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updated: 9/21/2011 6:49 PM

Cubs' Ramirez will file for free agency

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  • Cubs power-hitting third baseman Aramis Ramirez will file for free agency at the end of the season.

      Cubs power-hitting third baseman Aramis Ramirez will file for free agency at the end of the season.
    Associated Press

 
 

Let's take a little trip down memory lane and see how fast you want to turn around and get back to the present:

Steve Ontiveros, Mike Maksudian, Paul Noce, Mike Sember, Tommy Shields.

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Or maybe you prefer:

Willie Greene, Domingo Ramos, Dave Meier, Leo Gomez.

In case you've forgotten -- and sorry for jogging your memory -- those are among the 98 third basemen the Cubs employed from 1974, the year after Ron Santo was traded to the White Sox, through 2003, when the Cubs traded for Aramis Ramirez.

Ramirez's name has been in the news the last day or so. After he left Tuesday night's game with a strained quadriceps, Ramirez was asked if he felt he has played his last game as a Cub at Wrigley Field.

"Probably," Ramirez responded.

Ramirez's agent, Paul Kinzer, made that a "definitely" Wednesday, saying his client would file for free agency this fall.

"The chances to come back here don't look very good right now," Ramirez said after the Cubs beat the Milwaukee Brewers 7-1 at Wrigley Field.

The Cubs hold a $16 million option on Ramirez for next year, and they must exercise it within five days of the end of the World Series.

Ramirez then will have five days to accept or decline. If he declines the option, he becomes a free agent and forfeits a $2 million buyout.

"At this point, they will probably pick up the option, and I'm pretty sure we will decline it," Kinzer said. "I had a nice talk with (Cubs chairman) Tom Ricketts and (interim general manager) Randy Bush. At 33, Aramis isn't looking for a one-year deal.

"The door is always open to the Cubs. Even as we go into free agency, I'm sure the Cubs will be on a very shortlist of teams we'd consider."

Ramirez isn't gone yet, but for some reason there are enough people among the public and media in Chicago who are ready to dress up in a chauffer's uniform and drive Ramirez to the airport.

My advice to them: Careful for what you wish.

A quick look at the stats for major-league third basemen entering Wednesday's action showed Ramirez:

•First in batting average (.306).

•First by a wide margin in hits (171).

•First in doubles (35).

•Second in OPS (.867, best in NL).

•Second in slugging (.506, best in NL).

•Third in on-base percentage (.360, best in NL).

•Fourth in home runs (25, best in NL).

•Tied for second in RBI (92, best in NL).

Since the Cubs obtained Ramirez from Pittsburgh in a lopsided trade in 2003, he has become the most potent offensive force they've had, and he is right there with the legendary Santo in terms of offensive production.

Ramirez said he wants to remain a Cub, but with a thin free-agent market, this is a chance for him to cash in.

"I've never been through this process before," he said. "I've never been a free agent. When I opted out of my contract five years ago, we got something done right away.

"We've still got another month; they've got until five days after the World Series to decide what they're going to do.

"We have to wait and see what the Cubs want to do first. This is my priority to stay here. Like I said, they have to show me they want to get better. That's the bottom line."

Ramirez does not want to be part of a rebuilding process.

"I can't be here for a rebuilding process," he said. "I'm not that kind of player anymore. I'm 33; I don't know how much longer I want to be playing. I know it's hard to win, but you have to be able to compete, and that's what I want to do."

Gary Scott, Kevin Orie, Rudy Meoli, Chris Stynes, Heity Cruz

For whatever reason, Ramirez has been a target for some fans and media members. They say he's lazy, hits only when it "doesn't matter" and doesn't get his uniform dirty.

Ramirez got off to a slow start in the power department this year, combining for only 2 home runs in April and May. He has never been a vocal "leader" in the clubhouse, but that's his personality.

Whatever, he said he does not let the criticism bother him.

"Not at all," he said. "My dad always told me the worst mistake you can ever make is trying to make everybody happy. That ain't going to happen. You're never going to make everybody happy. It doesn't matter who you are.

"I guarantee you there's guys out there who don't like A-Rod (Alex Rodriguez). And he's one of the best players in the game. Or (Albert) Pujols or whatever. You can make a case for anybody. But you're never going to make everybody happy."

Cubs manager Mike Quade would not pick apart Ramirez's slow power start.

"Tough to critique Rami because he's such a good hitter and has such a good approach," Quade said. "This is a tough place to hit.

"I've said before there have been a lot of good hitters that have struggled here in April and into the middle of May. Some guys just take longer. There are so many variables involved there."

Teammate Carlos Marmol cites Ramirez as someone who helped him break into the big leagues.

"A lot of things," Marmol said. "How to play the game, how to prepare for the game. That's what he does for every Latin player -- to be a better person and a better teammate, you've got to do this or that. Just a lot of things. I wish they could sign him for a couple more years."

Or, if you'd rather, there were the likes of …

Bret Barberie, Matt Franco, Tye Waller, Tom Veryzer, Cole Liniak, Chico Walker …

bmiles@dailyherald.com

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