Saying Goodbye: Ryan Dempster

NOTE: I prepared the following post before the whole Atlanta trade-that-wasn’t went down. Since then, the general attitude toward Mr. Dempster has taken a vicious turn. I have a lot of things I could say on this subject, but am choosing to omit them for now. I will say that fans’ recent treatment of Ryan has absolutely disgusted me. Since my opinion of him has not changed, I am going forward with the goodbye I lovingly penned two weeks ago. That is all.

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Ryan Dempster served us splendidly for 8+ years, and I have no reservations in saying that I will miss him very, very much. His departure, though neccesary and long expected, feels like the end of an era (I believe that Carlos Marmol now inherits the title of longest tenured Cub).

To commemorate Ryan’s time with the Cubbies, I have put together the following timeline… please chime in if I’ve left anything obvious out!
Ryan Dempster, a timeline:

January 21, 2004: Ryan Dempster signs as a free agent with the Chicago Cubs (salary: $300,000).
August 1, 2004: Ryan makes his Cubs debut, pitching 2/3 of an inning and allowing 1 hit, 1 walk, and no runs. This goes almost entirely unnoticed as the much-hyped Nomar Garciaparra was also making his premier appearance as a Cub, and Greg Maddux was making his first attempt at win number 300.
Spring 2005: Ryan removes the tires from teammate Will Ohman’s car, puts it on blocks, and hides the tires around the ballpark.
2005: Ryan assumes the role of closer and records 33 saves, posting a 3.13 ERA.
2006: The Cubs go 66-96. Dempsty puts up a 1-9 record and saves 24 games. He is not a fan-favorite.
March 2007: Ryan informs an Arizona paper that if pitching doesn’t continue to work out, he will pursue a career as a ninja.
2007: The Cubs improve drastically as a whole, but owing to his poor personal stats, Mr. Dempster’s popularity does not. The nickname “Dumpster” is widely employed throughout Cubs Nation. The Cubs consider converting Ryan to a starter mid-season. The press gets wind of it, and the idea is soon nixed. Ryan would go on to comment on this subject the following year with, “It’s amazing how unhittable I was, last year, as a starter.”
Early 2008: Haters, doubters, pessimists and skeptics have a field day when it is officially announced that Ryan will make the transition to the starting rotation.
April 23, 2008: The Cubs record their 10,000th victory as a franchise. When the press question Ryan on the event, he says, “I remember when we won 5,000. What a memorable day that was.”
Mid 2008: Haters, doubters, pessimists and sceptics are forced to eat their words as an excellent first half earns Ryan a well-deserved berth on the National League All Star Team. Most still feel that this was a fluke and that he will go on to prove their initial inclinations.
September 20, 2008: Ryan showers fans with champagne from atop the third-base dugout at Wrigley Field, following a win over the Cardinals which clinches the Cubs a place in the postseason.
Late 2008: Prior to a September series with the Brewers, manager Lou Piniella rearranges the Cubs pitching rotation so that Mr. Dempster will face off against Milwaukee’s ace CC Sabathia. When asked the reason for this set-up, Ryan replies, “I hit better off left-handed pitching.”
End 2008: 😦
November 19, 2008: Ryan signs a 4-year, $52 million deal to remain with the Cubs.
Spring 2009: Ryan admits that Ted Lilly scares him.
Mid 2009: The by-now beloved pitcher issues a press release informing the public that his infant daughter, Riley, had been born with a condition known as DiGeorge syndrome, or 22q11 deletion syndrome, a disease which complicates swallowing, breathing, and speech, and which affects about 1 in 1,800 babies born. Ryan, along with his wife Jenny, have since started a foundation to raise awareness for the disease.


September 25, 2009: Ryan signs a baseball for yours truly prior to a game in San Francisco, and  just behaves tremendously awesome in general.
Spring 2010: Ryan ends up on the wrong end of a bet with teammates when Team Canada loses its first game against Team USA in the Vancouver Olympics. There are reportedly peanut butter and jelly sandwiches involved.
2010-2011: Mr. Dempster further proves his awesomeness as a human being and competence as a pitcher. Everybody loves him except for utter morons, and it is almost funny to remember how he was once a closer who was regularly derided by the populace.
Early to Mid 2012: Ryan throws 33 consecutive scoreless innings.
July 2012: Ryan declines a trade to the Atlanta Braves, inciting the ire of the majority of Cubs Nation.
July 31, 2012: Ryan Dempster is traded to the Texas Rangers for prospects, ending his 8-year-long Cubs career.

So long, Dempsty. And thanks for the memories.

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Wildcard Wednesday: From Starlin Castro to Queen Victoria

I haven’t put up a good old fashioned Wildcard Wednesday post in a few weeks, so I figured it was time…

Skinna Marinky Linky Links:

I don’t know how Starlin did this, but I think the evidence suggests he might be made of magic.

