Undeniable physical proof that the good times, at some point, did exist
Aramis Ramirez made his return to Wrigley last Monday to some applause and some jagoffs booing. This was, I'll remind you, four days after the assemblage at Wrigley gave Mark DeRosa an ovation for his two seasons here that were the literal definition of "pretty solid."
I'll admit that Aramis didn't get overly emotional - perhaps like beloved Cubs bulwark Milton Bradley - but it's hard to argue with pure performance. Jake, of the late, lamented Thunder Matt's Saloon, brought up a point that if he were white, he'd be "stoic," or "gritty" or something. Instead he "lacks hustle," and "isn't a clubhouse guy." It happens. Now I like him, and I've got memories of him putting the boot to the Phils, Sox, and Cardinals, but I'm not going to take the emotional angle for this one. No, this one is for SCIENCE!
Though not a particularly adept stats guy, I thought I'd take a look at pure power performance, which I know comes with a laundry list of qualifications. What spurred this was the absolute offensive crapshack that we've become of late. 1.75 runs per game. We'd suck in the dead ball era, much less Miami Vice Park against Buerhle.
Let's take a gander, shall we?
Aramis Ramirez, CHC, 2003-2011
This is the result of some scrap paper calculation last night, so bear with me. But I took a similar look at the black hole of suck that occupied that particular infield corner from mid-2003 through backward to my birth in 1984. It's a looooong, looooong list. Lots of terrible seasons broken up by some solid work from an occasional above-average Leo Gomez year or solid numbers from a moonlighting Keith Moreland.
My completely unscientific qualifications for inclusion were having played 100+ games at the corner for the Cubs in a given year. Where that wasn't possible, I cobbled together the numbers of the two best contenders. I've fabricated nicknames where appropriate.
- Mark Bellhorn
- Bill Mueller
- Ron Coomer (THE COOOOOOOM!)
- Willie Greene (Greene Man!)
- Gary Gaetti (Gay Gae!)
- Jose Hernandez
- Kevin Orie
- Leo Gomez
- Todd Zeile/Howard Johnson (HoJo!)
- Steve Buchele
- Doug Strange/Gary Scott
- Luis Salazar
- Vance Law (Bagger!)
- Ron Cey
Most of these guys had forgettable seasons. And as a Cubs fan, this surprises me not in the least. Lots of single-digit homer seasons, and certainly most of them never worried about accidentally batting in 100 runs. Jose Hernandez had a relatively decent year with that bizarrely playoff-bound 1998 team, hitting 23 homers and 75 RBI, but it clearly wasn't enough to keep Old Man Gaetti from looming like a spectre from a Just For Men casting call. After looking at stats long enough, I remain unconvinced that Steve Buchele and Luis Salazar are separate, distinct entities.
Of the giant rotating cast of Cubs third basemen, Keith Moreland's 1987 season is the best power-wise. He hit 27HR/88RBI, though he only got on base at a .309 rate, hitting .266 for average. If we're going to look at Ramirez's worst year, it would have to be 2009, where he picked up that wicked shoulder injury and only played 82 games. While that wouldn't have qualified him for this experiment were he any of the previous 3Bs, I'd like to point out that even in that tough year, he managed to hit 15HR/65RBI and maintain a .317 average and .389 OBP. Performance-wise, 2010 was also rough, with a terrible .294 OBP. Even then, he was still good for 25 homers and 83 RBI on a team that finished 5th, swept Lou Piniella out the door, and lost to the Astros 11 times.
So what's my ultimate conclusion here? It's that concerns over "laziness" or not being a "clubhouse guy" translated into this insane collective amnesia that blinded a lot of Cubs fans to the fact that they were watching the best Cubs third baseman since Ron Santo, and that they're unlikely to see a better guy on the corner any time soon. If Ian Stewart isn't making you miss him, maybe this will:
Aramis Ramirez - 2003-2011, CHC
239 HR/806 RBI
Entire Damn Rest of the Starting Cubs 3B
1987 - mid-2003
1985 - mid-2003
Think about that. Aramis Ramirez's eight and a half (eight even if you count only half of 2009) years at Addison and Clark was worth the previous 11 1/2 years of RBIs at his position, and 13 1/2 years of home runs. Some perspective, please.