There are so many unfortunate things about a season like this 2012 Milwaukee Brewers campaign.
Sometimes, teams are just bad. Sometimes, there are just a few bright spots, and it was always too much to expect the rest of the team to support them.
But seasons like this hurt, because there are so many bright spots. So many great things we can point to, like Ryan Braun repeating his MVP season and the story of Michael Fiers (and even Mark Rogers and Marco Estrada), like Norichika Aoki’s emergence as a major league player. And like Aramis Ramirez putting up the best season of his career, at 34 years old, after terrorizing the Brewers for other NL Central teams over the past 14 years.
Ramirez is hitting .295/.358/.532, an unthinkable level considering his early slump. Through April, many were ready to view Ramirez as bust of busts — the $36 million man hit just .214 with a 75 wRC+ in his first month as a Brewer. Since then, it’s been up, up, up:
Ramirez has had better raw seasons — he hit .318/.373/.578 with the Cubs in 2004, mashing 36 homers. He set his career high in home runs two years later with 38. Another two years later he notched 44 doubles, another career high. Ramirez won’t touch that 38-homer mark, but he is already at 43 doubles and appears set to add two more career highs: wRC+ (140) and fWAR (4.7; on pace for 6.0, his first six-win season).
It’s not the comeback from the slump or the massive doubles total or even his age that makes Ramirez’s season most impressive. It’s the environment he’s doing it in — despite an offense with inconsistencies any Brewer fan could lecture you on, the club trails just St. Louis and the Coors-aided Rockies in runs scored among National League teams. As much as that speaks for Ramirez and Braun’s skills this season, it also speaks to the depths offense has reached this season. This is by no means a perfect Brewers offense — no shortstop production to speak of and Rickie Weeks’s huge slump leave definite room for improvement. But there they are, one of the elite run-producing units in the NL.
And it’s largely due to Ramirez’s career season. He hasn’t fully replaced Prince Fielder, but he’s done more than his fair share. Unfortunately, the performance is wasted in terms of winning games, but at least Ramirez’s live bat gives them options when it comes to the next two seasons.
Ramirez is due $30 million over the next two seasons (including a $4 million buyout in 2015). It’s a contract that would have been nigh unmovable had Ramirez tanked early in his Brewers career, but now the Brewers could very easily make a move should the free agent market break poorly and they decide to sell, either this winter or at the trading deadline next summer. Or they can keep him, and continue to use him as a buttress behind Ryan Braun in the lineup.
So perhaps Ramirez’s season is wasted in terms of wins and losses. But for the long-term health of the franchise, it’s as good as the Brewers possibly could have hoped.