The Cubs 3rd base position had been left vacant ever since the Ron Santo trade took place with the Chicago White Sox in 1974. During that 30 year span the team failed to bring credibility to the corner position until an incredible mid season deal was produced by GM Jim Hendry.
On July 23, 2003 the Pittsburgh Pirates sent Aramis Ramirez and Kenny Lofton to the Northside for Jose Hernandez, minor league pitcher Matt Bruback and the once touted prospect Bobby Hill. At the time the deal was seen as a payroll dump by a team with “selling” tendencies but one that still filled the Cubs’ gaping holes at third base and centerfield. Even though it was considered a lopsided deal at the time, no one could have predicted the scales tipping in favor to the Cubs to the extent they have.
In 7 complete seasons with the Chicago Cubs Aramis Ramirez has averaged a .293 batting average, 29 homeruns, and 96 RBIs. Very solid numbers at a difficult position to fill. As the 2011 trade deadline nears rumors have been swirling about interest for Ramirez. The most well known suitor is the Los Angeles Angels or even a return to the Pittsburgh Pirates. However, Aramis has already addressed the rumors by stating he will enact his ten-and-five rule which allows players with 10 years of service, the last five with the same team, to decline any trade.
“My family’s here,” he said. “I got two little boys. It’s hard to move in the middle of the season. I’ve done that before and that’s not fun. That’s the end of that. I’ve heard a lot of it, but right now I’m not going anywhere.”
When you look back at the career Ramirez has put up in Chicago I can only envision him as going down as one of the Cub’s best in a storied franchise. This is a difficult feat to achieve and it was not an easy task to accomplish with many doubters. There are two sides you can choose on the tale of Aramis Ramirez, the clutch hitter or pressure less stat padder.
The doubters claim that Ramirez is lazy. That he doesn’t run out fly balls and purposely plays on the line so he only has to dive in one direction. But their biggest part of their argument is that he only “turns the lights on” when the Cubs are out of contention. You can argue that Ramirez and Derek Lee killed the team in 2010. Ramirez himself hit .152 in April, .173 in May and .265 in June. During that span the Cubs only trailed by 4 games or less but once they dropped to 10.5 games out in July Ramirez’s stat line changed. He was huge in July and August batting over .300 the rest of the way. Even if you go back a little further to the playoffs in ’07 and ’08 you can argue that big pressure situations weigh on Ramirez’s shoulders. He had no hits in the ’07 and hit .182 ’08 playoffs both resulting in series sweeps.
But I’m a believer. My mind tells me that Aramis Ramirez is one of the most clutch players I have seen in a Cub’s uniform. I cite how crucial he was in getting the Cubs to the playoffs in the ’07 and ’08 and not the poor ABs he put up while in them. The only reason why his batting average is so poor in the beginning of the seasons is due to him being a bad cold weather hitter, which at times can be brutal at Wrigley Field. But his bat quickly warms up once the summer hits. He puts up lofty numbers from June on and is clutch in situational hitting. Base runners have scored from any base 18% of the time when Ramirez takes to the plate, which is above the MLB average. He posts a .429 average when base runners are on third with 2 outs and has 43 RBIs in 103 AB with RISP with 2 outs. Yes, he has a large contract and bats in the clean-up spot but I think he earns his pay. Whether or not you think he is clutch or not the Cub’s third base option mostly on Jeff Baker in 2012 has me hoping that Ramirez is true to his words and fights to stay with the Cubs for at least one more season.