Aramis Ramirez shows his value in Cubs’ wild win over Nationals
By GORDON WITTENMYER email@example.com July 7, 2011 11:40PM
Aramis Ramirez has nine homers in his last 14 games and reached base four times in the Cubs' 10-9 win over the Washington Nationals on Thursday. | Mike Ehrmann~Getty Images
Updated: October 25, 2011 12:29AM
WASHINGTON — He has more than his share of critics among Cubs fans, whether it’s because of his too-casual body language between plays, the 32 games a season he’s had to miss because of injury or because he doesn’t always look as eager to play as Tony Campana or Marlon Byrd.
But nights like this — if not the week leading up to it — make it easy to remember how important Aramis Ramirez has been to the middle of the Cubs’ order since they acquired him from the Pittsburgh Pirates eight years ago this month.
Ramirez reached base four times Thursday night in a ridiculous 10-9 comeback victory against the Washington Nationals, including an eighth-inning single that drove home the go-ahead run with two outs after the Cubs had trailed 8-0.
The Nationals tied it in the bottom of the eighth before Darwin Barney doubled home Campana for the game-winner with two out in the ninth.
But the outcome of this game at this point in a lost season isn’t nearly as significant as how some of the performances might project during the coming renovation and rebuild.
That brings it back to guys such as Ramirez, one of the big-contract veterans who has hefty club option for 2012, no-trade rights in the meantime and no one in sight behind him to take over his position.
Then add that he’s on the kind of power binge — nine homers in his last 14 games — that evokes memories of his All-Star 2008 season, if not his big power seasons in his first three full years as a Cub.
So if he keeps it up and has a strong finish, the question is simple, if twofold, for the Cubs: Can/will they afford to bring him back for the $16 million contract option?
Perhaps just as compelling: Can they afford not to bring him back?
Consider that nobody in the Cubs’ minor-league system looks particularly ready to play third base in the big leagues, and nobody else on the big-league roster looks like more than a platoon guy at the spot.
Ramirez reiterated before Thursday’s game that he doesn’t plan to take his contract issues to the front office until general manager Jim Hendry is ready to get to him, presumably after the season.
And he says he hasn’t thought about renegotiating what has become an over-market salary option for next year into perhaps a two-year extension closer to market value.
‘‘I don’t want to talk about the contract,’’ he said. ‘‘I’m still under contract for this year, and they have a lot of stuff to fix this year. Obviously, we’re [17 games] below .500. At this point the last thing in their mind is my contact situation.’’
Fixing what ain’t broke might be something that applies to his position, regardless of what critics say. It doesn’t take a long memory to remember the problems the Cubs had at third base before Ramirez — six different Opening Day third baseman in as many years before his arrival, and in the last 30 years, Ron Cey (1983-85) is the only other one to make it even three years in a row.
And you’d be hard-pressed to find many major-league third baseman this side of Alex Rodriguez or Adrian Beltre whose numbers this season compare to Ramirez’s .298 average with 14 homers and 49 RBI. In fact, Rodriguez doesn’t have as many home runs, and Beltre isn’t within 20 points of the average.
Whether he wants to come back could become just as big an issue if the Cubs decide renegotiating is their only option.
‘‘We’ll see,’’ said Ramirez, who also has said repeatedly he won’t waive his no-trade rights this season. ‘‘I want to win. And I think we can do it here. But they’ve got a lot of things to fix.’’