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Ramirez seeks new challenge, perspective

by Jim Allen (Nov 5, 2011)

New challenges, Alex Ramirez said Friday, are what motivated him to walk away from the Yomiuri Giants after four seasons, two Central League MVP awards and a Japan Series championship.

"I have dreams, goals, that I want to accomplish," Ramirez told The Daily Yomiuri in a telephone interview four days after saying he would not negotiate a new contract with the club for 2012.

With 1,850 hits in Japan, Ramirez is on target to be the only foreign-born player to reach Japan's elite milestone of 2,000 in his career. The 37-year-old has had 159 or more hits in nine of his 11 seasons here.

"Two thousand hits is my No. 1 goal [for 2012]," said Ramirez, who also spoke of moving on as being a part of his long-term goal of managing here.

"I want to learn to see the game from different angles, because my main goal is to be a manager in Japan."

Having won the Japan Series with two teams, he also wants to see if he can go for a hat trick with a third.

Ramirez, who came to Japan in 2001 after three seasons in the major leagues with the Cleveland Indians and Pittsburgh Pirates, won a CL pennant and Series title in his debut season with the Yakult Swallows.

Instead of re-signing with Yakult after the 2007 season--when former teammate Atsuya Furuta left as skipper--Ramirez signed a big deal with the Giants. With Yomiuri, Ramirez was MVP in his first two seasons, both of which saw the team win the league and play in the Series.

The Giants won the 2009 Series, but have finished third in the league the past two seasons and failed to advance past the playoffs both times.

"The Giants treated me more than professionally--and not just me, but my family as well," he said. "It was a great honor to wear the Giants uniform.

"I am very thankful to the Giants for the opportunity they gave me. And thankful that I could fulfill my responsibility to them. That I was able to come and produce for four seasons is very special.

"A lot of foreign players come to the Giants and many are successful for a short time, for a few years. But I consider four years an accomplishment."

For an encore, Ramirez, whose contract will expire on Nov. 30, is burning to see what else he can accomplish.

"Now, I have a new challenge, a new vision," he said. "I've already won a championship with the Yakult Swallows and with the Yomiuri Giants. I want to win with another team, maybe a team that hasn't won before.

"I am still confident that I can produce with some pretty good numbers."

That Ramirez had a productive season in 2011 was obscured somewhat by a Japan-wide offensive downturn. His batting numbers paled compared to those in previous years, but offense was down across both leagues, largely because of the introduction of a less-lively ball.

The CL league batting average dropped 26 points, from .268 in 2010 to .242 this season, while home runs per game decreased from 4.0 a year ago to 1.12.

Ramirez batted 24 points below his career .303 average. While the frequency of home runs in the CL declined by 70 percent this season, Ramirez's dipped by 80 percent from 2010, when he hit a career-high and led the league with 49.

"My effort is the same," he told The Daily Yomiuri earlier in October. "People

keep coming up to me and saying, 'Rami-chan, How come you're not having that good of a season?' The numbers are down, but I know that in this season, in this park, my numbers are not that bad."

A year ago, Ramirez's .304 batting average was the CL's 11th best Although he hit just .279 this year, it was ninth best in the league. His 23 homers this season tied him for second.

His final regret with the Giants, he said, was that the season ended in the playoffs.

"It's too bad I wasn't able to help the team to win the Climax Series," he said. "We did our best. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. That's baseball.

"But you have to give credit to the Swallows. They are a good team, they were in first place most of the season, so it wasn't going to be easy."

His next step might not be easy, either--waiting and sorting through the offers that come.

"I'll weigh lots of things, but I'll go with whoever shows the most interest," he said. "Right now, I don't have anything in mind."


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