There was no delicate way to put it, so White Sox general manager Ken Williams decided to be blunt. When he shuffled his infield last week, why not move Alexei Ramirez back to second base, where he had been solid in 2008, and return Gordon Beckham to his natural position at shortstop?
”Because Alexei’s better than Gordon at short,” Williams said Tuesday, during Day 2 of the general managers meetings at the Hilton Chicago O’Hare Airport. ”Not that Gordon can’t play the position, but Alexei is a special guy.
”What we do have to get Alexei a little bit better on is his focus. That’s not unusual for a young player. Gordon would also have some of those defensive lapses if he were in the middle of the field. People really don’t understand how fast the major-league game is until you’re out there. Believe me, it’s not an indictment on Gordon’s abilities; it’s more praise of what Alexei can do.”
When the Sox took Beckham in the first round of the 2008 draft, he was a shortstop. It’s the position manager Ozzie Guillen insisted he would play all the way through spring training. But when a need arose at third base, Beckham made the switch. When Beckham debuted with the Sox in June, Ramirez was struggling at the plate and in the field at shortstop.
It seemed a natural switch to return Beckham to short and do anything else with Ramirez. But Guillen, who on several occasions blasted Ramirez for his mental lapses, wasn’t budging. And after the Mark Teahen trade meant sending second baseman Chris Getz to the Kansas City Royals, the Sox resisted the urge to make the switch again. They simply moved Beckham to second base, where he spent some time last year in the Arizona Fall League.
Williams loves the new look of his infield. And he admitted he was uncomfortable with Guillen’s public lashings of Ramirez last season.
”I personally thought it was terribly unfair, the criticism that he got,” Williams said. ”Of course, the lapses are somewhat frustrating, but I understand those as a young player. I expect those as a young player. That’s part of development, that’s part of the process. So I was less discouraged by them. Now, Ozzie, I thought we were on the same page with regards to that. But I don’t have all the cameras and the questions like Ozzie had on a day-to-day basis, asking him about Alexei and some of the defensive miscues, so I can understand where that frustration level comes from.
”But I can assure you this. In private times, Ozzie has got full confidence in what this guy’s about. We can only expect better things from him. And you have to understand, for every error that he made, he got to some balls a lot of people were not going to get to.”
And Williams has full confidence in Beckham as his second baseman.
”He’s a leader,” Williams said. ”He’s the kind of guy you want in the middle part of your infield. He will profile offensive, I think, better in the middle part of your infield. And we may have a guy who can be an All-Star at that position versus a guy who would maybe be in the middle of the pack at third base.”