Underrated: Aramis Ramirez

Chaim Witz pointed something out the other day that struck me as odd, but true. If you go to Wrigley or watch games on TV, you'll see scads of fans wearing Soriano, Fukudome, Lee, and Zambrano jerseys, and Theriot is starting to show up more often as well. Tons of folks still wear classics like Grace, Sandberg, and Wood. But what you don't see very often is an Aramis Ramirez jersey. Like Chaim, I find it odd that the guy who is possibly the Cubs' best player is so underrepresented among the fans. There are maybe a couple of reasons for this, which we'll look at here.

Short Memory. In a way, Ramirez has so solidified third base, it almost seems like he's always been there. But he hasn't. Rami was acquired by Jim Hendry midway through the 2003 season. Before Ramirez came, third base was a black hole into which many players disappeared. Todd Zeile, Mark Bellhorn, Ron Cey, Gary Gaetti, Jose Hernandez, and Leo Gomez were just a few of the extended cast of characters that held down the hot corner during my lifetime. The revolving door dates back to when Ron Santo played for the Cubs. Perhaps trading him to the White Sox cursed future thirdbasemen to mediocrity until the Rammer's arrival. I say short memory because for many Cub fans, Ramirez has always been there. The Cubs gained a lot of fans after the 2003 playoff run and many older fans came back to the team and began paying attention again. (By the way, I see nothing wrong with this. My wife became a Cub fan after getting wrapped up in the 2003 playoffs and has been die hard ever since.) The point being, I think Ramirez gets overlooked by a lot of this group because they didn't have to go through watching the endless parade of lousy third-sackers the Cubs have trotted out there. They're spoiled by how consistent Rami is, and he's been overshadowed by higher profile acquisitions the Cubs have made, such as Nomar Garaciaparra, Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome, the return of Greg Maddux. and the emergence of some farmgrown talent like Geo Soto, The Riot, and little Mikey Horse N Phone.

The No Hustle Tag. For some reason, Aramis has never been able to slough off the onus that some writers and fans have laid on him: that he's lazy. I think that's the biggest load of shit I've ever heard. When we got Aramis from the Pirates, the big knock on him was that he couldn't field. He made a shitload of errors in 2003. The one good thing Dusty B. Baker did for the Cubs was fixing Ramirez's defense. He and the coaches worked with Rami to improve his footwork, especially on the throw to first base. In my mind, Ramirez is now one of the best fielding third basemen in the game. Are David Wright, Joe Crede, and Ryan Zimerman better? Well, yeah, but so what? Ramirez is easily top ten and I would even say top 5, now that Scotty Rolen is on the back end of his career. It's impossible for a lazy player to improve so dramatically. That kind of improvement takes effort and dedication. Now I know, I know, there's a buncha people going, "But Arcturus, he doesn't leg out ground balls." Whatever. Aramis had 44 doubles last year. If he ran faster, could he have more? Maybe, but who gives a shit? Aramis is the #4 hitter. His job is to drive in runs. He's also had leg problems and really ain't all that fast to begin with. I don't want our #1 RBI guy blowing out a quad trying to stretch a single into a double just because some dipshits think he ought to be as fast as Theriot. Rami may be slow, but he's a smart baserunner. Guys like The Riot need to hustle, beacuse without that hustle, they're one year closer to being a utility player. Ramirez's bat has got all the hustle he's ever going to need.

The Cock-Fighting Thing. I'd like to hope that most people are grown up enough not to let this bother them. If he were doing it in the US, where it's illegal, then there's a problem. In the Dominican Republic, it's not only legal, but a national past time. Is it cruel? Sure, I suppose, but considering what we do to chickens in the US poultry industry, I don't really see it as a big deal. You want to get outraged, throw your McNuggets at someone before criticizing someone else's native culture.

Low-Key. Lastly, I think the other reason Ramirez gets so little attention is because he likes it that way. He never seems like a showboat, despite the mirrored shades, and his interviews are always very laid back. He never comes off as arrogant and I've never seen him make himself the center of attention. He's got superstar numbers without the superstar baggage and that's one of the reasons he's my favorite current Chicago Cub. I've even got the jersey to prove it.

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