Aramis Ramirez is down to his final week with the Cubs because he won't consider staying for "only" one more year at "only" $16 million. Were I a Cubbieland denizen, I'd be telling him not to let falling chunks of Wrigley concrete hit him on the way out of town.
The Cubs will miss his hot streaks and his occasional big hits. I still remember a home run against the Brewers that probably paved the way to the 2007 division title. Such hits gave him a reputation as a clutch performer ... but the cold, hard facts suggest otherwise.
Stolen from the Pirates in July 2003, Ramirez unquestionably was Jim Hendry's single best acquisition. Still, while Ramirez helped that team win the division title, he went 1-for-9 with zero RBI in the last three games of the history-making NLCS flameout.
The following year, he put up excellent numbers and helped the Cubs contend ... before going 4-for-25 with zero RBI during a final-week collapse that was amazing even by Cubbie standards.
Ramirez had 100 RBI seasons in 2007 and 2008 but choked like a dog each postseason: 0-for-12 with zero RBI as the Diamondbacks swept the Cubs aside in '07 and 2-for-11 with zero RBI as the Dodgers quickly dispatched the Cubs in '08.
The operative number is ZERO -- the RBI total for the Cubs' main run-producer in those clutch situations. Not even an accidental RBI by fielder's choice or sacrifice fly to go with his cumulative .105 batting average.
Add in the slow starts that condemned the Cubs to early extinction in several years -- and pretty much guaranteed the firing of Dusty Baker in 2006 and probably Mike Quade in 2011, and you've got a guy who merits a $16 million salary about as much as I merit a statue commemorating my golf exploits.
My friend Paul Sullivan, the outstanding Tribune baseball reporter, wrote in today's edition: "Despite nine mostly productive seasons on the North Side, Ramirez was never a beloved player for one reason or another."
One reason might have been a perceived lack of hustle, as Ramirez often didn't run out routine grounders. Newsflash for Cubbieland: Albert Pujols almost never runs out routine grounders. I'm guessing fans will get over that character flaw should Prince Albert accept the golden throne at Clark & Addison.
The main reason Ramirez probably wasn't beloved: He has been not a winner but a "stats compiler."
At the end of every season, his numbers always have looked good. Such statistical compiling has contributed mightily to his personal compiling of dollars: more than $100 million in earnings (and counting).
And yet when the Cubs really needed greatness, when they needed their big-money run-producer to produce runs, where was Mr. Clutch?
He's 33, his body has been breaking down and he has a history of shrinking when the lights shine brightest.
I don't blame fans for thinking it's time for him to compile stats and money elsewhere.