The last hurrah for Cubs' Aramis Ramirez?
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org September 20, 2011 10:30PM
CHICAGO, IL - SEPTEMBER 17: Aramis Ramirez #16 of the Chicago Cubs hits against the Houston Astros at Wrigley Field on September 17, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis /Getty Images) R:\Merlin\Getty_Photos\125443573.jpg
Updated: November 10, 2011 3:13PM
The Cubs’ best hitter, their most productive run producer over the last decade and a player with more postseason games as a Cub than anyone since the 1940s, jogged off the field to the Wrigley Field home dugout for what may have been the last time Tuesday night.
‘‘Probably,’’ said third baseman Aramis Ramirez, whose final week of what might be his final season as a Cub has been compromised by a quadriceps strain he aggravated in the sixth inning of Tuesday’s 5-1 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers.
‘‘There’s a good chance,’’ he said of having played his last home game as a Cub. ‘‘I’m a free agent, and right now I don’t know what’s going to happen. But it looks like I’m going to hit the market. . . . We’re ready to move on.’’
What’s certain is that Ramirez will sit out today’s final home game. He said he hopes to return during the final six-game road trip to St. Louis and San Diego but has no illusions of coming back for a 10th season with the Cubs, especially with no general manager in place and with a winter free-agent market devoid of other quality third basemen.
Ramirez’s agent, Paul Kinzer, is in town and said Tuesday he plans to sit down with his client to map out an offseason plan before the team heads to St. Louis for Friday’s series opener.
The Cubs hold a $16 million option ($2 million buyout) on his contract, but Ramirez has the right to opt out if the option is exercised and become a free agent. He has said repeatedly his preference is to return to Chicago, but he also wants multiyear security after this season.
‘‘I think I can play three or four more years,’’ said Ramirez, 33, who bounced back from a 2010 stunted by a miserable first half to hit .306 with 25 homers, 92 RBI and an .866 OPS this season. ‘‘I just want to get in the right situation and see what happens.’’
He said he hasn’t heard from anyone in the front office about the team’s intentions for his option, much less his potential with the Cubs beyond that.
This despite ownership’s aggressive communication with dozens of key front-office personnel as well as efforts to keep options open to retain other veteran players, such as pending free agent Carlos Pena.
Ramirez, who was acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates in a trade during the 2003 playoff push, said he hasn’t reached out to the Cubs on the issue, nor does he plan to.
‘‘I mean, we don’t have a GM,’’ he said. ‘‘So I don’t know who you talk to.’’
If this was Ramirez’s final game as a Cub, he finishes sixth on the franchise’s all-time home-run list (238), third in slugging (.531), fifth in OPS (.887) and just misses the top 10 with 805 RBI. His 18 postseason games as a Cub are the most since Stan Hack appeared in 18 over four World Series from 1932 to 1945.
‘‘It’s going to be different,’’ Ramirez said of what could be his final home game today. ‘‘It’s going to be the first time that I don’t know if I’m coming back. All the other times I knew I had my place here, I knew I was going to have my locker here, my same locker at Wrigley Field. But next year, I don’t know.’’
If the Cubs faced parting ways Tuesday with that major part of their past, they did so on a night the biggest hope for the future — Starlin Castro — provided the only highlight of the game, hitting his 10th homer off Brewers starter Shaun Marcum (13-7) leading off the sixth.
That extended Castro’s streak of reaching base to 33 games. He needs three more hits to become the youngest Cub — and sixth-youngest in major-league history — to reach 200 in a season.