137.2 IP), who had big years and racked up big innings.

And the defense, especially its keystone combo of Ramírez & Glenn Hubbard, did its bit. Though the modern numbers tell us that the Braves, overall, weren’t among the NL leaders in team defense, they did lead the league in DPs turned. Kinda important when you’re a club that’s always trying to wriggle out of jams…

In one player, Ramírez seemed to be the sum of all those contradictions. If you asked any Braves fan from the Murphy/Horner Era about Raffy, they’d tell you that he’d make an unbelievable play in the hole or turn a tough DP, but then he’d boot a routine ball right at him. Or maybe even 2 in the same game.

And indeed, the numbers back up that memory. He led the NL in errors (38), but he also led all NL shortstops in DPs (130). And the range factors put him well ahead of the league average. He finished the season at 3.5 WAR—the best campaign of his career.

Offensively, he was all over the place. At .278/.319/.379 (92 OPS+), he was anything but scary—still he offered a little more punch than a lot of the defense-only guys (Larry Bowa, Bill Russell) who were finishing up their NL careers at the time. Batting either 2nd or near the bottom of the order, he hit 10 HRs, had 52 RBI and scored 74 runs. Like a lot of his countrymen, he didn’t walk (36 BB), but he didn’t really strike out (49 K). He had speed (27 SBs), but got caught a lot, too (14 CS).

Physically, he looked kind of goofy. He had a big nose, an uncertain ’stache, a modified ’fro and was a bit crosseyed. Had a big butt and kind of pranced happily when he made a good play in the field. He never seemed to do it in a demonstrative, in-your-face fashion, but instead conveying genuine joy. And in that season, when many fans got to enjoy their first Atlanta pennant race, there was plenty of it to go around.

It was that combo of idiosyncrasies that prompted a college roommate & I to start the Rafael Ramírez Fan Club (roster of 2). Yeah, Niekro was the legend and Murphy was the MVP, but Raffy was our guy – butthair mustache and all.

Of course, the good times didn’t last much longer. He had a decent season in 1983’s 88-win campaign (2.2 WAR), but then began to decline. The Braves eventually shipped him off to Houston after the 1987 season and gave the position to Andres Thomas, possibly one of the least-effective Braves regulars in modern history (6 years, 61 OPS+, –5.8 WAR). But worse, unlike Rafael Ramirez, Thomas had no pizazz, didn’t prance and certainly came to represent that dark era of Braves baseball.

Gracias por los recuerdos, Rafael Ramírez.

76 thoughts on “Rafael Ramírez (by ububba)”

  1. The Atlanta Braves’ rotation is like leaving the house in sweatpants because you don’t want to put on jeans. It’s like splashing your face with water and wetting down your hair in lieu of taking a shower. It’s like starting a list of three things and only providing two because it’s late and, eh, this is good enough.”

  2. I’m going to go ahead and put myself on record as saying that I don’t think the Braves’ rotation is going to be as bad as everyone says. It might start out that way, but by the end of the season I think some combination of young pitchers will have established themselves as at least reasonable major league options.

  3. @8, I think you’re right, but there is a significant possibility of total disaster with this many injury risks and unknowns

  4. I think this might be the worst Braves team I’ve ever seen, so taking the “over” on that is probably good odds.

  5. ububba, thank you for the good memory. Remember Ted predicting a dynasty that year? Optimism did abound.

  6. @5,

    That’s the biggest reason I’m down on the bullpen. There are just going to be too many situations where a pitcher we don’t want pitching has to come into the game because our starter’s out before the 4th.

  7. As written, RR had a goofy awkwardness that was endearing to many Braves fans, including me. Ububba correctly captures his glass-half-full promise. The guy got votes for MVP in ’83.

  8. @15, lol. In my defense, the declining years of Raffy Ramirez were so bad that pretty much anyone looked like they’d be the next great things compared to him.

    Andres Thomas. Brad Komminsk. My early Braves years are filled with prospect expectations and dashed hopes. That’s why I fully expect Dansby Swanson to be barely replacement level. Can’t get hurt that way.

  9. Excellent physical description of Raffy…he was pretty ungainly for an athlete, and the powder blue monochrome unis did him no favors (we had quite a few paunchy fellows in those days). I remember him as being streaky offensively as well as defensively — he’d go 3-4 weeks between RBIs at least once a season, I’d guess. But he was durable, which counted for something.

  10. Thanks, y’all.

    FWIW, Mets shut down Matt Harvey for remainder of exhibition season (5 whole days) & he’s being sent back to NYC for further medical examination. Apparently, his velocity was alarmingly low in his previous spring start.

