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.