Ramirez, Cubs auditioning for their next GM

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Ramirez, Cubs auditioning for their next GM

Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2011
Posted: 9:59 p.m. Updated: 10:33 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com Cubs Insider Follow @CSNMooney
Aramis Ramirez could have walked after the 2006 season. He made the salary drive, generating 38 homers and 119 RBI for a last-place team that lost 96 games. He was a free agent in control of his own destiny.

Ramirez can be quiet and reserved, while Jim Hendry never seemed to stop talking. But they were always straight-up with each other, and thats why they got along so well. They agreed to a five-year, 75 million deal.

When that 2012 option worth 16 million comes due, Ramirez wont have that trust factor with the next Cubs general manager (assuming hes in place by then). Ramirez could also void the deal and become the best third baseman by far on the market.

With three weeks left in this lost season, no one knows what direction this franchise will take.

You can look for a quick fix in ticket sales and TV ratings by making a huge splash with Prince Fielder. You can test the fans patience by tearing it all down and completely rebuilding with homegrown players. You can split the difference by adding two starting pitchers to hang around .500 and compete in a mediocre division.

If Hendry was still in power, Ramirez might be looking at a multiyear extension. Now everyone in the clubhouse is auditioning for their next general manager.

I could have gone to another team, Ramirez recalled. I chose to stay here. My familys comfortable and thats the key. If Im by myself, I can be anywhere. It doesnt matter to me. Its just going to be baseball anywhere I go.

The baseball stuff is one thing, (but were) comfortable and I was told we were going to compete and we did. Ive been in the playoffs three times.

I knew that being in Chicago (with a) big-market team, they were going to allow us to get some good players. And weve competed almost every year since Ive been here.

Now nobody knows whats going to happen.

Ramirez lofted a two-run double into left field during Wednesdays 6-3 win over the Reds, giving him his 86th and 87th RBIs of the season.

They wont build a statue of Ramirez outside Wrigley Field, but he needs one more home run to join Hall of Famer Billy Williams as the only players in Cubs history to hit at least 25 homers and 30 doubles six times. His offensive profile will be difficult if not impossible to replace in 2012.

The Cubs could go young at third base with DJ LeMahieu, the first player from their 2009 draft class to make it to the majors. They could have another opening at first base if they dont re-sign Carlos Pena (whos already owed 5 million in January 2012, the final installment of his one-year pillow contract).

The fans and media seem to be divided on Bryan LaHair, the Pacific Coast League MVP who has spent parts of the past six seasons on the Triple-A level and will turn 29 next month. Does LaHair have to overcome labels?

In all honesty, sure he does, but not with me, manager Mike Quade said. People are going to have opinions and it is a bit unusual to have spent as much time he has in the minor leagues (without) a shot.

The hell with labelsif you can hit, you can hit. And hes going to get an opportunity to swing the bat here (and) well see if he cant make an impression.

Thats what these final few starts are all about for Casey Coleman, whos trying to show hes the guy who went 4-2 with a 3.33 ERA in eight starts late last season.

Looking ahead to a 2012 rotation that is filled with question marks almost certainly Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza, probably Randy Wells, maybe Andrew Cashner Coleman knows how much is riding on this month.

Everybodys playing for a job next year, Coleman said. There are some guys with guaranteed contracts, but you never know what teams watching. The new GM Im sure will come in and look at the last part of the season (in terms of) performance. So you just never know.

This is a Twitter world where Chuck LaMars abrupt resignation as Phillies assistant general manager had people connecting some dots late Tuesday night and putting him in Chicago. The Cubs will try to block out all the noise, even though they know changes are coming.

You still have the same goals on the field, said outfielder Lou Montanez, a September call-up. You dont pay much attention to whats going on (upstairs). Its too much of a distraction to worry about that.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

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Kris Bryant ignites World Series nostalgia with Cubs' epic eighth-inning comeback

Kris Bryant ignites World Series nostalgia with Cubs' epic eighth-inning comeback

“Reminded me a lot of a play in the World Series.”

Kris Bryant wasn’t the only one with World Series nostalgia Saturday afternoon at the Friendly Confines. The tens of thousands of Cubs fans losing their minds over the North Siders’ eighth-inning comeback made that very clear.

