I spent yesterday actually writing about the Cubs…writing the Cubs season wrap up for our good friend Kevin Kaduk and the Big League Stew Blog at Yahoo! Sports. Â And because of that, I had to halt the urge to rip a particularly awful (and that’s saying something) Phil Rogers shitfest.
Hah! Â Phil doesn’t get off that easily.
Talking baseball while feelingÂ Jay Cutlerâ€™sÂ pain:Â
If you mean that both of you suffer from head trauma, then I’m probably going to believe that.
1.Â There were no huge ovations forÂ Aramis RamirezÂ on Wednesday, even though it figures to be the last time heâ€™ll wear aÂ CubsÂ uniform atÂ Wrigley Field.
My guess…and I’m only guessing here, Phildo, is that the reason there were no huge ovations for E-ramis had more to do with the fact he didn’t play than anything else. Â But you’re right, the 1200 fans who actually went, probably should have rushed the dugout to salute him. Â Even though he was most likely sleeping in the clubhouse.
Heâ€™s the best third baseman theyâ€™ve had sinceÂ Ron Santo, and the raw numbers say heâ€™s having another strong season — his .302 batting average in the majors among regulars at the position, and onlyÂ Adrian BeltreÂ has more RBIs than his 92 —
The raw numbers don’t just say it, actually watching him says it, too. Â Why do you act surprised that a guy who has always hit (except for when he broke his shoulder in two)…would hit? Â If you haven’t noticed, E-ramis is good. Â Like, really good. Â And he’s been that way for most of his eight and a half seasons in Chicago.
but thereâ€™s no question the Cubs are making the right decision to let him walk rather than offering him an extra two or three years at $16 million or more.
There’s not no question, there are lots of questions. Â Would you really rather pay E-ramis $16 million to play third base (the hardest spot on the field to fill these days), or pay Carlos Pena, probably $12 million to play first (the easiest spot on the field to fill right now?) Â Granted, E-ramis will likely want out of his option and look for a big contract (which he’ll get), but there’s not no question.
When Ramirez is motivated, confident and physically sound, as in the second half of this year, he is a force.
138, 134, 126, 128, 126, 130, 95, 136
Those aren’t E-ramis’ games played. Â They’re his OPS pluses since 2004. Â Outside of last year, they’re pretty damned good. Â So motivated or not, he hits. Â A lot. Â But maybe the Cubs can go back to the days of Leo Gomez and Shane Andrews. Â Those were awesome.
With such a high price tag, heâ€™s the kind of veteran who ought to be playing on a contender. And the Cubs have a long way to go to get there from here.
And the best way to get there? Â Let good players leave at positions you can’t fill. Â Who needs E-ramis for four years, when you have superstars like Josh Vitters waiting in the wings! Â Ooh, maybe Darwin Barney can play second and third at the same time? Now that would be some GRIT! Â But, by all means, give a 250 pound center fielder a three year contract and watch him not play all that well, but he sprints on the rare occasion he hits a homer so that’s the kind of guy you build around! Â Three more years for Marlon!
Ramirez could have brought a nice prospect or two had he been willing to waive his no-trade at the deadline, with theÂ Tigers, Angels andÂ YankeesÂ among the teams that were interested. But Ramirez wouldnâ€™t sacrifice his comfort to play with a competitive team, and thatâ€™s why it was time to let him walk, one way or another.
That son of a bitch! Â How dare he want to play for the Cubs? Â I hate players who want to play for my favorite team. Â They should waive their rights to play for teams that they enjoy playing for and go away. Â Except when I don’t want them to go and they say they want out and then I boo them.
Assuming the Cubs do exercise their half of a mutual option for 2012, Ramirez will bring them two high draft picks, including a first-rounder if the Tigers or Angels remain interested enough to sign him. That will give a new GM a running start on putting his stamp on the organization long term.
