When the Chicago Cubs acquired Aramis Ramirez in July 2003, I wasn’t sure he was the guy to be the answer to a question that had left unanswered by the likes of Gary Scott, Kevin Orie, Leo Gomez, Steve Buechele and others.
Will the Cubs have a quality third baseman ever again?
Ramirez began to answer that question in October, when his grand slam off Dontrelle Willis in Game 4 of the NLCS helped give the Cubs a 3-1 lead in the series. As it turns out, Ramirez is the key cog in what happens to be the last time the Cubs won a playoff game.
While we’re at it, October 2003 might be the last time Ramirez was unconditionally loved by Cubs fans.
Despite being a near-lock for 30 homers, 100 RBI and a .900 OPS, Ramirez was treated like a dog by a loud minority portion of a fanbase that acts like the Cubs hadn’t started Lenny Harris at third prior to Ramirez’s arrival. At some point during his nine-year stay with the Cubs, Ramirez offended Barry Rozner to the highest degree, thus, turning part of the Cubs media against him, too.
Ramirez was lazy, and never hit when it mattered were among the narratives spun by Rozner and some of his co-horts. Yet, the numbers tell a different story.
- In 2004, Ramirez OPSed .924 in the first half, and .984 in the second half.
- Similar story in 2005, when Ramirez OPSed .905 in the first half and .970 in the second half.
- In the second half of the 2006 season, Ramirez OPSed 1.041 after OPSing a respectable .801 before the break.
- In 2007, Ramirez OPSed .913 in the first half and .917 in the second half.
I think you get my point as long as you see the trend. And if you look at his career splits with the Cubs, you won’t see much of a difference between first and second half production.
Except in 2010, when Ramirez got off to his worst start as a Cub, OPSing .648 before the All-Star break. Ramirez returned to form and posting an .847 OPS in the second half.
He struggled in the 2007 and 2008 NLDS sweeps at the hands of the Diamondbacks and Dodgers, respectively. Who didn’t?
Ramirez was as consistent a batter the Cubs have had over the past nine seasons and won’t be easy to replace. Josh Vitters waits in the wings, but he’s looking more and more like he’ll be a never was, as opposed to a has-been. Maybe D.J. LeMahieu, who has been playing third during the Arizona Fall League gets a crack at the everyday job coming out of spring training.
Since the Cubs have no ideal heir apparent to Ramirez, I expect some sort of hybrid platoon for the short term while Theo Epstein and his gang of merry men come up with some formula to replace Ramirez’s production in the long term.
Here’s hoping you’ve appreciated the Aramis Ramirez Era as much as I did. If not, I’m sure you will once you realize Blake DeWitt will be your guy manning the hot corner in 2012.