Cubs

Cubs' Ramirez cares about winning, not the money

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Cubs' Ramirez cares about winning, not the money

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.

Albert Almora's strong connection to Team USA baseball

Albert Almora's strong connection to Team USA baseball

Who was Theo Epstein’s first draft pick with the Cubs?

The answer to that trivia question will always and forever be Albert Almora Jr. picked sixth overall in the 2012 amateur draft.

In some ways, the young outfielder from Florida became the forgotten man in the stable of can’t-miss prospects that Epstein and top lieutenants Jed Hoyer and Jason MacLeod amassed since their arrival over six years ago. While players such as Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ zoomed through the minor leagues on their way to the majors, Almora took a different path – one that included seven different stops over parts of five developmental seasons before he broke into the big leagues during the 2016 season.

But Almora’s road to the majors began years before he was selected by the Cubs, when he began playing for Team USA as a 13-year-old. Over the next several years, Almora played for the Red, White & Blue seven times, his final appearance coming in 2015. The seven appearances are the most in the history of USA Baseball, and Almora recognizes the impact his time with the national squad had on his playing career.

“[It was] one of the best experiences of my life," he said. "Every year I had something special to play with, unbelievable guys, went to crazy places, and out of those six years, five of them came with a gold medal so that was pretty special as well. Also, that helped me in my baseball life, how to experience things and learn from those type of experiences.

“I’m a Cubbie and that’s what’s on my chest right now, but Team USA will always have a special place in my heart.”

While Almora carries those national team experiences with him every day, his main focus coming into the 2018 season is becoming a consistent difference-maker. Almora made only 65 starts during the 2017 campaign, and 63 percent of his at-bats last year came against left-handed pitching, against which he hit a robust .342. That led to a platoon role in a crowded outfield, with Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber, Jon Jay, Ian Happ and Ben Zobrist all taking turns on the merry-go-round. But with the departure of Jay, Almora believes his time is near.

“I have the most confidence in myself that I can play every day, but I try not to think about that kind of stuff because it’s out of my control," Almora said. "All I control is like last year what I did; whenever I was given an opportunity, I tried to do my best and help the team win.”

Almora’s ultimate role on the 2018 Cubs remains to be seen, but there’s no question that Theo’s first Cubs pick will earn whatever role he ends up with, and the foundation of Almora’s journey to Clark and Addison was laid many summers ago during his time with Team USA.

Willson Contreras willing to pay the price for mound visits

Willson Contreras willing to pay the price for mound visits

News broke to Willson Contreras that the league will be limiting mound visits this upcoming season, and the Cubs catcher —notorious for his frequent visits to the rubber — is not having it.

“I’ve been reading a lot about this rule, and I don’t really care. If you have to go again and pay the price for my team, I will," he said.

The new rules rolled out Tuesday will limit six visits —any time a manager, coach or player visits the mound — per nine innings. But, communication between a player and a pitcher that does not require them moving from their position does not count as a visit.When a team is out of visits, it's the umpire's discretion to allow an extra trip to the mound.

But despite the new rules, Contreras is willing to do what's best for the team.

“There’s six mound visits, but what if you have a tight game? They cannot say anything about that. If you’re going to fine me about the [seventh] mound visit, I’ll pay the price.”