    Originally, Harvey was named as the opening-day starter…

    Cue the MetLand moaning & gnashing of teeth.

  11. Wait, I thought Alex Torres was the only other lefty reliever we were going to keep. Why did he get sent down? As of now, isn’t O’Flaherty the only lefty in the pen? If I got my Torres’ right, that would suggest there’s another move out there somewhere.

  12. Rafael Ramirez was not a consistently sure-handed shortstop, but one thing to remember is that the infield at Fulton County Stadium was one of the perennial worst in the major leagues.

  13. @23 – The condition of the infield at Fulton County Stadium was always puzzling. Skip and Pete often blamed it on being used in the offseason for a motorcycle race. Why anyone thought that was a good idea is beyond me.

  14. Sean Burnett? Has pitched great in ST and Nats may not have room for him. Has 4/1 opt-out date if he’s not on 25-man.

  15. I don’t understand why we are still looking for a LH reliever. Alex Torres looked decent in ST and he has a resume that is a lot better than several of our right handed relievers. I have to think there will be more than one trade going down.

  16. #29 – ??. Given up 3 HR’s in the first 2 innings. Still don’t think Folty is a starter.

  17. And hey, in case anybody didn’t have time to read my Biff Pocoroba tribute, the Cliff Notes version has just been posted, on Talking Chop, by another guy.

  18. If you bet against the Braves during this spring training season, you’d be comfortably ahead. Should be a fun season.

  19. Teheran and pray for rain. What a garbage rotation this will be.

    I should state that I have hope for Wisler, but that’s about it

  20. I think we just run Gant and Jenkins out there. At least there’s some upside in that. Baneulos reminds me of current Wandy Rodriguez, and Folty will have a few bad starts because he has no clue as to how his secondary pitches will play from start to start, get in his own head, and self-combust. If we don’t see Jenkins and Gant now, by the time we would, they’ll hopefully be getting passed up by Blair, Sims, etc.

    @18 – They did interview Chipper tonight and he loved him some Acuna

  21. If Norris can be just as good as Ervin Santana was at 1/7 of the price, that’d be grrrrrreat.

  22. At this point Gant should be in the rotation and probably give Chacin the last spot. Put Folty/Perez @ Gwinnett.

  23. Matt Harvey
    has been under attack from indigenous larvae
    a clot in his bladder
    betraying his fear that he’s never felt badder.

  24. @20, Ububba I could have used that news before the keeper deadline…looking like a last place finish again in the Crowhoppers League and we don’t even draft until tonight.

  25. Folty could be one of the most prolific gopher ball servers in the league this year, should he stay up for any length of time.

    Folty Basil
    Found it a loathsome hassle
    To keep balls in the yard
    Is it too late to divest myself of his rookie card?

  26. The Francoeur thing is so annoying. Bonifacio sucks, but at least he’s sucky in a more versatile and aesthetically-pleasing way.

  27. I’m liking some of the commenters on the Braves’ FB page.

    “He deserves it. Had a really good spring training. Good mentor and clubhouse leader. Should crush leftys and be a threat off the bench.”

    yeah no.

  28. Last year was supposedly a good year and he was worth -0.7 WAR.

    We just thought we never had to deal with that bastard again.

  29. Somebody should tell him that one of the Williams is deaf.

    Edward, I just about spit out my mouthful of leftover ham. Well done.

  30. I looked it up last month, because I also thought Francouer was an asset vs lefties. Turns out he’s been equally bad against lefties and righties since 2011. But hey, don’t let that get in the way of a comforting narrative…

  31. Jeff Francoeur
    please, this is not the time for our rancoeur
    as they say in La France
    recherchez the girl you once brought to the dance

  32. @50 – I get the feeling we’ll trade Bourn for a non-descript lefty reliever and eat most of his salary. An outfield at times of Francoeur, Bonifacio and Markakis is definitely something to get excited about (for opposing teams).

  33. Blue Jays released Randy Choate. Maybe ATL pursues him as another lefty for the pen.

  34. I’ve been a Braves fan since the 1958 World Series. The 1960 Topps Eddie Mathews is the most beautiful card I own. I’m trying to get excited for Braves action, it’s been a tough winter, but starting Sunday we’ll be tied for first. And just one comment on previous post, the two worst seasons to be a Braves fan were 1977 (Ted managed a game) and 1985 (Eddie Haas, Bruce Sutter, and Kent Oberkfell).

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