Cubs' Ramirez cares about winning, not the money

Cubs' Ramirez cares about winning, not the money
March 26, 2011, 9:52 pm
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Saturday, March 26, 2011Posted: 5:05 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. There is a side to Aramis Ramirez that likes to plug headphones into his ears and stare at his laptop. Part of him is just Employee No. 16. Sitting at his locker, hes seen so many of his co-workers come and go across the past seven-plus years.

Ramirez has outlasted managers Dusty Baker and Lou Piniella and the third baseman will do the same with Carlos Silva, who was told Saturday that he will not make the team and will be traded if anyone wants him.

Privately, the Cubs loved that Ramirez almost got into a fight with Silva this spring. They think hes motivated to impress the new ownership group that would have to sign off on any new contract. They saw fire from a player who can seem detached.

With Silva complaining about the defense behind him, one interpretation was Ramirez sticking up for his teammates in the dugout. The reality is that Ramirez does more behind the scenes than you think, particularly among the Latin players.

Carlos Marmol values their friendship so much that he asked Ramirez to be the godfather to his daughter. Ramirez welcomed Marmol to the clubhouse years ago, and hes doing it again with Starlin Castro.

At the end of this season, Ramirez can opt out of his complicated contract and choose to become a free agent. He turns 33 in June and doesnt know how long he wants to play.

Well see, Ramirez said. Right now I dont have any plans. I dont know what Im going to do. Im looking forward I want to play this year out and after (that) Ill have a better feeling.

Could you envision playing for another team?

Not really, Ramirez said, but Ive been traded before and Ive played somewhere else before. So I know what thats like, to change from one city to another that wont surprise me. Thats the nature of the game. Personally, I dont want to play anywhere else, but you never know whats going to happen.

The financial records at Baseball-Reference.com show that Ramirez has already made more than 87 million in his career. But its not really about the money.

Ramirez didnt grow up poor in the Dominican Republic. His mother worked as an accountant and his father was a doctor who preferred a son in that image and didnt want him to play baseball.

Ramirez actually thought he was better at basketball and didnt start playing baseball seriously until the age of 13 or 14. By 16, he had signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Three years later, he made his big-league debut.

Ramirez is now 11 homers away from 300 and could reach 400 with three excellent seasons, or four very good ones. He doesnt care about milestones and isnt too concerned about his legacy.

Numbers are numbers theyre going to be there, Ramirez said. (Making) the playoffs thats what counts. A lot of guys hit 30 homers and drive in 100 and theyre home October 1. That doesnt mean anything to me.

When youre a veteran guy (with) 10, 12 years in the league, you want to win because by that time youre already set. You sign a couple good contracts (and by then) the main thing is to (win). Im at that point right now.

Do you think you can win here?

Of course, Ramirez said. We got the pieces. We just got to stay healthy. (If) everybody does what theyre supposed to do, we should be OK.

The Cubs are counting on Ramirez to be an RBI machine, and not the hitter whose average was below .200 last July. Yet he still managed to reach 25 homers for the sixth time in a Cubs uniform something only Sammy Sosa, Billy Williams, Ernie Banks, Ron Santo and Ryne Sandberg have done.

Im looking for him to be healthy and excited about playing and I think he will, manager Mike Quade said. Look, this is a big year for us and for him and we dont know how all this comes together. But I love what Ive seen so far from a leadership standpoint. Ive bounced some stuff off of him and I know hes talked to (Castro) for me.

My veterans do what they do and I dont like to put too much on them. (But) there are a lot of things going on in spring training outside of just at-bats.

There are reasons to be optimistic, beyond the salary drive and the 16 million club option for 2012 that Ramirez can use in negotiations. Ramirez calls himself one of Quades biggest fans and really wanted his manager to keep the job.

You see a guy (whos 54) years old running around, Ramirez said. Im like, Damn, I got to keep up with him. Hes a fun guy to be around. Hopefully we do well for him.

Working out at the teams facility in the Dominican Republic also lifted Ramirez during the offseason. There, Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano were surrounded by a group of teenagers that want everything they have. It all came so naturally for Ramirez, who doesnt sound like he wants to give it up just yet.

Youre kind of the old man on the field, he said, but you get energized by that.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.