By Dan Bernstein–
CBSChicago.com senior columnist
(CBS) There has been a notable absence from the Cubs’ ongoing celebration of their World Series championship, both in person and in name. Interestingly, he was given more attention last year around this time, despite the team’s bats being silenced by the Mets in the NLCS.
Manny Ramirez has held a nebulous position as a hitting consultant to the Cubs after working as a player-coach at Triple-A Iowa in 2014. He was brought on to forge new lines of communication with Spanish-speaking prospects regarding day-to-day work habits and their approach at the plate, and his quasi-paternal relationship with the burgeoning Javier Baez shouldn’t go unacknowledged.
“He’s an unbelievable kid,” Ramirez said of Baez in 2015. “He can play, he can run, and his hitting is going to come along. And with him at second base, I think it’s better.”
Indeed it all was.
Manager Joe Maddon at that time understood Ramirez’s value, too, telling the Chicago Tribune: “Everyone is looking for these mechanical answers from hitting coaches and pitching coaches. I like the coaches who can teach your approach and how to think better.”
During last year’s playoffs, the Associated Press took notice of Ramirez around the cage with Cubs hitters, reporting that, “Nearly every hitter on the roster checks in with him regularly and the team’s young Latin players — budding stars Jorge Soler and Javier Baez, in particular — also revere him as some kind of life coach or guru.”
So when Baez overcame two errors in Game 7 of the World Series to hit an opposite-field homer that chased the Indians’ Corey Kluber, there was certainly some residue of Ramirez’s influence at work, as there was in any maturation of Baez as a critical piece of a champion. Same for Soler, even if he has merely become valuable enough to be traded for pitching this offseason.
As champagne poured and buses rolled, we heard the names called of trainers and doctors and assistant coaches and numerous scouts and executives. Perhaps the invocation of Ramirez’s name was considered a negative amid the revelry due to his history as a PED user, but it would still have been right to credit him after the team had to have considered all of that before he was brought into the franchise’s fold.
And he even was prescient about this special season.
“The sky is the limit,” Ramirez said in April to ESPN. “We saw what they could do a little bit last year. I think this year is going to be way better than last year. The offense is awesome, and the pitching is great. You saw how the city reacted. This is the place to be.”
That’s just Manny being right. And more meaningful than has been mentioned.