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Aramis Ramirez has no time for rebuilding

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Aramis Ramirez has no time for rebuilding

Aramis Ramirez didnt think the Cubs could do a total rebuild at Wrigley Field. There wouldnt be enough patience.

This was right around last seasons trade deadline, while Ramirez was making his salary drive, and trying to clarify his no-trade stance. This was months before the Cubs hired Theo Epstein and made the team president their brand.

You cant rebuild in a big market, Ramirez said last July. When you get 40,000 every day in this town, you cant try to rebuild. You got to put a winning product on the field. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesnt. But you cant just get rid of everybody and try to rebuild in a market like this.

This city is about to find out.

No one in the room knew that Jim Hendry was already fired. If the general manager had returned, Ramirez almost certainly would have been re-signed to play third base.

Instead, Ramirez wore a Milwaukee Brewers uniform on Monday night, which drew a mixed reaction at Wrigley Field. Some boos, some polite applause, a feeling of eh as he stepped into the box for his first at-bat.

Its not that I dont care. Its just that I cant control it, Ramirez said before the game. Youve got to ask that question to the fans. If they dont appreciate the way I play, what I did, its up to them. Theres nothing you can do.

Ramirez generated 239 homers and 806 RBI in almost nine seasons for the Cubs. He played on good teams and bad teams, but was never really beloved by the fans. Certain segments of the media criticized his body language, while some teammates were bothered by the personal considerations he received.

Ramirez didnt breathe fire, and wasnt a natural leader, but he quietly helped Starlin Castro adjust, telling the young shortstop to ignore the boos and focus on the next play after making an error.

Carlos Marmol and Darwin Barney each made a point to hug Ramirez during batting practice. Late in the 2010 season, Ramirez was the first person in the organization to tell Barney that he had the talent to be the starting second baseman the next year.

He helped me a lot, Marmol said. Hes kind of like my father in baseball.

Reporters liked going to Ramirez because he could be brutally honest, and didnt just repeat the organizations talking points. But this time he was politically correct when asked about the new direction at Clark and Addison.

I dont know - Ive never been a GM before, Ramirez said. But they got a game plan, Im sure. Hopefully, it works. I dont know how long its going to take, but any time you go young, its going to take awhile.

But I dont know if next year theyre going to go out and get three, four, five top free agents or just keep going young. I guess Im not the right guy to answer that question. I dont know what kind of plan they have in mind.

They basically told me (they) were going to go young (and) I cant fit in those plans.

Everybody got their own priorities and their priority is to go out and get younger and build the farm system. You can see they didnt spend any money. They didnt go out and sign any free agents, because they want to start from the bottom (up).

Epstein made it clear early on to Paul Kinzer - the agent for Ramirez (and Castro and Marmol) - that the Cubs werent interested in negotiating a new deal.

Ramirez didnt really want to leave Chicago, but found a soft landing spot in Milwaukee with a three-year, 36 million contract.

Even after losing Prince Fielder, the small-market Brewers arent rebuilding. Ramirez could win the ring that might change the perception of his career.

We got a good team, Ramirez said. This team won 96 ballgames last year and they were two games away from the World Series. We got pretty much everybody back, besides Prince. So I think we got a good chance if guys stay healthy and do what were supposed to do.

Patrick Kane hits milestone, but Blackhawks get blown out by Islanders

Patrick Kane hits milestone, but Blackhawks get blown out by Islanders

Probably not the way the Blackhawks wanted to start their second half of the season.

After a five-day break, the Blackhawks suffered a brutal 7-3 loss to the New York Islanders on Saturday night at the United Center. This coming after a 4-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on home ice last Sunday.

"It was a game we had to win," Quenneville said after Saturday's loss. "Disappointing in a lot of ways."

The Blackhawks needed both goaltenders to get through 60 minutes. Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass combined for 39 saves on 46 shots.

On the offensive side of things, Patrick Kane hit a milestone.