Here’s the part I got wrong on my little twitter rant yesterday. Â The Cubs can only offer E-ramis arbitration if they pick up his option and he declines it. Â Phil was actually sort of right here. Â The Cubs, given their cash troubles might be afraid to do this, which would be dumb. Â One year of E-ramis at $16 million isn’t that much of a risk, especially when you are 99 percent sure he’s not going to pick up his half of the option, and 97 percent sure that he’s not going to decline the option but accept arbitration (he theoretically could win more than $16 million at a hearing, but probably would get less than that and be dumb.)
You can also argue that the two draft picks (assuming he’s the highest ranked free agent a team signs this offseason…which is a crapshoot) could be worth more than the prospects the Cubs would have gotten for two months of E-ramis at the deadline anyway.
The draft pick thing is tricky though. Â Remember how the 2007 Brewers were going to restock their farm system by offering arbitration to Ben Sheets and CC Sabathia and using those four high compensation draft picks?
It never happened. Â Sheets was hurt and didn’t get signed by the A’s until after the compensation period had ended (so Milwaukee got no picks for him) and the Yankees signed both CC and Mark Teixiera that offseason and since Teixiera was a higher ranked free agent, the Angels got the extra compensation pick for losing Tex, the Brewers just got one for losing CC. Â Whoops. Â Milwaukee got one pick total for two guys. Â (And you can see how far it set that franchise back, since they’re going to earn a playoff spot this weekend.)
Ramirez, 33, is a commodity despite his flaws in part because of the law of supply and demand. Third base is baseballâ€™s biggest position of haves and have-nots. There simply arenâ€™t enough good players there to go around.
Great point Phil. Â There aren’t any good third basemen to get, so the Cubs should let theirs go. Â Your reasoning is solid as always. Â You’re aces.
Only 11 third basemen have played regularly enough to qualify for batting titles this season — compared to 20 first basemen, 20 shortstops and 18 second basemen — and among them only eight have delivered 60-plus RBIs with a .700-plus OPS.
Six of the eight that fit that description are on winning teams, with theÂ Oriolesâ€™Â Mark ReynoldsÂ and Ramirez the two exceptions. The others are Beltre,Â Evan Longoria,Â Kevin Youkilis,Â Chipper Jones,Â Pablo SandovalÂ andÂ Alex Rodriguez.
Clearly the reason the Orioles and Cubs are bad is because they have productive third basemen. Â Why Buck Showalter doesn’t turn the O’s around by assassinating Reynolds is a mystery.
Ramirezâ€™s departure will exacerbate the Cubsâ€™ lack of power. But donâ€™t forget how much of a non-factor he was early this season, when he homered once in the teamâ€™s first 50 games.
Because 162 games of whatever non-factor they replace him with is much better than 50.
The Cubs will look at some homegrown options at third base, but it will be interesting to see how highly a new general manager regardsÂ Josh Vitters, D.J. LeMahieuÂ andÂ Ryan Flaherty.
Vitters is still only 21 and he’s not ready, and may never be ready. Â LeMahieu sucks and theÂ CubsÂ think so much of Flaherty’s future at third base that they’ve played him there 26 times this year between double and triple A. Â My guess is that a new GM will regard these three as crap on a stick.
With few smart long-term investments available, the Cubs probably will explore the Rule 5 draft and other inexpensive avenues in the hope of filling third for at least a year while these guys continue to develop.
If a franchise in the third largest media market in the country, charging dopes $50 a game to sit in the bleachers uses a Rule 5 player at third base next year, so help me, I will burn Wrigley Field to the ground. Â I don’t care if they “go young” but it had better not be with the third base equivalent of David Patton.
Ramirez was a very good player at times, and that guy will be missed. But a team badly in need of reconstruction can find better ways to spend $16 million a season. Thatâ€™s front-line pitching money and thereâ€™s almost no way the Cubs can get back to winning 85-plus games a year without adding some impact arms aroundÂ Matt Garza.