What is the opposite of clubhouse cancer? A clubhouse miracle drug? Regardless what you want to call it, that is what Ryan Dempster is. And this is why if/when the Cubs trade him we should all be really sad. Randy Wells talks a little about why Ryan Dempster is so awesome in this lovely article from Comcast Sportsnet.

This has nothing to do with the Cubs, or baseball. Or… anything. But, did you know that the National Zoo has a live video feed of its red panda that you can look at all day long if you want to? And I don’t know why you wouldn’t want to. Red pandas are the cutest things since baby sloths.

Happy Birthdays in baseball today: Kendry Morales, Kevin Gregg, Carlos Lee, Dickie Thon, Red Barbary and Pryor McBee (I don’t know who he is, but his name rocks).

Other birthdays: Errol Flynn, Audie Murphy, Martin Landau, Olympia Dukakis, Brian Wilson (the Beach Boy, not the pitcher), Lionel Ritchie, John Goodman and Cyndi Lauper.

And the rest of historical happenings on this day:

-Congress approved the United States seal and the bald eagle as its symbol (1782)
-King Louis XVI was caught trying to escape the French Revolution (1791)
-Eli Whitney applied for a patent for his cotton gin (1793)
-An 18-yr-old Queen Victoria ascended to the British throne following the death of her uncle, King William IV (1837)
-West Virginia was admitted as the 35th state (1863)
-President Andrew Johnson announced the purchase of Alaska (1867)
-Caroline Willard Baldwin became the first woman to earn a PHD (1895)
-New York Giant player Josh Devore stole four bases in a single inning (1912)
-Joe DiMaggio recorded his 2,000th hit (1950)
-Brooks Robinson recorded his 2,000th hit (1970)

 

Rhyme-o-rama 2012! Part Two

Cubs baseball, and I mean real Cubs baseball, gets underway just the day after tomorrow! Squee! Excitement!

For now, here is the second installment of Rhyme-o-rama 2012. Look for the final one to be published some time before the first pitch of the season is thrown out.

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Soriano is old and frail,
But capable, still, of kicking some tail.

Ryan Dempster will start day one
He eats up innings and is oh-so-fun.

David DeJesus: The bunting champ.
But what will he accomplish outside of spring camp?

James Russell may posess some hustle,
But he isn’t a batter, so it doesn’t matter.

Jeff Baker has earned a place in my heart,
He excels in that benchy/utility part.

We got this new chap by the name of Maholm,
When he faces the batters I hope he will stall ’em.

Young Steve Clevenger out-caught Castillo
Now our backup backstop he shall be-o.

I know next to nothing of Mr. Joe Mather
But I am inclined to like him, rather.

1B: Anthony Rizzo waits in the wings.
For now, LaHair will handle things.

I tried pretty hardzija,
But nothing rhymes with Samardzija.

“No matter how long the winter, spring is sure to follow.”

My friends, spring has sprung. Like a jaguar out of hiding… like a slinky falling down a flight of stairs. It is upon us.

Here is a random collection of thoughts on Cubs camp happenings thus far:

So long, Chris Carpenter: It hurts to lose a promising young pitcher, but at least the saga of the Theo compensation will nag at us no longer. I extend all my best wishes to Mr. Carpenter, but I’m not looking back on this one. At least not until Chris goes and wins the 2012 AL Cy Young for the Red Sox. Which wouldn’t shock me one bit.

As you can see, Jeff Samardzija is going with the Alexandre Dumas look again this season:

This is fine with me, as it is an excuse to bring back my good friend, the musketeer lego man. All for one and one for all!

On the other side of that coin, Brett Jackson has cleaned up considerably since the winter…

If Jeffrey wants a pal to swashbuckle with, Travis Wood might be the best candidate.

I don’t quite know how a spring training bunting tournament ballooned into a spectacle that has Cubs personnel, media, and fans everywhere taking notice. But I like it. I like it a lot.
Tony Campana had emerged as the early favorite on the position player’s side, only to be upset by Steve Clevenger in the first round. The man to beat now might just be youngster Matt Szczur. My sources like Ryan Dempster on the pitcher’s end (the outcry to his being seeded as a #10 was significant. ‘Tis a head-scratcher, indeed, as Ryan has always been a most proficient bunter.) I always pull for the underdog, so you can bet I’ll be supporting whichever unlikely candidate makes it the farthest.
I know one thing for sure. After all the extracurricular bunt practicing and tourney hoopla, this team better be able to bunt with lethal precision once the regular season rolls around.
Stay tuned!

