Aramis Ramirez has no time for rebuilding

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Aramis Ramirez has no time for rebuilding

Aramis Ramirez didnt think the Cubs could do a total rebuild at Wrigley Field. There wouldnt be enough patience.

This was right around last seasons trade deadline, while Ramirez was making his salary drive, and trying to clarify his no-trade stance. This was months before the Cubs hired Theo Epstein and made the team president their brand.

You cant rebuild in a big market, Ramirez said last July. When you get 40,000 every day in this town, you cant try to rebuild. You got to put a winning product on the field. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesnt. But you cant just get rid of everybody and try to rebuild in a market like this.

This city is about to find out.

No one in the room knew that Jim Hendry was already fired. If the general manager had returned, Ramirez almost certainly would have been re-signed to play third base.

Instead, Ramirez wore a Milwaukee Brewers uniform on Monday night, which drew a mixed reaction at Wrigley Field. Some boos, some polite applause, a feeling of eh as he stepped into the box for his first at-bat.

Its not that I dont care. Its just that I cant control it, Ramirez said before the game. Youve got to ask that question to the fans. If they dont appreciate the way I play, what I did, its up to them. Theres nothing you can do.

Ramirez generated 239 homers and 806 RBI in almost nine seasons for the Cubs. He played on good teams and bad teams, but was never really beloved by the fans. Certain segments of the media criticized his body language, while some teammates were bothered by the personal considerations he received.

Ramirez didnt breathe fire, and wasnt a natural leader, but he quietly helped Starlin Castro adjust, telling the young shortstop to ignore the boos and focus on the next play after making an error.

Carlos Marmol and Darwin Barney each made a point to hug Ramirez during batting practice. Late in the 2010 season, Ramirez was the first person in the organization to tell Barney that he had the talent to be the starting second baseman the next year.

He helped me a lot, Marmol said. Hes kind of like my father in baseball.

Reporters liked going to Ramirez because he could be brutally honest, and didnt just repeat the organizations talking points. But this time he was politically correct when asked about the new direction at Clark and Addison.

I dont know - Ive never been a GM before, Ramirez said. But they got a game plan, Im sure. Hopefully, it works. I dont know how long its going to take, but any time you go young, its going to take awhile.

But I dont know if next year theyre going to go out and get three, four, five top free agents or just keep going young. I guess Im not the right guy to answer that question. I dont know what kind of plan they have in mind.

They basically told me (they) were going to go young (and) I cant fit in those plans.

Everybody got their own priorities and their priority is to go out and get younger and build the farm system. You can see they didnt spend any money. They didnt go out and sign any free agents, because they want to start from the bottom (up).

Epstein made it clear early on to Paul Kinzer - the agent for Ramirez (and Castro and Marmol) - that the Cubs werent interested in negotiating a new deal.

Ramirez didnt really want to leave Chicago, but found a soft landing spot in Milwaukee with a three-year, 36 million contract.

Even after losing Prince Fielder, the small-market Brewers arent rebuilding. Ramirez could win the ring that might change the perception of his career.

We got a good team, Ramirez said. This team won 96 ballgames last year and they were two games away from the World Series. We got pretty much everybody back, besides Prince. So I think we got a good chance if guys stay healthy and do what were supposed to do.

White Sox snap scoreless streak early, cruise past Indians

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USA TODAY

White Sox snap scoreless streak early, cruise past Indians

The White Sox quickly ended their 23-inning streak of offensive futility and didn't look back. 

A three-run first inning propelled the White Sox to avoid getting swept with a 6-2 win over the Cleveland Indians in front of 24,444 at Guaranteed Rate Field Sunday afternoon. 

Tim Anderson led off the bottom of the first with a double, and after Tyler Saladino dribbled a ground ball through the left side, he came around to score on Melky Cabrera's sacrifice fly. The White Sox last run before that came in the fourth inning of their 9-1 loss to the New York Yankees on Wednesday. 

After Cabrera's flyout, Indians right fielder Abraham Almonte made a mess of Jose Abreu's line drive single, allowing it to skip past him to the wall. That error brought Saladino home and allowed Abreu to reach third, and Abreu later scored on Leury Garcia's two-out single to tag a third run on Cleveland starter Danny Salazar. 

Salazar was shaky over his five innings, striking out nine but allowing seven hits and issuing three walks. The White Sox struck again in the fifth inning when Avisail Garcia launched an RBI double off the top of the center field wall. 

Cleveland's inability to catch the ball helped the White Sox push across another run in the sixth inning. After Omar Narvaez drew a leadoff walk, Jacob May put down a sacrifice bunt and hustled to first, where second baseman Michael Martinez — covering for charging first baseman Carlos Santana — had to awkwardly stretch for Santana's underhand toss. Martinez dropped the ball, allowing May to reach.

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Following strikeouts by Anderson and Saladino, Cabrera lined a single to left, and Narvaez was aggressively waved home (a common practice with two outs in an inning). Brandon Guyer's throw easily beat Narvaez to the plate, but Indians catcher Roberto Perez dropped it, allowing Narvaez to score the fifth run of the game.

Another Indians defensive miscue led to the White Sox sixth run in the eighth, when an Abreu ground ball kicked off Santana's spikes and into center field, allowing May to score.  