The 29-year-old had two goals and an assist and recorded his 800th career point, becoming the fifth player in franchise history to reach 800 points.

The Blackhawks are now 22-18-6 on the season with 50 points and rank last in the Central Division, five points behind the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild.

The Blackhawks' schedule doesn't get any easier when the Tampa Bay Lightning — the league-leader in points — come to town on Monday.

See what Quenneville and Kane had to say about Saturday's loss in the video above.

One MLB executive thinks Kyle Schwarber can emerge as Cubs' best hitter in 2018

One MLB executive thinks Kyle Schwarber can emerge as Cubs' best hitter in 2018

When the 2017 season ended, Cubs left fielder Kyle Schwarber looked in the mirror and didn't like what he saw.

He was stocky, slower than he wanted to be and he had just finished a very difficult season that saw him spend time back in the minor leagues at Triple-A after he struggled mightily through the first three months of the season.

Schwarber still put up solid power numbers despite his overall struggles. He slammed 30 home runs, putting him among the Top 15 hitters in the National League and among the Top 35 in all of baseball. But, Schwarber was honest with himself. He knew he could achieve so much more if he was in better shape and improved his mobility, his overall approach at the plate and his defense.

Schwarber was drafted by the Cubs out of Indiana University as a catcher. However, many scouts around baseball had serious doubts about his ability to catch at the big league level. The Cubs were in love with Schwarber the person and Schwarber the overall hitter and felt they would give him a chance to prove he could catch for them. If he couldn't, then they believed he could play left field adequately enough to keep his powerful bat in the lineup.

However, a serious knee injury early in the 2016 season knocked Schwarber out of action for six months and his return to the Cubs in time to assist in their World Series run raised expectations for a tremendous 2017 season. In fact, the expectations for Schwarber were wildly unrealistic when the team broke camp last spring. Manager Joe Maddon had Schwarber in the everyday lineup batting leadoff and playing left field.

But Schwarber's offseason after the World Series consisted of more rehab on his still-healing injured left knee. That kept him from working on his outfield play, his approach at the plate and his overall baseball training. 

Add in all of the opportunities and commitments that come with winning a World Series and it doesn't take much detective work to understand why Schwarber struggled so much when the 2017 season began. This offseason, though, has been radically different. A season-ending meeting with Cubs president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer led to a decision to take weight off of Schwarber's frame. It also included a decision to change his training program so that he improved his quickness, lateral movement and his overall baseball skills.

"I took two weeks off after the season ended and then I went to work," Schwarber said. "We put a plan together to take weight off and to improve my quickness. I have my meals delivered and I feel great. My baseball work combined with a lot of strength and conditioning has me in the best shape that I have ever been in."

Schwarber disagrees with the pundits who felt manager Maddon's decision to put him in the leadoff spot in the Cubs' loaded lineup contributed to his struggles.

"I have no problem hitting wherever Joe wants to put me," Schwarber said. "I didn't feel any more pressure because I was batting leadoff. I just needed to get back to training for a baseball season as opposed to rehabbing from my knee injury. I'm probably 20-25 pounds lighter and I'm ready to get back to Arizona with the boys and to get ready for the season."

Many around the game were shocked when the Cubs drafted Schwarber with the No. 4 overall selection in the 2014 MLB Draft, but a rival executive who was not surprised by the pick believes that Schwarber can indeed return to the form that made him such a feared hitter during his rookie season as well as his excellent postseason resume.

"Everyone who doubted this kid may end up way off on their evaluation because he is a great hitter and now that he is almost two years removed from his knee injury," the executive said. "He knows what playing at the major-league level is all about I expect him to be a real force in the Cubs lineup.

"Theo and Jed do not want to trade this kid and they are going to give him every opportunity to succeed. I think he has a chance to be as good a hitter as they have in their order."

Watch the full 1-on-1 interview with Kyle Schwarber Sunday night on NBC Sports Chicago.