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Ramirez guiding BayStars with steady hand

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It might be strange to some to see Yokohama BayStars manager Alex Ramirez remaining so grounded. The same Ramirez who played with emotion, who performed special dances after his home runs (sometimes with team mascots), is calm, cool and collected as his BayStars work to secure a second-straight trip to the Central League Climax Series.

He wasn’t down in the dumps after Yokohama’s grip on third place, and the final spot in the Climax Series, was reduced to two games after being swept by the Yomiuri Giants Aug. 18-20, nor in the clouds after three straight sayonara victories (a feat achieved in the same series for the first time in franchise history) over the Hiroshima Carp to start last week.

Most recently, Yokohama took two of three from the Tokyo Yakult Swallows over the weekend to improve to 59-52-4 for the season.

“I’m very happy with the performance we’re getting right now,” Ramirez said. “We’ve just got to take it day by day. We’re not going to win every game for the rest of the season, so we have to make sure we win as much as we can now, so that when the losing streak comes, we’re already on top.”

Alex Ramirez, the pragmatist.

It would be harder to believe if he hadn’t taken such an intelligent, thoughtful approach to the game as a player, even if the flair he played with outshone it sometimes.

Now, Ramirez’s steady hand is keeping the BayStars honest. He’s been quick to publicly praise his players, but has also been fairly honest about where he wants to see them improve and holding them accountable. Whatever he’s done, it’s led to more wins, and the BayStars are in a good position for their first winning season since 2001.

More importantly, the team remains ahead of the fourth-placed Giants in the race for the final spot in the Climax Series. Yokohama leads Yomiuri by 3½ games in the race for third, and is just 2½ behind the Hanshin Tigers for second place.

Kiyoshi Nakahata managed the BayStars from 2012-2015, and while the gregarious skipper seemed to change the gloomy mood around Yokohama, he didn’t change the results. Ramirez has done that.

Ramirez had long thought about managing. He had his own ideas about how to run a team, ideas forged in the fires of a long career that began in the Cleveland Indians’ farm system in 1993, and had hoped to find a place to put them to the test.

He stepped into the job with no experience except for a turn as the senior director of the Gunma Diamond Pegasus in the independent Baseball Challenge League in 2015 and a brief stint as a roving advisor for the Orix Buffaloes the same year.

Yokohama was 69-71-3 in Ramirez’s first season in charge in 2016. The BayStars finished under .500, but still made their first-ever trip to the Central League Climax Series, becoming the last of the CL teams to make an appearance. The club made it past the Giants in the first stage before falling to the Hiroshima Carp in the final round.

Now that Ramirez has brought a modicum of success back to Yokohama, the next step is finding a way to sustain it. A winning season and a second straight playoff berth would go a long way toward laying the foundation for that. Both are well within reach. But with so many games left to play, Ramirez is keeping his feet planted firmly on the ground.

“It’s not like everybody has the advantage on any other team,” Ramirez said. “Every team has become tougher and tougher. We win today, and the next day is very tough. This is a time when everybody needs to stay focused. It’s not easy. You can’t underestimate any team in the league, that’s very important.”