Bryant, though, was the one who provided it, first driving in the game-tying run mere moments after the visiting St. Louis Cardinals smashed open a pitchers duel with back-to-back homers off Jon Lester in the top of the eighth. Bryant then got a head starts and came around all the way from first, scoring the game-winning run on a ball Anthony Rizzo dumped into the left-center field gap so perfectly he couldn’t have thrown it there any better.

Bryant slid in — feet first — beating the throw home from ex-teammate Dexter Fowler. Cue the hysteria at Clark and Addison.

“Me, honestly, I was just trying to go up the middle. I think that’s kind of where I’ve been struggling this year is with guys on base I want to do too much. Just seeing through the middle. Bat broke and flew, I don’t know where it went, but it flew somewhere. That was huge,” Bryant explained after the game.

“And then obviously with Rizz having a good at-bat off a tough lefty. I don't know if Dexter or Tommy Pham got a good read or if they were way back at the track, but right when he hit it I didn’t see them anywhere close to it so I thought there was a pretty good chance that I could score.”

Bryant’s very presence in the Cubs’ starting lineup was the headline before the game, the “freak of nature” returning from a jammed finger after missing only one game. So of course it was the reigning National League MVP who played the biggest role, flipping the script from his sick day by being right in the middle of the Cubs’ eighth-inning explosion. It was the eighth inning where the Cardinals staged their game-defining rally Friday.

[CUBS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

Manager Joe Maddon went as far as saying that perhaps only Bryant could have made the play he did, scoring from first base on what went down as a Rizzo double.

“KB being able to play was the difference in today’s game,” Maddon said. “A combination of the hit and his speed. I don’t think anybody else scores on that. Maybe Jason (Heyward), possibly. (Ian) Happ, possibly. But KB is such a good base runner. He had it in his head the moment the ball was hit, and all (third base coach Gary) Jones had to do was wave his arm. You can’t underestimate the importance of one person in the lineup.

“He’s a very bright base runner. He’s shown that from the beginning. … He demonstrated that early on, and for me when a young player demonstrates awareness on the bases, man, that’s a good baseball player.”

All that talent made Bryant last season’s Most Valuable Player and one of the most important figures in the curse-breaking World Series championship.

Bryant mentioned he thought Saturday’s game-winning trip from first to home conjured memories of a similar play in Game 7 of last fall’s World Series, when Bryant went first to home on Rizzo’s base hit off Andrew Miller in the fifth inning.

“Reminded me a lot of a play in the World Series off of Andrew Miller. It was a full count there, started early,” Bryant said. “Rizz hit it, you’ve got to give him a ton of credit, worked a great at-bat. But the head start really does help. It's something that I take pride in is my base running, surprising people. Hopefully I did that today.”

With Bryant back in the lineup Saturday, Kyle Hendricks’ return to the rotation coming Monday, a now 7-1 record since the All-Star break and a bunched-up NL Central that had four teams within three and a half games of each other entering Saturday’s action, it’s no wonder the World Series feeling is making its way back to the North Side.

All season long, fans and observers have been waiting for that switch to flip, and maybe it finally has.

The bats were thunderous on that six-game road trip out of the All-Star break, with 16 home runs helping the Cubs to back-to-back sweeps of the Baltimore Orioles and Atlanta Braves. Friday’s loss to the Cardinals provided plenty of evidence that the rest of the season might feature a knock-down, drag-out slugfest between the four NL Central contenders. All that was missing was a game that got Wrigleyville rocking.

“Probably one of our better wins of the year,” Bryant said.

That’s all without even mentioning the efforts of Lester, who was perfect until Adam Wainwright’s single in the top of the sixth. It was another stellar effort from a Cubs starting pitcher, and what was the team’s biggest problem during that sub-.500 first half — inconsistent starting pitching — certainly seems to be ironed out.

While the standings say it’s still going to be a brawl to the end with the Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates, the Cubs could be in a first-place tie by the end of Saturday night.

In other words, the race is on. And Bryant and the Cubs are clicking at the right time.

“It’s already Jaugust,” Maddon joked, inventing a new month out of thin air. “There’s no waiting around right now. Everybody feels the same way. We took advantage of the break, I believe. We came back with renewed energy. You don’t want to give up anything right now.”