Ex-Cub Aramis Ramirez fires on his critics
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org March 8, 2012 11:04PM
Aramis Ramirez says Jim Hendry had a successful run as the Cubs’ general manager. | Morry Gash~AP
Updated: April 10, 2012 11:48AM
MESA, Ariz. — He was the Cubs’ most productive third baseman since Hall of Famer Ron Santo.
And easily the most maligned.
Now, as he tries to do with the rival Milwaukee Brewers what he could only get agonizingly close to doing in Chicago, Aramis Ramirez’s answer to his critics is a look at the back of his baseball card — if not his backside.
During a wide-ranging conversation with the Sun-Times, Ramirez also defended former general manager Jim Hendry’s record, suggested a revival under Theo Epstein might not be as easy as many in Chicago seem to think and said he enjoyed his 8½ seasons in Chicago and the Wrigley Field fans.
As for the critics:
‘‘You can’t make everybody happy,’’ said Ramirez, who sees his old team for the first time since leaving when the Cubs play the Brewers on Saturday. ‘‘All you can ask from a player is to go out and do his job and produce and do what he’s supposed to do, and I did that. All I have to say to those guys is go out and look at the numbers, and you realize whether I did my job or not.’’
Ramirez’s 239 home runs as a Cub rank sixth on the franchise’s all-time list, and his .531 slugging percentage as a Cub ranks third.
After being acquired in Hendry’s best trade, in July 2003, Ramirez helped the Cubs win a postseason series for the first time in 95 years that fall, helped win two more division titles, was a two-time All-Star and drove in more than 100 runs five times, more than 90 twice more.
‘‘I think Jim was successful in Chicago,’’ Ramirez said of Hendry, who was fired last summer and eventually replaced by new team president Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer. ‘‘We made the playoffs three times, and I don’t know if any other GMs have done that for the Chicago Cubs. It’s hard to win [a championship], but we competed.’’
Ramirez, who signed a three-year, $36 million deal with Milwaukee after turning down the Cubs’ arbitration offer, said he still can’t pinpoint what has kept the Cubs from a World Series all these years.
And he’s not ready to assume Epstein will automatically have the answer.
‘‘It don’t work that way, man,’’ he said. ‘‘Obviously, he’s been successful before in Boston. I’m sure he’s got a game plan; hopefully, it works. But it’s not that easy. It was a different situation when he got the job in Boston [nine years ago]. They were ready to win then; they just needed a couple of pieces, and he went out and got it, and he won.’’
Ramirez and fellow Cubs expatriate Carlos Zambrano have been used most often as examples of what needs changing as the Cubs preach culture change from the mountaintops under the new regime.
For Ramirez, it means critics saying he didn’t care enough to give full effort on every play or every game.
‘‘You talking about Bob Brenly?’’ Ramirez said of the Cubs broadcaster and former big-league catcher who has been his most vocal critic. ‘‘I ain’t going to get into a war with Brenly or any other guy. Brenly played the game. He knows how it is. And if you want, you can put my numbers right next to his and see who did better in their career.’’
Brenly stands by his criticism, which became especially sharp last year.
‘‘Until I see him hustle for nine innings every day, I feel he’ll never be the great player he could be,’’ Brenly said Thursday. ‘‘I don’t argue his stats. They stand on their own. I guess it’s my perception of him not being as good as he could be. If he’s content to be good and not great, that’s up to him.’’
Some teammates offer a different picture of Ramirez.
Starlin Castro recalls Ramirez counseling him during spring training a year ago about focusing on every play and taking him aside more than once for the same thing after that.
Ramirez stood up for teammates when Carlos Silva ripped the team coming off the field in his first spring game a year ago, lobbied the manager to get teammates’ bats in the lineup when the Cubs were struggling and rarely admitted when nagging injuries affected his game.
Alfonso Soriano said Ramirez gets a bad rap and that he worked harder and cared more than a lot of people think.
‘‘I think they see it wrong,’’ Soriano said. ‘‘They look at the way he plays the game, and it looks like he doesn’t give 100 percent, but that’s people that don’t know him. He’s not lazy. I think that’s just his emotion; I think the way he plays the game is the way he is [emotionally].
‘‘I think he makes it hard on himself because of how he shows it. If he had a little more energy or emotion, people might look at him different.’’
Ramirez said he wanted nothing more than to win with the Cubs and loved playing in Chicago.
‘‘Everybody’s different,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m not Tony Campana, I’m not Castro or [Geovany] Soto. I’m myself, and I’m different than anybody.
‘‘Did I make mistakes? Yeah, like anybody else. Like every one of those guys that talk about me, I got a feeling they’ve made mistakes, too.’’
‘‘I probably did stuff that I ain’t supposed to do, like any other baseball player. I’m not perfect. I don’t think anybody is. But I can say, for the most part, I did my job. The numbers are there.’’