Last night, Aramis Ramirez left the game in the sixth inning with a quad strain, and acknowledged to reporters that he might not return to the Chicago Cubs next season. This, of course, has been a possibility for months, and Ramirez just said a week ago that he might walk if he doesn’t get a multiyear extension. But, for some reason, this time, it sent the media into a tizzy.
“Probably. There’s a good chance,” Ramirez said when asked if he might have just played his last game with the Cubs. “I’m a free agent and right now, I don’t know what’s going to happen. It looks like I’m going to hit the market.”
Does everyone really need me to point out how carefully crafted that statement is? How obviously it is designed to remind the Cubs that Ramirez holds leverage in any extension talks?
The story here isn’t that Ramirez may be done as a Chicago Cub. That was the story weeks or months ago. The story here is how Ramirez continues to make his contract situation – be it an extension, his option, or his right to decline a trade – the story. He and his agent are getting very good at it.
“It looks like I’m going to hit the market.”
I can’t get over that statement. It’s like his agent, Paul Kinzer, had Ramirez on his knee with his hand up Ramirez’s back. Kinzer was even drinking water while Ramirez spoke!
This statement is from a guy who has said repeatedly that he wants to stay in Chicago – even as recently as this weekend – and for whom the Cubs hold a $16 million option for 2012. But Ramirez can void that option (and forfeit his $2 million buyout along the way). So he’s telling the Cubs: don’t bother picking up my extremely lucrative 2012 option if you’re not going to extend me for multiple years. Ramirez wants to stay in Chicago … but only if he gets a multiyear deal.
And that’s how you know his latest statements are just more gamesmanship. If Ramirez genuinely wanted to stay in Chicago, he’d be saying things like, “I hope the Cubs pick up my option, and then we can work out a deal from there.” But he’s not. Instead, he’s saying things about being a “free agent” and “going to hit the market.” And this:
“We don’t have a GM, so I don’t know who you talk to … I think we’re ready to move on.”
Really, Aramis? Just because there’s no full-time GM in place (there’s an interim GM, by the way; his name is Randy Bush – you’re welcome), you don’t know to whom you can speak about your contract situation? You do know that the Cubs have to make a decision about your option within five days of the end of the World Series, and that there may not be a GM in place then, either, right? You do know that some guy named Ricketts signs the checks, right?
Of course Ramirez knows to whom to speak. He and his agent say they haven’t heard from Tom Ricketts, though. So his first move – as it has been for months – is to run to the media and talk about how he’s “going to hit the market”? Somehow I suspect that, if Ramirez wanted a brief audience with Ricketts, he could get it.
Something stinks. I can’t put my finger on it, but something about the way this has played out has me feeling less than enthusiastic about retaining Ramirez’s services, even if it might be the best thing in the near term for the Cubs.
UPDATE: Just a minor update, but, according to multiple reports, Ramirez’s agent will meet with interim GM Randy Bush today. Suddenly Ramirez and his agent know with whom to meet. My guess is the Cubs weren’t thrilled about Ramirez going to the media for all of the reasons discussed above.
In the interest of fairness, I’ll concede that it is entirely possible that Ramirez has desperately been trying to communicate with whoever is in charge, and has tried all available methods of privately discussing an extension with the Cubs. And, in his frustration at being stonewalled, he’s turned to the media. There is nothing inherently wrong about “negotiating through the media,” if it is the only way to get things done.
But Ramirez has two problems in that regard: (1) as I mentioned, he has admitted that he hasn’t even spoken to Tom Ricketts; and (2) negotiating through the media generally works only where you have the fan support to put pressure on the team to help you get your way. As to number two, while it is hardly a scientific survey, when I wrote last week that Ramirez was threatening to walk if he didn’t get a multiyear extension, there was one overwhelming response from readers: “goodbye.”
Ramirez has been a great Cub for a long time, but I don’t know that he’ll find the kind of fan support that would be necessary to pressure the Cubs’ brass into giving him that multiyear deal. Instead, Ramirez will just continue to look bitter and greedy, even though I’m not sure either is true.
One final positive word about Ramirez: if he becomes a free agent, he’ll be the best third baseman on the market by far. He’s getting up in years, and this may well be his last chance to secure a multiyear deal. He has a right to try and get as much money as he can from whatever team will give it.
I just think that the team isn’t going to be the Cubs; or, if it is, he’s going about getting that money the wrong way.