CHICAGO (MCT) — Without a video replay board to show his career highlights, and without any special recognition from the Cubs organization for his past accomplishments, Aramis Ramirez’s return to Wrigley Field was relatively uneventful.
Though Ramirez ranks sixth on the team’s all-time home run list and third in slugging percentage, helping lead them to three division titles in his eight-plus seasons, he was never as beloved as some lesser players over the last decade who didn’t make nearly the same impact.
Perhaps that’s why Ramirez’s first plate appearance in Monday’s 7-5 loss to the Brewers was greeted with a mixture of polite cheering and lackluster booing.
Or maybe they were simply saving their voices for Ryan Braun, who played the villain role again in his first game on the road since escaping a suspension for the alleged use of a banned substance.
Either way, the Brewers broke open a close game to beat former coach Dale Sveum in their first matchup, outsmarting the Cubs with a pair of squeeze bunts that scored two runs.
Trailing 7-3 in the ninth, Ramirez’s error on a routine grounder by Marlon Byrd opened the door to two more runs, and the Cubs had runners on second and third with one out.
Brewers closer John Axford struck out David DeJesus for the second out before Darwin Barney walked to load the bases. That left it up to Starlin Castro, who came in with a streak of 43 straight games of reaching base. Castro fell behind 0-2 before taking a called third strike to end the game and the streak.
Ramirez reiterated before the game he never wanted to leave Chicago — even though he was the one to decline the $16 million mutual option, knowing he could double that figure on the open market. He did just that, with a back-loaded three-year, $36 million deal with the Brewers that pays him only $6 million in 2012.
“Theo (Epstein) was honest,” Ramirez said of the Cubs president. “He told my agent they were going young, so there was no place for me there. I’m 33. I didn’t want to leave. I said that all along. It got to the point where you could see what they were doing, trying to go with young guys.”
But as it turned out, the Cubs didn’t really get that much younger, acquiring 27-year-old Ian Stewart to replace Ramirez, signing 32-year-old DeJesus to play right and giving the first base job to 29-year-old Bryan LaHair.
Those three combined make $6.97 million in 2012, or $31 million less than Ramirez, Kosuke Fukudome and Carlos Pena made manning the same positions in 2011. Meanwhile, Cubs ticket prices dropped by only 1.3 percent, according to Team Marketing Report, forcing fans to pay Lord & Taylor prices for a Walmart type of team.
Ramirez contributed a pair of RBIs for the Brewers in his first game against his old team, starting the scoring with a sacrifice fly in the first and adding a run-scoring double off Shawn Camp in the seventh.
Brewers starter Shaun Marcum gave up solo home runs to Barney and LaHair, but the Cubs’ offense, which came in with a .182 average against right-handers, was lifeless otherwise.