Playing under a microscope
You've got to give Rob credit. At a time when nobody really wants to think much about Cubs baseball, Rob was able to write an article that inflamed the Cub Fan Nation. And since content is king and it's easier than thinking of something on my own, I've decided to add a few thoughts to the debate.
First and foremost: no, Virginia, Aramis Ramirez is not a team leader, whatever that means.
Second: It would be nice to see Ramirez display some passion about winning. Don't get me wrong - I think everybody loves The Endorphin Rush of Victory, but I also think there are some players out there who gnaw their fingernails ragged because they're so anxious about winning. Sorry, but while they obviously all felt pressured to win, it doesn't seem that the Cubs have one of those guys on their team. That doesn't mean that I hate A-Ram, or want to see him traded - or punished - it's just that he's not that guy. Rob's article, in summary, is about just that.
Third: The Cubs haven't had that guy in a while. I think it's no coincidence that, in terms of field commanders, the team has been lacking of one since perhaps the 2003 season.
Fourth: Having a "field commander" does not necessarily equate to victory. Just ask Mark Grace.
Fifth: The concept of leadership in sports is misunderstood by the average jabrone such as myself.
I have to agree with Maddog about a few things. He's right - good teams get beat. There is no sure-fire formula toward winning a short series. The Cubs didn't lose because Aramis, or Lee, or anybody else lacks this special fire that we so desperately want to see. But I don't think Rob was saying that they lost because of it ... he's just disappointed that Ramirez doesn't seem to take losing personally, like some of us do.
So, what is the value of a team leader, then? What exactly does he do? What should we expect from him? How does he help win a short series?
The short answer is that teams that play loose play better. I don't think anybody would contest that the Cubs were playing the game tight. A team leader's job is one part keeping the team loose, two parts secretly battling an ulcer because he wants to win so badly himself, and seven parts swinging the bat moy clutch in big games and close situations. In other words, being the field captain carries an awful lot of responsibility.
Who knows if having that guy on the team would've made any difference? Being a leader doesn't mean you have these mystical powers to always get the big hit or win the close game. But having that guy around is important. The Cubs need that guy. Unfortunately, they aren't easily available. That doesn't mean the Cubs can't win, but when they do, it will be because somebody stepped up and played the hero.
Somebody probably won't be Aramis. Or Derrek. But both Ramirez and Lee are important, both will have to play well, and the entire team will have to get used to playing under a microscope and winning in spite of the scrutiny.