By Matt Abbatacola-
WRIGLEY FIELD (CBS) When Aramis Ramirez came back to Chicago for the first time since leaving for the Milwaukee Brewers and a 3-year, $36 million contract, I expected him to receive a warm welcome from Cubs fans.
I was wrong.
In his first at-bat on Monday night, there were some applause and some fans even booed the former third baseman. Mostly, there was very little to no reaction from the Cubs faithful that “know and understand” the game.
Ramirez deserved better than that. He is one of the greatest sluggers to ever wear a Cubs uniform. Without him, the Cubs don’t reach the post-season in 2003, 2007, or 2008.
Don’t get me wrong, he’s not one of the greatest all-around players to ever play in Wrigley, but he certainly is a top ten slugger that helped the Cubs win back-to-back division titles.
In his eight-plus seasons with the Cubs, Ramirez had over 1,200 hits, 239 home runs, and over 800 RBI.
His 239 homers rank him sixth all-time in Cubs history. He’s fifth all-time in OPS and his .531 slugging percentage puts him behind only Hack Wilson and Sammy Sosa.
I know what you’re thinking – he was an awful third baseman, he didn’t care about winning, he was lazy, he only hit home runs when the season was over, and he made a lot of money and should have been better – right?
He came to Chicago as a below average third baseman and improved his defense. Three times he finished in the top five among NL third basemen in assists. Did he benefit from playing with Derrek Lee and Carlos Pena? Yes. Every infielder did. He left Chicago as an average defenseman with little range and a strong arm. He wasn’t paid for his glove.
As far as his attitude or demeanor, Ramirez was a victim of false perceptions. For some fans, it appeared that he didn’t “try hard enough” or didn’t act like he cared. He wasn’t as “grindy” as some Cubs players of recent years… especially the white ball players that possessed less talent than Ramirez and therefore needed to try harder – take fan favorites, Mark DeRosa or Mike Fontenot. Upon their return to Chicago, one would have thought that they had each led the Cubs to multiple World Series titles or at least had won multiple MVP awards for the team.
Again, Ramirez wasn’t one of the greatest players of all-time, but he certainly was one of the best offensive players to ever wear a Cubs uniform. He helped Chicago reach three post-seasons – that’s quite a bit for a team that hasn’t won a World Series since 1908 or played in one since 1945.
I expected more from Cubs fans and I was disappointed. They had a chance to show some appreciation and failed.
The Brewers will visit Chicago again this season, but what’s done is already done.
Maybe that argument that Cubs fans go for the “party” and don’t really “know” the game isn’t too far off base. A fan that “knows” the game would have stood and applauded for the former Cubs third baseman.
Matt Abbatacola covers the Cubs for 670 The Score. Follow him on Twitter at @MattAbbatacola.