Let’s say you were under a rock and your 3G signal couldn’t blast through that rock, and you missed the big news that Cubs players Reed Johnson, Paul Maholm, Geovany Soto and Ryan Dempster were traded. First there was this, then this, then finally today, this. I’m not here to analyze the trades because someone else is going to do that later, and I won’t be talking about Geo because that’s Ivy’s territory (I liked Geo, by the way) so we’ll focus on the other guys, particularly Dempster.
I don’t really know Paul Maholm that well, but a guy with a Twitter account who for all intents and purposes isn’t a dick on the internet is alright in my book. I’m just glad that he put together a really nice string of starts so the Cubs could dangle him to the Braves for a really nice return, all things considered.
Reed Johnson is a fan favorite. The ladies love him because he’s bald sexy, and fans love him because he has a lot of hustle and grit and plays solid defense. So let’s appreciate him for the highlight reel catches he’s made, some pretty timely hits and home runs, and for never giving up on a play. He wasn’t the most supremely talented of athletes, but he was inexpensive and very useful and that is always good for a team to have. So thanks to Reed for being good in limited playing time this season, and for being a throw-in so we can get extra goodies back from the Braves.
I liked Geovany Soto. I thought he could have been better (or at least as good as his 2008 and 2010 seasons) but for whatever reason, he couldn’t stay consistent. He was a solid defensive catcher and had good power for the position. I wish him the best, and await Ivy’s ode which I’m sure will be much more passionate. Best of luck to Geo in Texas with Ryan Dempster.
That brings us to Demp. His Harry Caray impression was simultaneously funny and painful. He built a charitable foundation and seemed like a good guy, a family man. He was involved with the fans and the community.
He also didn’t suck at pitching. He came to the Cubs as a retread, recovering from Tommy John surgery, and didn’t disappoint as a solid reliever and eventually the closer for the team. Lou Piniella then decided to turn him back into a starter and he didn’t disappoint there either (though some would say that in his only postseason start, he didn’t rise to the challenge) and gave the Cubs four-plus very strong seasons while eating at least 200 innings in each full season as a starter. He’ll probably miss that mark this season combined between the Cubs and the Rangers, but he’s been remarkably successful and durable despite some trips to the disabled list.
Ryan Dempster was not perfect, and he wasn’t elite. He was definitely solid though. He leaves the Cubs with a 115 ERA+ including all his years as a reliever and starter. He will get shelled here and there, as in one of my favorite games I’ve been to where he gave up a bunch of runs to the Astros before the Cubs offense (including Geo) rallied for a blowout victory. But I believe he was worth that contract, and now he’s become a solid trade chip that got us some nice pieces from the Rangers.
Fans gave Dempster all kinds of merry hell because he didn’t want to go to Atlanta and forced the Cubs to finagle a deal with the Dodgers. I counter by saying that nobody knows the personal situations going on with Ryan Dempster, because nobody is Ryan Dempster except for Ryan Dempster. Maybe it was for the best that he didn’t go to Atlanta, because the Cubs still snagged a pretty good deal from the Braves anyway, and got a couple more solid building blocks from the Rangers in the eventual trade. Maybe the Rangers are a safer bet to make it deep in the playoffs than either of the other destinations. Maybe he just wasn’t ready to go for family reasons and because this was a huge decision. Because we are not Ryan Dempster, I don’t feel it is right to rush to judgment, but fans will be fans. I was disappointed that the Cubs lost out on a solid prospect in Randall Delgado and that the Dodgers were a bunch of dicks, but ultimately this decision was Dempster’s and I guess he made the right one for him.
I choose to remember Ryan Dempster as a competitor, a consummate teammate and professional, and especially a player who didn’t completely suck. As I’ve said, he was a good pitcher, even garnering Cy Young votes. Because he’s switching leagues, and pitching way above his head, he’ll probably lose out on some Cy Young votes this year, but he’s pitched amazing which is why even as an aging rental, he was able to command the return that he did. I’d say that the Atlanta woulda-coulda deal was way above what would have been expected, and the eventual Rangers deal falls in line with what Dempster was worth. Ultimately the Cubs got better for the future and Dempster got to go to a competitor on his own terms as was his right. I would call that a win-win, but that’s just one Cubs fan’s opinion.
I also choose to remember Dempster as a guy who didn’t mind spending a few minutes with a fan who met him for the first time. This is the ball he signed for my son at the Cubs Convention, and he spent another 10 minutes at least signing for everyone else in the area before he had to go to his next event. It was a good encounter and I felt fortunate to have had this opportunity. I wish him and the other Cubs the best as they all try for the ultimate prize that they couldn’t achieve while on the North Side. But by being somewhere else now, they are helping Chicago build a better future so that one day, that dream will come true.