I’m thrilled that Aramis Ramirez will be back, for a long time. Assuming that he and Derrek Lee are healthy and focused, the Cubs are assured of having 25% of a dangerous lineup, each and every day.
Naturally, there were alternatives to sinking $73 million on one player, but none of them, even the creative options, seemed nearly as attractive. What’s more, the Cubs would hardly have been in a strong trading position, with all of Major League Baseball aware that they had a big, yawning hole at third base.
As for the suggestions that Ramirez failed to “step up” last year when Lee broke his wrist, that strikes me as another case of people feeling the need to ascribe failure on the field to some deep-seated character flaw. (In this case, I guess it would be inability to handle pressure. Or, to put it more bluntly, gutlessness. Cowardice. How would you put it, Mike North?)
Ramirez has also been accused of not running hard to first base when he hits a ground ball or grandstanding at home plate when he thinks he’s clubbed the ball out of the park and then, having to settle for a long single.
There’s seems to be some truth to the not-hustling-on-ground-balls accusation, though Ramirez apparently played much of last season with a pulled groin and/or its after-effects. (Sunday afternoon on WGN Radio, David Kaplan reported that, according to Ramirez's people, A-Ram was instructed by Dusty Baker last season NOT to over exert on any ground ball that looked like a sure out.)
As for the grandstanding, Ramirez is, in fact, often guilty of it. That simply gives him something in common with many other players on all other Major League teams, not to mention a good percentage of those in the National Football League, National Basketball Association, Major League Soccer and the Professional Bowlers Association.
Here’s the thing:
Ramirez is an okay fielder and an outstanding hitter. We’re lucky to get him back at a significant discount over his likely, open market price. And the signals that his re-signing sends to the rest of the free agent class—Wrigley Field is a wonderful place to play and at least one current Cub is excited about the prospect of playing for Lou Piniella—can’t do anything but help the cause.