Around 2:30 this afternoon, news broke that Aramis Ramirez’s agent, Paul Kinzer, informed the Chicago Cubs that his client will opt out of the final year of his deal, which also happens to be a team option, and file for free agency. However, Ramirez’s agent would not rule out the possibility that he would re-sign with the Cubs in the off season, but only if the team was not in full rebuild mode. In other words, unless the Cubs make a huge splash in free agency, likely by signing either Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder, his tenure with the Cubs is likely over, even though he has claimed in the past that he wanted to retire a Chicago Cub.
Since joining the Cubs midway through 2003, Ramirez has put on a show for the Wrigley Faithful and has cemented a place for himself in Cubs history. In his nearly eight years with the ball club he has become the second greatest third baseman in Cubs history, right behind the late great Ron Santo. He was also the first long term third baseman the Cubs have had since Santo was traded to the Chicago White Sox at the end of his career. With his apparent departure, you have to wonder when the Cubs will once again be able to fill the vacant hot corner. Last night, 30 years past before they found a solid fixture, hopefully this time the fans do not have to wait so long for a permanent replacement.
With the third base free agent class being very weak, Ramirez becomes the best player available at that position, and should draw a lot of attention from several teams who need someone at third. The bidding war for the aging veteran will likely surpass whatever amount the Cubs would be willing to spend to bring him back, unless he gives the team he says he wants to return to a “home town discount”. With this being the final long term deal of his career, I am not so sure that he will be willing to give a significant discount to the Cubs in order to finish his career with them.
Now that you have a pretty good idea that Ramirez’s Cubs career is over, in my own opinion, the time has come to do what is best for both the player and the team. Sit A-Ram down for the remainder of the season and play a young player over at the hot corner.
How does that benefit Ramirez? The answer to that is quite easy. He has an injured qaud, so in the interest of his health, he should be sat the remainder of the year. Let the injury heal so he can fully heal before any physical that he would need to take before signing a new contract. I doubt Ramirez would have much problem with that scenario as he gets paid whether he plays or not. Why risk making an injury worse if you are about to reach free agency? I believe he will be happy to sit out the remaining six games while the Cubs begin the rebuilding process.
The question then turns to which kid do you throw at third base for the remainder of the year? You could turn to the kid who is playing there today, DJ LeMahieu. Let him test his ability and skill while the Cubs get a good look to see if he can play every day at the major league level. Sure, this is September baseball and no teams have advanced scouts so you need to take anything these call ups do with a grain of salt, but you would get an idea of what he can do.
Another option would be to allow Starlin Castro to spread his wings and fly over at the hot corner. He may not be a bad option, especially since he does have a strong arm and good range. Add in to his ever growing power, he could grow into an excellent option over there. Then the problem would be who plays short stop, or who plays second base if Darwin Barney shifts over as well. Time will tell how the Cubs will handle the third base position going forward, but you can be sure things will be interesting.
There is some good news that comes with the departure of Ramirez, even for those fans who do wish he would return. The Cubs will be saving the $16 Million that he would have made next year, which can be spent elsewhere, perhaps on the pitching staff or a certain first baseman who shall be left unnamed. That is not the only good news however. From the sound of some of the reports, because Ramirez was the one who opted out of the 2012 deal and not the team, the Cubs may in fact be off the hook for the $2 Million buyout to the contract. So that is another $2 Million that the Cubs can use to rebuild a ball club that seemed to have fallen apart. Heck, they might even be more willing to ship off Alfonso Soriano knowing that they suddenly have this extra money that they can throw into a deal to help a team pay his contract. However, that “saved money” might actually be put towards the Carlos Zambrano going away package.
Ramirez declaring for free agency, six games before the season actually ends, should open the flood gates that should have been opened for the trade deadline back in July. That means letting Carlos Pena walk, trading Marlon Byrd and trying desperately to send Alfonso Soriano packing. Without Ramirez, there is little reason to sign Pujols, Fielder or even bringing Pena back.
Let the rebuilding process begin. The only question is will Cub fans be willing to sit through a few years of what could be sub .500 baseball while the kids grow and learn on the job?
Today marks the first meeting of the season for the Chicago Cubs and the St. Louis Cardinals for the 2010 baseball season. I can not remember time, when their first meeting of the year was almost two months into the season, though I am sure there have been times when they have met later. As the old saying goes, when these two teams get together, you can throw out the record books. No matter how much better one team appears to be doing than the other, you are sure to see a battle on the field. The intensity always seems to pick up when these two teams face off. No matter who is winning, you can surely bet the other team has a comeback in them, to make the game close, and I would not expect anything different in this upcoming series.