This isÂ asinine, even for you, Phil. Â The Cubs aren’t going to put $16 million into pitching. They’re going to put it in their pocket. Â They’re going to start next season with Dempster, Garza, Cashner, Wells and some middling free agent and wonder why they’re nine games out in May.
2.Â The Cubs had better brace themselves for the storm theyâ€™re walking into at Busch Stadium on Friday.
I didn’t see anything on the Weather Channel. Â Is it some kind of hillbilly hurricane? Â Hurricane Claudine, maybe?
The 18-6 run that has taken theÂ CardinalsÂ from 10 1/2 games out to 1 1/2 out in theÂ National LeagueÂ wild-card race has St. Louis on fire.
The only thing that ever gets St. Louis on fire are exploding bathtubs full of meth.
The ballpark has been rocking the last two nights whenÂ David FreeseÂ andÂ Ryan TheriotÂ produced dramatic hits to reverse late-game deficits against theÂ Mets, and it seems more and more likely that the Cardinals could use a season-ending stretch against the Mets, Cubs andÂ AstrosÂ to knock theÂ BravesÂ out of the playoffs.
Wow, they played 12 over for a 24 game stretch. Â They must be awesome. Â You know who else did that last September? Â The Cubs. Â And if they had somehow blundered their way into the playoffs they’d have been swept by the Phillies in three games 60-0.
(I know a friend who booked St. Louis hotels for the World Series yesterday, and Iâ€™ll probably do the same today, just in case).
Your friend probably sleeps in a helmet. Â I hope you two enjoy your October in St. Louis while the Cardinals are busily ‘roiding up for next season because they’re not playing anymore.
This raises a question:
I can’t wait…because this is going to be stupid, I can tell.
With a huge final week, canÂ Albert PujolsÂ hit his way into the MVP discussion?
Sure, if the award is “Most Valuable Player This Week.” Â Otherwise, no.
He hasnâ€™t had the wire-to-wire strong seasons like theÂ Brewersâ€™Â Prince FielderÂ andÂ Ryan Braun,Â
And that’s why he won’t win the award. Â OK, we’re done with this ridiculous exercise, right?
but heâ€™s been his old self under a lot of pressure the last couple of months.
No? Â Fine.
There’s been no pressure the last couple of months. Â The Cardinals suck and are out of the race (the Braves won’t gag this lead with a week to go) and Pujols could have gone hitless the last two months and somebody would have thrown piles of cash at him this offseason regardless.
Since his dramatic return from aÂ broken wristÂ on July 6, Albert has hit .333 with 19 homers and 52 RBIs. He has 18 homers and 47 RBIs in the second half, ranking behind onlyÂ Dan UgglaÂ in the NL in homers (20) andÂ Troy TulowitzkiÂ (48) in RBIs.
It was dramatic. Â My favorite part was how he bungee dropped from a helicopter to first base. Â That was awesome. Â And Phil, Uggla and Tulowitzki aren’t in the MVP talk either, so shut up.
Most people think Pujols is likely to stay in St. Louis, and the atmosphere around Busch these days will be fresh in his mind when he weighs his options. But Pujols already knew St. Louis was a good place to play.
It’s not a good place to play, it’s the best, if you like experts like Tony Larussa, Dave McKay and Mark McGwire helping you dose your steroids.
I wonder if his strong finish will only add to his price tag and thereby make it more likely that this will be it for him with the Cardinals. Expect a lot of signs in the stands Sunday, which could be his last farewell game.
Blah, blah, blah. Â He’s going to stay and (hopefully) the Cardinals are going to cripple their payroll with the overpriced deals they’ve given Matt Holliday, Albert and Chris Carpenter. Â I also love Phil’s use of “last farewell game.” Â This is the last farewell! Â Those others were just preliminary farewells.
And then Phil ends with some shit about how lucky the Sox are to have Brett Morel since it’s impossible to find third basemen. Â I swear to God, the man is retarded. Â He doesn’t see any irony in the start and end of his column.