Cubs

Cubs' Ramirez cares about winning, not the money

427435.jpg

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.

Behind a refined approach, Albert Almora Jr. is off to a hot start this spring

Behind a refined approach, Albert Almora Jr. is off to a hot start this spring

The Cubs have only played three spring training games, and it’s dangerous to use spring results to predict regular season successes/failures. Still, it’s okay to acknowledge Albert Almora Jr.’s hot start in camp.

In two games, Almora is 4-for-4 with a walk, double, home run, four RBIs, and four runs scored. That line is essentially equivalent to a single game in the regular season and could be turned upside down by the end of the week. But it’s a start for the 25-year-old who’s struggled immensely at the plate for the last season-and-a-half at the plate.

In his last 177 games (dating back to the second half of 2018), Almora holds a .235/.270/.347 slash line. The advanced stats paint an uglier picture: 58 wRC+, .261 wOBA and 52.2 percent groundball rate.

Last season was the most challenging of Almora’s young career. He hit .236/.271/.381 in 130 games with a 64 wRC+, .271 wOBA, -0.7 fWAR (all career worsts). On top of that, he was involved in a heartbreaking moment early in the season; an Almora foul ball struck a young girl at Minute Maid Park during a Cubs-Astros game in May.

Almora recently refused to blame his 2019 offensive woes on that incident, though it obviously played a part. He did admit he was in a bad place mentally and used this winter to decompress. Almora also used it to make some adjustments to his swing and the changes are clear as day:

Pre-2020:

2020:

As MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian notes, Almora is now more upright in the box and his stance is more closed. His leg kick is less defined, and he’s rotating his front leg far less than previous seasons. In short, he’s more direct to his swing and has more time to react in the box because he cut out a lot of his pre-swing movements.

Almora said Monday he’s far from where he wants to be, pointing out the MLB season is a 200-day marathon. It’s too early to tell whether his simplified approach leads to sustainable success.

Small sample size be damned, Almora’s made noticeable adjustments. That’s the first step in his mission to get back on track offensively.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Cubs easily on your device.

Two of the Cubs' best prospects made Keith Law's annual Top 100 list

brailynmarquezmilb.jpg
USA Today

Two of the Cubs' best prospects made Keith Law's annual Top 100 list

For those who follow such things, Keith Law's yearly Top 100 prospect rankings is always a highly anticipated read. What would baseball twitter even do with their time if they couldn't spend it vocally disagreeing with subjective lists? Having a handful of Top 100 guys is always a shot in the arm for franchises that maybe aren't doing a whole lot of winning at the major league level; when you know you're not winning a World Series, the debuts of these prospects are high points of the summer. 

There wasn't a whole lot of Cubs' representation this season, which isn't a surprise by any means. Only guys two made Law's list: Brennen Davis at 55, and Brailyn Marquez at 80.  

Law claims Davis has the highest upside of any Cubs' prospect, but isn't necessarily close to a debut: 

Davis is lanky and has barely begun to fill out, so there’s likely to be more power to come, while he’s already shown he can manage at-bats and use the middle of the field to get himself on base. Despite his 6′4″ frame he already has a very balanced swing, and the Cubs will just have to tighten up some mechanical things since he’s got such long levers. A former shortstop, he’s adapted quickly to center field; he projects to stay there and add value with his range. 

He also loves Marquez's stuff – comparing it to Aroldis Chapman's – and says it's the reason why he's team's best pitching prospect since Dylan Cease. You can see the entire rankings, which go pretty in-depth, right here.