I have already heard some griping about what a pain this Cubs team is going to be to watch this season, what with all the young, inexperienced players we’ll be trotting out. It baffles me how such pessimistic souls live with themselves. I mean, they’re probably right. It is very likely that the Cubs are on their way to limping through yet another sub-par year. But, for goodness sake, it is Spring Training! A game has yet to be played. If you can’t feel at least a little excitement at this point, I pity you.

Hey, guys… the first real game of the preseason is just five days away! Be ready to jump for joy (or, even more appropriately, spring for it.)

Here are just a few more visuals to tide us over:

Marlon Byrd offers some of his expertise to Reed Johnson’s little boy.

Dale Sveum can see you.

Brotherly love.

Seeing Double: Cubs & Muppets edition

I have had this post in the back of my mind ever since Matt Garza came over to Chicago. Matt’s uncanny resemblance to various muppet characters is something I haven’t been shy about pointing out. But what about the rest of the team? It doesn’t seem fair to pick only on Mr. Garza, even if his muppety qualities are so strong. Today, therefore, I will be throwing a few more fellas under the bus… the Electric Mayhem tour bus, that is.

Keep in mind that some of these resemblances are physical, some are based more on personality. I think you can figure it out.

***

Darwin Barney – Rowlf the Dog

Justin Berg – Floyd Pepper

Kyle Smit (MiLB) – Beaker

Jeff Baker – Muppet Newscaster

(It’s the jawline.)

Carlos Marmol – Lew Zealand

Ryan Dempster – The Great Gonzo

Mike Quade – Dr. Bunsen Honeydew

Tony Campana – Bean Bunny

Carlos Zambrano – Animal/Sweetums

Kerry Wood – Kermit the Frog

GM For a Day

It had reached that time of year when fans the nation over begin to put their GM caps on and think/talk about what moves they would make if they were in charge. GM caps aren’t nearly as fun to play with when your team is mired in sub .500 mediocrity, but it is something to do nonetheless.

The following is a just-for-fun looksee at what I would consider doing if I were the Cubs GM for a day. You will see that, even as sentimental as I am, I do not share real GM Jim Hendry’s somewhat alarming stance on fire-sales and rebuilding.

This may be the most heartless post I’ve ever written.

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Dempster, Ryan: While I am trying not to let my heart interfere with my head in my pretend 1-day tenure as Cubs general manager, I can’t help it with Dempsty. I couldn’t possibly let him go anywhere. (See also: Wood, Kerry.)

Garza, Matt: I never would have traded for Matt in the first place. Unless some other team was daft enough willing to part with 3 of its top ten prospects, I wouldn’t let go of him this year. It just seems pointless.

Grabow, John: Free to a good home.

Marmol, Carlos: There was a time when I would have considered Carlos #2 as untouchable. I don’t any longer. I suppose all that 9th inning stress has gotten to my head. I am not saying that I would trade Carlos, only that I wouldn’t rule it out. And I would demand a LOT in any possible trade situation (more than he is worth.)

Marshall, Sean: Sigh. It would be difficult for me to pull the trigger on any deal involving Sean, but I hope that in the end I would be able to do what was right for him and the Cubs.

Russell, James: If John Grabow and Sean Marshall aren’t around I guess that would make James the new go-to lefty in our bullpen.

Samardzija, Jeff: He’s done OK this year, certainly better than anyone expected. I would just keep Jeff where he is and ride out that contract.

Wells, Randy: Most of these fellows fit into one of three basic divisions. One, the guys somebody may want. Two, the guys that nobody want. Three, the guys people want but can’t have. I’m afraid that Randy might be a two.

Wood, Kerry: Maybe Kerry should be a one, but he’s a three as long as I’m GM.

Zambrano, Carlos: I wouldn’t even consider Carlos #1 as trade bait. If only to annoy Paul Sullivan.

Hill, Koyie: I heard a rumor that someone might be interested in Koyie. If it’s true, he’s theirs. But it probably isn’t.

Soto, Geovany: Not for sale. Catchers, even half decent ones, are too hard to come by.

Baker, Jeff: If I were the GM of a team that was in contention, I would want Jeff Baker. As Cubs GM, I would hesitate to part with him. Players as versatile and inexpensive as Jeffy B. are worth hanging onto, even in a bad year.

Barney, Darwin: Not going anywhere on my watch.

Castro, Starlin: Crown prince of all the untouchables.

DeWitt, Blake: Blake has never really seemed like a fit on the Cubs. I would send him some place where he could be more useful.

Pena, Carlos: I love Carlos Pena. I always have. I’ve enjoyed watching him as a Cub. But he is still probably the first guy on the proverbial chopping block.

Ramirez, Aramis: The times, they are a-changing. I’m willing to say goodbye if he is.

Byrd, Marlon: Yet another prime trade candidate who I’d miss.