Currently, the Chicago Cubs are playing some of their best baseball of the season, going 7-10 against some of the National League’s better teams, as well as one of the top teams in the American League. Granted, they did not face two of the leagues best pitchers in Ubaldo Jimezez and Roy Halliday when they played the Colorado Rockies and the Philadelphia Phillies, but they still were able to get the job done, winning three of those four games. If the Cubs were able to hit a fly ball in the final game against the Phillies, they might have been able to have swept both brief two game series, instead of just the one against the Rockies. In this stretch, they have also been able to win a series from both the Texas Rangers and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Cubs could not be hotter heading into yet another very tough series with another one of the better teams in the National League.
With the Cubs currently sitting in third place, behind both the division leading Cincinnati Reds, and the Cardinals the Cubs have a great opportunity to move closer to second place, and possibly even first if the Houston Astros are able to do anything worthwhile against the Reds. However, what happens in that series is out of the Cubs hands, all they can do is focus on the team they are playing. If the Cubs are able to sweep the Cardinals out of Chicago, they are sending a message to both teams ahead of them in the standings that the Cubs are back and they better take notice. Even if they are able to only win two of the three games, the Cubs can still make a statement. Sweeping series is great, but if you are consistently winning series then you will be sticking around for a long time.
Ironically, both the Cubs and Cardinals have two of their most important hitters struggling. Granted, the struggling stars for the Cardinals are still hitting their normal averages for the year, but you can not over look that they are in a funk of their own as of late. Matt Holliday is in a 5-25 slump, but is still looking good hitting .286 on the year. Albert Pujols is also in the middle of a funk, going 4-22, but his season stats are still something any team in baseball would take. His nine home runs and 32 RBI would look pretty good on any roster. Whether or not they are struggling, you should not over look either of these two hitters.
You can look at the situation with the two slumping Cardinal stars in two ways. On one hand, you can look at the slumps as a sign that the Cardinals are beatable, especially if their two biggest threats are not hitting. If you are able to keep them on their slide, you take out the two biggest threats in their lineup, forcing them to out pitch you, which the Cardinals are very capable of doing as they have one of the best pitching staffs in all of baseball. But if you can limit the Cardinals offense, you have a chance to beat them in a low scoring game.
On the other hand, nothing is more dangerous for a pitching staff, than facing two sluggers who are in the middle of a slump. You know that players like Pujols and Holliday will not be held down for too long before they are able to once again break out. All they need, is that one swing of the bat to snap them out of their funk, and they become the most dangerous hitters in the game again. Fans may think they are catching the Cardinals and their two hitting stars at the right time, but the right time may not be for the Cubs at all.
Unlike Pujols and Holliday, the Cubs slumping stars have been in more of a season long slump. The man who has traditionally been the Cubs biggest RBI threat throughout the years, Aramis Ramirez, is colder than ever. On the season, he is hitting under the Mendoza line with a very disappointing batting average of .160, and is limited to only four home runs and 20 RBI. Considering how poorly he has been hitting this season, the 20 RBI are a blessing. He has been sitting out the past few games with a sore thumb, but is expected to be back in the lineup today when the season begins. We can only hope and pray that Ramirez’s thumb is feeling better and he is as ready to break out as one of his fellow teammates appears to be.
While the Cubs other slugger, Derek Lee, is still posting a .246 batting average on the year, there are plenty of reasons for the Cubs and their fans to believe that he has finally broken out of his season long agony. In the series with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Lee went 7-9, elevating his batting average for the month of May to .286, which is what we expected him to be doing all along. With Lee seemingly back in the fold, the Cubs are that much closer to being looked at as a viable contender in the National League Central race.
The game this afternoon, will not be an easy one to win. The Cardinals will be sending out Chris Carpenter, who has a stellar record of 5-1 and has an ERA of 3.09. The Cubs will be countering with Randy Wells who is 3-2 with an ERA or 3.99. However as I stated earlier, when these two teams get together, you can throw out the record books. Carpenter could get knocked out of the game in the first inning while Wells pitches a complete game shutout. Anything can, and usually does happen with these two teams.
My oh my, what a couple of days we have just had here in the world of the Chicago Cubs. In case you haven’t been paying attention, the Cubs have just won their fifth game in a row, which is their longest winning streak of the year. Also in these past few days, the judgment was finally made on Milton Bradley’s appeal of his two game suspension. Oh yeah, one more thing has happened, Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote an article on steroids in baseball, and threw out Ryan Theriot’s name into the mix. These past few days have been something else, but in case you have been out of the loop, allow me to catch you up.
Lets start with Bradley’s suspension, since the news of this came out first. In the post game press conference of Thursday night’s win over the San Diego Padres, Cubs General Manager revealed that the empty suits in Major League Baseball have finally decided to share the ruling on Bradley’s appeal. Even though both Bradley, and the umpire Vanover agreed that there were no threats or foul language, the suspension was upheld, but reduced to only one game. I know the rules of baseball state that contact between a player and an umpire requires a suspension, but the contact that was made was so slight the suspension should not have been made. When the brim of a players helmet hit’s the bill of the umpire’s cap, that should not be considered contact. No matter how any of us feel, the suspension was carried out, and Bradley sat out today’s game against the Houston Astros.
