Chicago Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez is coming off his worst season with the team. New Cubs first baseman Carlos Pena is coming off his worst season in recent memory. Both are hoping for a bounce back in 2011, but one doesn’t really have anything to do with the other, right? Each hopes for success individually, and each hopes to contribute to the success of the team. And that’s true of every Cub.

But is there something different about Ramirez and Pena?

Pena also may contribute to the Cubs in another way. He and Aramis Ramirez are the same age, are projected to hit in the middle of the order, and are both unsigned for 2012.

“Ramirez is a real competitive-type person and he wants to be the man,” Jaramillo said. “Here’s somebody now who can be the man and I think it’ll help [Ramirez] want to do better. It’s competition, and he’s real competitive. Ramirez has been the man here — him and Derrek Lee. I think Carlos will be good for him and I think Carlos will push him. I think they’ll be good for each other.”

Ramirez and Pena first met in the Dominican Republic when they played in winter ball. This is the last year of Ramirez’s deal with the Cubs; Pena signed a one-year, $10 million contract.

“If [Ramirez] wants to keep playing, then they’ll compete and do something this year,” Jaramillo said. “He should be motivated, but the whole key is does he want to continue playing? He’s got all the money in the world. I think he’ll do a lot better. Our rapport is a lot better. I took a lot of stuff that I usually don’t, but I had to be patient and I think it’ll work out in the end.”

Both Ramirez and Lee said they felt they were their own best hitting coaches and, as veterans, knew their swing better than anyone. It took time for Jaramillo to build up a relationship with the third baseman. Ramirez also said he wasn’t healthy last year, which contributed to his .207 average in the first half.

At the end of last season, Ramirez did go the batting cage more and asked for some assistance. When asked at the Cubs Convention about his relationship with Jaramillo, Ramirez said it was good.

“I believe he trusts me more,” Jaramillo said. “Some guys are harder than others.”

It’s certainly an interesting theory – a couple of down on their luck, soon to be free agents, battling against themselves and each other. Will it actually play out that way? I’m not so sure. As noted, Ramirez played with Derrek Lee for years, and there was never a sense that they were competing with each other to be “the man,” or to have the best numbers.

The comment about whether Ramirez “wants to keep playing” struck me as a bit concerning, but I think it’s just a matter of an odd choice of phrasing by Jaramillo. Surely Ramirez wants to play beyond 2011, and to that end, he’ll do his best to perform at a much higher level this year than he did last year. Whether that’s better or worse than Carlos Pena remains to be seen.

Still, Pena has already reached out to Jaramillo, and has already started working on his swing. If that gets Ramirez on the horse a little earlier than usual, and working a little harder than usual, you’ll hear no complaints here.

  • pfk (Peter F. Kempf)

    Ramirez working harder? Does that mean he stops running 2 strides before first base instead of the usual 5?

    • Ace

      Depends if it’s a grounder or a presumed fly-out. Three steps for grounders, two steps for fly-outs.

      • KB

        What’s concerning is to hear that last year, as both Aramis and DLee were putting up historically atrocious numbers, they refused to listen to any advice.

        • Ace

          It is concerning – but it was concerning when we heard (and bitched) about it last year. That part isn’t new.

          • CubsFanatic

            But on a positive note, at least he wasn’t play like Bradley did when we had him. I think Pena even did better last year.

            • Ace

              I think you’re probably correct.

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  • roughriider

    I had been wondering why the Cubs didn’t sign Derrick Lee. He is 35 and even though he was injured most of the year he still had 80 runs and 80 RBIs. Being 35 isn’t what it was 30 years ago players can be productive much later now and by all accounts Lee takes pretty good care of himself and is a pretty good guy. I didn’t make sense to me that they didn’t at least talk to him. It even seemed acrimonious.

    Now, I suspect that the reason the Cubs weren’t interested was that Lee was considered a leader on the team and wouldn’t take coaching from Jaramillo. The Cubs wouldn’t sign a player (Lee) who would undermine a Hitting Coach who has had so much acclaim and success.

    I have been a fan Aramis Ramirez. I think that if he wants to stay a Cub after 2011 he had better show some leadership and get with the program and produce as a player and team leader.

  • http://bleachernation ramy16

    Aramis Ramirez is my favorite player, I think that if he wants to stay a Cub after 2011 he needs to show some leadership…but then again we dont have a 3rd baseman in the wings either…i think hendry needs to get a long term done with aramis…because vitters is definately not the answer…and beltre is locked up in texas…so after this year we are shit out of luck if we lose ramirez..

  • http://bleachernation ramy16

    Ace my question to you… since our fat fuck for a gm decided to trade gorz for some prospects none of them being a 3rd base man what options do we have?? i do know aramis said several times that he wants to be a cub…hendry needs to pull his head out of his ass and get this done!!

    • Ace

      The Cubs no doubt hope Josh Vitters is the future at third base, and that he’ll be ready by 2012. Outside of that, there’s Marquez Smith at AAA, but few believe he can be a MLB regular on a championship-caliber team. There’s also Blake DeWitt, who is a natural third baseman (but who doesn’t have the bat to carry the position).

      In other words, you can expect the Cubs to at least kick the tires on picking up ARam’s 2012 option or renegotiating a longer deal.

  • http://bleachernation ramy16

    thanks ace…happy to hear that….lets boycott hendry…lol