Many uncertainties remain with four games to go until the All-Star break. However, the Cubs and their fans hope one major question will be answered … soon.
Will Aramis Ramirez be able to produce at the level he has for years coming off of a dislocated shoulder? Or will Ramirez be tossed into a shuffle of dizzying disappointments for the 2009 Cubs?
A loud shriek could be heard across Chicagoland when Ramirez landed awkwardly on his right shoulder while diving for a ball in Milwaukee. He lay on the ground writhing in obvious pain. Plainly said, the Cubs best hitter for years was going to miss some time. Only now, it wasn’t a pesky hamstring.
Cubs’ brass and the Faithful were nervous, but focused on a lineup that produced the most runs in the National League in 2008. Granted, Ramirez would be out, but with Derrek Lee, Milton Bradley, Alfonso Soriano and Geovany Soto, the team would be able to tread water.
The team did not tread water, offensively that is. An atrocious inability to score runs plagued the team and the rotation dealt with stagnant win totals. But it is the rotation that has kept the Cubs within striking distance heading into the All-Star break. That could easily change with four losses against the Cardinals this weekend, but here’s hoping that will not happen.
Baseball is an odd game in that one small thing can make a mountain of a difference. The Cubs were playing an abysmal form of baseball through early June of 2007, and then Lou Piniella kicked his hat.
The Cubs were 22-29 going into June 2, 2007. Piniella kicked his hat. The Cubs lost the game to slip to 22-30. After that, they went 63-47 and won the division.
Can a kicked hat do that much to a team? The media created the hype, the fans bought into it, and Lou quickly created his Chicago legacy.
Having an All-Star caliber third baseman return to the lineup after a two-month absence is not a small thing. However, the confidence it instills in his teammates can be easily overlooked.
Chicago is a city that doesn’t forget too easily. Cubs’ fans do not forget either, but they do forgive. Moreover, they worship.
Milton Bradley could be beloved by the end of 2009 or 2010, but that seems like a pretty tall task for Milty at this point. However, if it does, he will have #16 to thank most likely.
Derrek Lee has turned boos into raucous praise in the past six weeks. Look for that to continue with his partner-in-crime returning to the every-day lineup.
Cubs’ fans have not forgotten the long struggle the team experienced trying to replace Ron Santo. The Gary Scotts and Kevin Ories were touted. Willie Green, Shane Andrews and Vance law tried. 27 and half years after Santo left, Ramirez arrived and since then he has stepped up in more ways than one.
He now faces his ultimate challenge. Can he rebuild the confidence in the lineup with mere presence alone? Can he scare pitchers enough to throw Soriano fastballs? Can he once again provide Lee the protection that helped the first baseman win a batting title in 2005? Can he do the unthinkable, as was noted, and help Bradley fulfill expectations? These questions remain to be answered.
Ramirez has created and strengthened his legacy since he arrived in Chicago halfway through the 2003 season. A 2009 Division title, and possibly beyond, would go a long way solidifying it.
Stay Classy Cubs Fans …