Saturday, December 10, 2011

Dumas, Cologne and Third Base

For the second night in a row, this Fan's first-ever bout with insomnia ever is getting really...well...tiresome. It's truly amazing the things you think about when prone in a bed for hours attempting to find that magic solution to falling asleep. At one point the thoughts drifted back to the mid-1970s when a slack-eyed teenager from New Jersey went away to New Hampshire College. It was there that the first experiences with fragrance and love occurred.

New Hampshire College in Manchester was a very new college when this writer first arrived there. Only a few hundred students lived on the campus in those early years and it was definitely a party school. It was mostly a dumping ground for rich kids then as the school didn't even require an SAT score to attend. While your Fan was far from rich, it was the only application a lazy teenager managed to finish during high school. Wouldn't you know that application was accepted. 

It was hard for a shy momma's boy of a Sicilian mother to fit in. One of the ways found was to become a disc jockey for the college radio station. Toward the end of the first semester, the station's manager was trying to come up with ideas to boost the station's profile and somehow the idea was mentioned of doing a marathon and publicizing the heck out of it. The original idea was for the marathon to happen in tandem. But your favorite Fan was first up and never got off the air. It started on Monday and the broadcast was continuous and without sleep until Friday. It went a total of 99.5 hours. It was a world record for about two month and didn't even get this fool into the Guinness Book of World Records.

But the marathon did have its perks. One of them was that the wire services picked up the story and the Fan's picture was in every major newspaper in the country. Talk about your fleeting moment of fame. The local television station interviewed during and after the event, so there was some notoriety there too. The other perk was that this girl from the campus got wrapped up in the event and out of the blue started bringing the jockey food and would message his shoulders during the broadcast. She was a beautiful girl, dark-haired with a Mediterranean-featured face and flawless skin. She was of french heritage and she was not a party girl. 

Needless to say the disc jockey was smitten. During her visits, we would debate the merit of female singers. The disc jockey was a music snob who didn't think much of the fair sex behind a microphone. The beauty gushed on about Barbra Streisand. After the marathon was over and life got somewhat back to normal, the beauty suggested that the disc jockey go up to her dorm room on a Friday night to listen to Streisand. The disc jockey readily agreed. He knew that she had this big strapping boyfriend back home, but what the heck, miracles could happen, right? Oh, you should know that this writer had never had a girlfriend to that point. Yeah, what a stooge, eh?

So the appointed day, the disc jockey went up to the girl's dorm and hunted up the beauty to listen to Streisand. After knocking several times, a pretty blonde across the hall came out and told the disc jockey the beauty had unexpectedly gone home for the weekend and suggested the blonde pinch hit for the Streisand lesson. Somewhat crestfallen, he agreed. To make a long story short, that lesson involved five hours of listening to Streisand and the Beatles and hours of conversation with the pretty blonde. The disc jockey and the blonde married two years later.

After the disc jockey and the blonde became inseparable, your writer got a cushy work-study job hosting the campus movie night. It was a tough job, but somebody had to do it. The pretty blonde was studying one night and didn't attend the movie. But the dark-haired beauty did. Since there was still friendship there, the dark-haired beauty sat next to the work-study kid to watch the movie. She was wearing perfume. It was Estee by Este Lauder. The combination of the perfume and the beauty was so intense that it was all that work-study kid could to to keep from jumping on her and mauling her right there and then.

Being a frank kind of person, the work-study kid told the beauty about his predicament and they moved another foot apart. She promptly told the pretty blonde that the blonde better go out and purchase that perfume, which she did. Since this was this author's first experience with scents and such things, it was decided to purchase one of the male varieties. The choice was Aramis and the blonde thoroughly approved. You should know that this guy is pretty unpretentious. No jewelry, not tattoos, no earrings and that cologne was seldom used but on rare occasions. It didn't exactly go well with flannel shirts.

After getting married, it was discovered that one of the pretty blonde's favorite writers was Alexandre Dumas and her favorite actor was Richard Chamberlain. Thus, the Three Musketeers was a must see. The blonde loved it. The husband watched politely and without comment. But wouldn't you know, one of those musketeers was named Aramis!

So finally, after that giant story that rambled through a sleepless night's brain, we get to the third part of our story which gets us back to baseball, which is what this site is supposed to be about. With two major Aramis life moments already in tow, lo and behold, there was a baseball player named Aramis Ramirez. How about that? This Fan always thought it would be cute if some Spanish American mother named her child, "Aramis Colon," but the Fan has never seen one.

Anyway, Ramirez caught the Fan's attention early on in his career for the reasons already mentioned. And after watching him a few times, particularly in 2007 when the Cubs made the playoffs,a funny thing happened. The Fan didn't like him. There is no rhyme or reason for why such judgments happen. It's simply one of the things fans do. He just seemed like an arrogant prig. But then again, most players are, so why was Ramirez singled out? Don't know. He just was.

And so when Aramis Ramirez bottomed out in 2010 and became one of the symbols of a failed Cubs team, there was some gratification that apparently his (up to then) good career was over. Except it wasn't. Quietly--because the Cubs were terrible--Aramis Ramirez had a beautiful season in 2011. According to Fangraphs, he was the fifth most valuable third baseman in baseball in 2011. His .871 OPS was good for a 136 OPS+. His 3.6 fWAR would have been better if he wasn't such a lead-butt base runner and was a better fielding third baseman. Even so, he had a tremendous season.

Which of course, wasn't all that welcome in this household. From a perfectly subjective standpoint, there was some satisfaction that he turned down arbitration from the Cubs and is currently plying the market for the best deal. With third base being pretty much a wasteland around baseball, he's going to make some coin. The only question is how long a team is going to go with the duration of the contract. All biases aside, it was good for the Cubs and Ramirez to part ways. The Cubs need a fresh start and need to cut out a lot of those old faces to erase their losing ways. And that's not to say that it was Ramirez's fault. But sometimes you need to start clean.

Again, all biases aside, Aramis Ramirez has had a fragrant career. See what the Fan did there? Ramirez has amassed 702 extra base hits in his career, good for a .500 lifetime slugging percentage. He's hit over .300 six times in his fourteen year career. For every 162 games he has played in his career, he has driven in 108 runs. And he has accumulated 33.8 fWAR in his career to go along with a career wOBA of .358. Heading into his 34th year, he just might have a few productive seasons left in him in the right situation. It will be interesting what ballpark he calls home. Some of his stats have been helped by a career .925 OPS at Wrigley Field, but his homer splits at home and on the road are nearly identical.

This long and meandering post is what happens with no sleep. Your Fan is not going to go back and reread it because that might be embarrassing. To sum it all up, Aramis has been a pleasant memory and a not so favored ballplayer. But even so, teams could do worse by signing him. He'll help somebody.

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