White Sox starter Derek Holland was solid in his six innings, allowing only a solo home run to Francisco Lindor with three walks and six strikeouts. His toughest test came in the top of the fifth, when he issues a two-out walk to Santana to load the bases but struck out Lindor to end the frame. Holland lowered his ERA to 1.99 with his six innings of one-run ball Sunday. 

The Indians tacked on a late run when David Robertson threw a wild pitch that allowed Lonnie Chisenhall to score with two out in the ninth.

Quality more important than quantity for Bears in 2017 NFL Draft

Quality more important than quantity for Bears in 2017 NFL Draft

NFL teams typically wants as many draft picks as possible. The theory: The needier the team, the more picks required for those needs.

Not sure that this is the true situation confronting the Bears in 2017, however. In fact, something nearly the opposite, a variation on a less-is-more theme, is truer.

For the Bears approaching the 2017 NFL Draft, quality is more important than quantity. “Best available” player is fine, but for a team in major need of true impact difference-makers, a “best-possible” player is paramount. How GM Ryan Pace and his personnel posse accomplish that will be one of the most closely watched and far-reaching dramas of this draft. Because it may require some creativity on the clock, with a dizzying array of scenarios popping up in front of them by virtue of possible picks by the Cleveland Browns at 1 and San Francisco 49ers at 2.

Pace already has been about the business of giving himself the option of going after best-possible rather than simply waiting, staying with the draft board and selecting best-available.

The Bears were among the NFL’s most active teams in free agency. That has taken care of some “quantity” issues (cornerback, wide receiver, tight end), with an eye toward freeing the draft for the pursuit of true excellence, something too few Bears drafts have managed to secure (which is how teams miss playoffs nine times in 10 years and find themselves on third different GMs and coaches in the span of six years).

As he has always had within the context of the overall direction of the football franchise, Pace has a draft plan. More specifically, he also has a structure within which to execute that plan.

Draft “bands”

Besides an overall top-to-bottom ranking of players, the Bears establish various “bands” of players they identify as being worth a pick at a certain spot. Not all players in the band are graded equally, and the Bears may move to trade up if a significantly higher-graded players in the band is within reach, or if they fear other teams leap-frogging them to grab a targeted player.

But the bands allow the Bears to weigh trading back and still being able to select one of the talents in that band. With the Bears sitting at No. 3 this year, the first band in this draft will be a small one.

“We’ll have an elite group of names that we’re confident will be there [at No. 3],” Pace said at the recent owners meetings. “Three names, yeah. But beyond that, [we say,] ‘OK, there’s some pretty good depth in this draft, too, so are there scenarios’ — and it’s easier said than done — ‘where we can trade back.’ Those things’ll be discussed.”

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They’re being discussed right now. The phone in Pace’s Halas Hall office has been increasingly active the past couple weeks — calls ingoing and outgoing — and will become more so this week as the Bears and most of the NFL take the temperatures of trade ideas going into the start of the draft Thursday night. It happens every year about this time: general managers looking to satisfy sometimes-conflicting objectives, one of adding draft picks via trades down where possible, and the other of adding best-possible players, sometimes necessitating trades of picks or players to move up.

For the Bears, this year is a bit out of the ordinary, if only because they hold the No. 3-overall pick in a draft considered extremely talent-rich at certain positions and extremely less so at others. Loosely put, a position such as cornerback is rated deep enough that quality starters can be had even down into the fourth round, so teams likely need not trade up to land a blue-chipper. Conversely, the quarterback position, the one most often targeted for round-one trades up, is short of consensus elites, so again, teams are less likely to trade up to secure one.

The Bears are in position to select a franchise quarterback but opinions vary widely on whether there are clear ones to be had as high as where the Bears draft, as the order now stands. Pace, who established last year his willingness to trade up for what he considers “elite,” is like any other personnel executive in wanting more selections.

The Bears do not want to slip out of a band entirely. When they sat with No. 7 in the 2015 draft, the Bears identified a quiver of eight players deemed worth the seventh-overall pick. Those ranged from quarterback Marcus Mariota to wide receiver Amari Cooper to defensive lineman Leonard Williams, and included Kevin White, one of two from the eight not already selected by that point.

Because the goal was a player judged to be elite, trading down was not a realistic option because of the risk of getting none of their targets and instead settling for the next, lower tier of prospects.

Dealing with market forces

But what will the market allow this time? 

“Yeah, and based on the talent of the guys in those bands, what it would require for us to go back?” Pace said. “Those things are all being talked about and studied now, and we’ll keep on fine-tuning it.

“But you’ve got to have a partner willing to do that, too.”

Pace has been a willing partner for trades either up or down, sometimes in the same draft.

Last year, holding the 11th pick, the decision was made to trade up to No. 9 because of their grade on Georgia edge rusher Leonard Floyd, and the concern that either the New York Giants would take Floyd at No. 10 or another team would leap-frog the Bears and grab him. The Bears wanted a pass rusher and the falloff from Floyd was viewed as significant. Clemson’s Shaq Lawson was the next edge rusher taken (No. 19), he was less the speed player that Floyd was, and concerns about Lawson’s shoulder issues proved valid, requiring offseason surgery that cost him most of his rookie season.
 
On day two, Pace traded down twice with an eye toward landing one of his top second-round-band talents: Kansas State offensive lineman Cody Whitehair.