Campana, Tony: Should probably be in triple-A getting more seasoning and playing time, but if half the trade propositions I’ve suggested went down, he’d probably have to tough it out in Chicago.

Fukudome, Kosuke: Sayonara, Fuke. (I seriously feel so mean all of a sudden.)

Johnson, Reed: I couldn’t let go of Reed. So much for that head/heart business.

Soriano, Alfonso: Rumors, schmumors. Fonsie isn’t going anywhere, whether we like it or not.

*Jackson, Brett: I would appease the people (myself included) who would like to have a peek at Mr. Jackson in Chicago before the 2011 season expires.

*Flaherty, Ryan: How do you feel about third base, Mr. Flaherty?

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So, how ’bout it? What would you all do if you had GM powers for a day?

Predictorama!: Your 2011 Chicago Cubs, Part One

I shall conclude all my prediculating this week with an “in-depth” peek at the Chicago Cubs. Come to think, I’ll probably due some more once October hits, but no worries! That is many months off.

For now the end (mercifully, of both Predictorama! 2011 AND the off-season) is in sight. What better to do with these few remaining days than taking a stab or two at what the future may hold for Chicago’s North-siders?

This is Part One… look for Part Two on Thursday, Lord willing and the creeks don’t rise. To help measure my expectations, I have instituted a “system” of baby sloth hugs. The more hugs, the better, obviously. It’s not an exact science, though, so don’t read too much into it.

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In 2010, I predicted that the Cubs would be neither as bad and people generally expected nor as good as they secretly hoped. Don’t think it cheap of me, but I pretty much expect the same for 2011. That’s about all I have to say on the team as a whole. I’ll take the rest of this preview player-by-player, going in alphabetical order. Ready? Here we go.

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Jeff Baker, Darwin Barney, Blake DeWitt: It is hard to say who will see the most playing time at second base. I consulted a magic-8 ball, but it was noncommittal, so I am lumping these gentlemen all together. Their names are conveniently close together alphabetically. I am strongly of the opinion that we need something cool to call this infielding trio. “Killer B’s” has been done… do you think “Bakey, Blakey & Barney” works, or does it sound too much like a law firm of  babies? I am wide open to any better-suited suggestions.

Marlon Byrd: I am prepared to award Mr. Byrd 5 baby sloth hugs per web gem he makes. That should add up to something like 7,000 hugs, right? I forecast a slight drop-off from the offensive stats he put up in 2010. Nothing drastic. Byrd will continue to be the Wyrd.

Additional Note: Baby sloth would highly approve bringing back the post game victory hug that was instituted for a time last season.

Andrew Cashner: I am delighted that Cash was awarded a spot in the starting rotation and have every hope of his holding his own there. I expect we’ll see some flashes of brilliance interspersed with a few rough periods. Don’t lose heart, though. He’s gonna be alright, in the long run.

Starlin Castro: If Darlin’ Starlin continues to play in the regular season like he has in the spring, and improves a bit in the field, I will buy him a pony and grant him infinite baby sloth hugs.

Tyler Colvin: Will easily become the most popular “TyCo” in the Midwest since beanie babies. With any luck, he will hold onto his value better. Speaking of which, what will anyone give me for a Patti the Platypus (near-mint condition)?

Ryan Dempster: I don’t think I’m going out on a limb by saying that Demp will have another solid year. Who could ask for a steadier, more reliable pitcher? Or a more genuinely like human being, for that matter? Baby sloth hugs: lots and lots.

Kosuke Fukudome: I would be no more surprised to see Fu put up respectable numbers than I would be to see him wearing a different team’s uniform by August. Doesn’t really need any baby sloth hugs, as he has an adorable Asian child of his own to embrace at his leisure.

Matt Garza: Matt gets two baby sloth hugs for every different muppet he will remind me of this season. That’ll add up to more than a few. Pitching-wise, I am going to be optimistic and predict 14-15 wins and an ERA in the mid 3’s.

John Grabow: I honestly believe that John G. will exceed expectations this season. I’m not saying he won’t eat a few kittens along the way, but I have a generally positive feeling. 12 baby sloth hugs, one for each hold I predict John will record.

Koyie Hill: I hear more lamentations about Koyie than any other individual on the team. I’ll stick up for him, not just because I like him, because I don’t find it entirely fair. There aren’t more than half a dozen really good starting catchers in the major leagues. It’s almost funny that people seem to  expect so much from a back-up. I can only owe it to the fact that we were spoiled for several years with Henry Blanco, who was exceptional for a second string guy. I am sorely tempted to do a bit of a study on back-up catchers. I may well do it, if I continue to be provoked by peoples treatment of Koyie. Really, I would just implore that folks be a bit more realistic. That’s all.

I grant Mr. Hill one baby sloth hug per insult he receives this year. I hope they are less than in 2010.

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