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.