Bucs’ Aramis Ramirez of ex-team: ‘if not us this year, hopefully [the Cubs] do it’

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Former Cub Aramis Ramirez, right, celebrates and takes a selfie with Pirates teammate Gregory Polanco after Pittsburgh clinched a playoff berth Wednesday night in Colorado.

He was at third base for one of the best/worst views of the most controversial postseason moment in Wrigley Field history since Babe Ruth’s called shot.

He owns the distinction of reaching base later into October than any Cub in the last 105 years.

And after 18 seasons in the majors – all in the National League Central, including half with the Cubs – Aramis Ramirez expects this weekend to be his last in uniform at Wrigley.

The three-time All-Star, who was traded from the Brewers into contention with the Pirates on July 23, insists he’s sticking to retirement plans no matter how this season ends.

“A hundred-and-ten percent,” he said. “I’m not playing baseball anymore. I’m going to watch my kid play baseball.”

If he returns quickly enough from the groin tightness that kept him out of the Pirates’ lineup the last two days, Ramirez could have a disproportionate impact on the Cubs’ playoff hopes – whether this weekend during a potentially pivotal series or Oct . 7 in a win-or-go-home wild-card game.

“I don’t look at it that way,” said Ramirez, 37, who played major roles for three Cubs playoff teams – including the 2003 team that won more postseason games than any in franchise history.

“The way I look at it is it’s us. I’m going to try to do everything that I can to go as deep as we can in the playoffs, and it’s nothing against the Cubs, St. Louis, or nobody. It’s just, try to do my job.”

Still, no place he’s played has left a deeper, more indelible mark on Ramirez than the ancient baseball corner of Clark and Addison – an intersection he watched transform into the teeming, throbbing center of a city’s passion that fall of ’03.

Before the Game 6 foul ball and muffed double-play grounder.

Before the dispiriting Game 7, during which he was hit by a pitch leading off the ninth – and was stranded as the lights finally went out that season on a chilled Oct. 15 night.

“I actually wish them the best,” Ramirez said of a Cubs team he joined that summer in what’s considered one of the best trades in team history. “I played in Chicago for almost nine years, and I know how desperate they are for a championship. I wish the Cub fans and the team the best.

“I’m just going to try to do everything I can to win here [with the Pirates].”

Not that this was anything he envisioned when he started spring training with the Brewers in Maryvale, Ariz.

Not that any of this was what he envisioned – returning to his original team. Or returning to Wrigley Field on Sept. 25 to face a Cubs team with the third-best record in baseball — that scouts say could be one of the most dangerous in the playoff field.

“You saw flashes of it the last few years, the talent they had in the minors and up in the big leagues, with [Anthony] Rizzo and [Starlin] Castro – really good young players,” said Ramirez, who left as a free agent after the 2011 season with a new front office taking over the Cubs.

“They went out and got some free agents, [Jon] Lester, [Jason] Hammel and trading [in 2013] for [Jake] Arrieta. That’s how you win. If you pitch you’re going to have a chance to win; I don’t care how good a lineup you’ve got.

“They drafted well, they made some good trades – getting [Addison] Russell and [Kris] Bryant. The front office has really done a great job, and you have to applaud that.

“You knew they were going to be good eventually. But nobody saw this coming. Nobody saw them being where they are right now.”

It would be tempting to believe Ramirez wishes he’d had the chance to stay, to be a part of this, to go out this year taking one more shot at the Holy Grail 107 years in the making. And counting.

But he’s well past that, he said, as he prepared to make one last visit to Wrigley.

“We made the playoffs three times when I was there, and nothing would have been better than to win a World Series with the Cubs,” Ramirez said. “It was going to be really special if that would have happened. But it didn’t.

“If not us this year, hopefully they do it. They really deserve it.”

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