I know what many of you are saying when you are talking about the suspension. Many of you are wondering why Bradley didn’t just take his suspension when he was injured and wasn’t playing, instead of going through the entire appeal process and then sitting out when he was fully healthy. First and foremost, I must admit that I agree with all of you who feel this way. While he wanted to stand up for himself, he needed to put the team ahead of his own self image. Everyone knew that the suspension and fine would not be eliminated completely. No matter how any of us feel, he did fight the suspension and he technically walked away with a victory in the hearing, though not the complete victory he was hoping for. He paid his debt to baseball, and now he can get on with his baseball life and get back to doing what he was paid to do. Help the Cubs win the world series. Hopefully now we can put this matter behind us for good and look forward.
Today the Cubs played the first game of their rain shortened series against the Astros. The first game of the series, which was scheduled to be played on Friday afternoon, was rained out, and will be made up in July. As I already stated, the Cubs won today, even with Bradley sitting out, to extend their winning streak to five games. Today’s game was a roller coaster ride all the way through. The game was scoreless until the sixth inning when the Cubs scored three times, which included a Micah Hoffpauir two run homer that followed a Derrek Lee RBI single. The score would remain that way until the eighth inning when Geovany Soto tacked on what would turn out to be a much needed run to give the Cubs a 4-0 lead heading into the ninth. All secure, or so you would have thought. The Cubs bullpen stepped up and delivered two back to back perfect innings by Angel Guzman and Carlos Marmol. All that would be left would be for Kevin Gregg to come in and get the final three outs. With a four run lead, the fans in the stadium were warming up their vocal chords to sing “Go Cubs Go”. However, they would have to wait a little longer then they would have liked to.
Gregg entered the game, and immediately gave up two solo homeruns on three pitches, and the Cubs lead was now cut in half. The next three men all reached base, two with hits and one by being hit by a pitch. So here we were, bases loaded and up by two runs with no outs. A nightmarish situation for any Cub fan to witness. After Gregg loaded the bases, Cubs manager Lou Piniella had seen enough and called Aaron Heilman out from the bullpen to try and fnish the game off. However, that would not be the case because on the first pitch Ivan Rodriguez singled scoring two men to tie the game. Heilman would get the next two men out before walking Michael Bourn to once again load the bases. Again, Piniella had seen enough and went to the pen again. This time, he called in lefty Sean Marshall to try and keep the game tied. Three pitches later, we were heading to the bottom of the ninth looking for that much needed walk off win.
The bottom of the ninth started out great for the Cubs. First we saw former Cub LaTroy Hawkins on the mound, Cub fans who unfortunately remember him knew this could only mean good things. For the Cubs, they had 31 year old rookie Bobby Scales stepping up to the plate, and he worked a full count, then drew a leadoff walk. Good things always tend to happen when you start off an inning with a walk. Aaron Miles was up next, and against my better judgment laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Scales over to second. I say against my better judgment because I was sure they would walk Alfonso Soriano with first base open and a runner at second. Thankfully, that was not the plan that Hawkins and the Astros had in mind. They pitched to Soriano, and that’s all we needed. After two quick strikes, Soriano popped a single into right field and Scales crossed home plate to score the winning run.
Gregg flat out sucked today, which will only add logs to the fire of fans who hate him, and want him out of the closers role. There are no words that I can give to even begin to defend Gregg at this point, because today’s game was inexcusable. How he could blow the game that badly is beyond me. For the past few games, he has been solid and actually looked like he had his job locked down, and then he goes out there and drops this disaster of an outing. The calls for Marmol to be the new closer are already starting, as are a few calls for Guzman to take the job. However, this game will not be the final nail in Gregg’s job as closer. He will have more chances to do the job before Piniella yanks him from the closers job.
Finally, Telander wrote an article on Friday about steroids, and brought up Theriot’s name. During the course of the article, he half heartedly accused Theriot of using steroids. However, he only brought up his name tongue in cheek, and only to make his point that now everyone in baseball should now be a suspect. The downside, he has now marked Theriot as a steroid user, even if he didn’t mean to, he has now tarnished Theriot’s career. Take a look at Theriot’s body and tell me he is a user. He is listed at 5’11” and around 170 pounds, yet he is going to have to walk around with the whispers of steroid use following him. Good job Telander, way to bring down someone to make a point. Just because he is performing above expectations, you had to single him out. Why not call out a slugger who at least looks like a possible candidate. Such players like Albert Pujols from the St. Louis Cardinals, or Ryan Howard from the Philadelphia Phillies. Don’t get me wrong, I am NOT saying that they are users, but they would fit the image of a steroid abuser more then Theriot ever could.
Like I said, these past few days have been crazy, and a lot has gone down. I am sure things will continue to get crazy throughout the season, after all, this wouldn’t be a Cubs season without a lot of craziness following the team around, don’t you agree?