Beckham move makes Sox stronger
Williams confident in Ramirez's play at shortstop
CHICAGO -- Friday's acquisition of Mark Teahen from Kansas City gave the White Sox instant flexibility.
And that flexibility came on the infield, when general manager Ken Williams and his staff decided to put Teahen back at third base.
At that point, the White Sox could have moved rookie phenom Gordon Beckham from third to shortstop, a position Beckham played throughout college, and sent shortstop Alexei Ramirez back to second. Ramirez adeptly handled this particular defensive spot throughout his own breakout rookie campaign in 2008.
Instead, the White Sox moved Beckham from third to second, keeping Ramirez as their shortstop for the second straight season. On Tuesday afternoon, during a General Managers' Meetings media session at the O'Hare Hilton, Williams succinctly explained why the White Sox made this choice.
"Alexei is better than Gordon at shortstop," William said. "That's not to say that Gordon can't play the position. He can play the position. But Alexei is a special guy, and for him not to play for four years at the position and do what he did, that's a special feat."
Before Williams pulled the proverbial trigger on this trade last weekend, he placed a call to Beckham to make sure he could handle the transition from third to second. Beckham had played the position during Arizona Fall League action, at Double-A Birmingham and during his first Spring Training when Beckham almost won the second-base job outright.
Beckham assured Williams the challenge was one he could handle, an assurance Williams said he needed in order to finalize the deal. Beckham later said how he appreciated Williams even presenting him with that option.
Moving Beckham to second gives the White Sox two dynamic presences on the middle infield, both with the bat and the glove, and strengthens the entire White Sox look up the middle with catcher A.J. Pierzynski and center fielder Alex Rios factored into the equation. As Williams explained, Beckham's numbers play out better at second than as a corner infielder.
"He profiles offensively better in the middle part of the infield," said Williams of Beckham, who hit .270, with 14 home runs, 28 doubles and 63 RBIs in his rookie effort. "We may have an All-Star in that position, vs. a middle-of-the-pack player at third base.
"It's not an indictment on Gordon's ability. More so, this is in praise of what Alexei can do."
As for the 28-year-old Ramirez, Williams joked that his biggest concern centers on Ramirez's ability to hit in the cold month of April -- a struggle for the Cuban native over his first two years. Actually, Williams added the White Sox need to get Ramirez better focused, something manager Ozzie Guillen called him out on last year.
Williams deemed that criticism as "terribly unfair," while readily admitting how he isn't the one with cameras and recorders in his face every day like Guillen. Williams pointed out that in private, Guillen has full confidence in what Ramirez is about and remains on the same page as Williams.
"For every error [Ramirez] made, he got to balls a lot won't get to," Williams said. "The lapses are frustrating, but I understand those and expect those from young players. They are part of the development and the learning process."
That learning process will continue for Ramirez at shortstop, where he'll play with his second starting second baseman in two seasons. This double-play combination has a more permanent look to it, judging by Williams' high praise for both individuals.
"When we go in, we are not putting someone out there cold," said Williams of Beckham's move to second. "He's not going to go in without prior experience and without knowing what's expected."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.