By Brian Hanley-
CHICAGO (CBS) — It was only about six weeks ago that Cubs president Theo Epstein said he and his staff had to “tune out the noise” from fans and media as they went about building the team into something akin to championship caliber.
Better buy some ear plugs.
They will be needed at 3:01 p.m. Tuesday if Ryan Dempster is still a Cub sixty seconds after the non-waiver trade deadline.
Fans are already steaming since the Cubs, expected to be among the top sellers in this trade market, have been among the quietest of teams.
Matt Garza, who was expected to bring much more in trade than Dempster, likely is off the market due to an untimely triceps injury which has kept him out of action the past couple weeks
Dealing Dempster is not for lack of trying. Theo and GM Jed Hoyer had a trade done last Monday with the Atlanta Braves, which would have sent Dempster packing for young starter Randall Delgado.
It was a very good deal for the Cubs, according to many baseball people. It was also a trade to a team that many believe Dempster, who has the right to veto any deal given his 10-year veteran status including the last five with the same team, had previously approved.
Reports have circulated that Dempster himself had recently told Braves players he would be happy to join them.
If Dempster had not given the Cubs front office the OK to talk trade with Atlanta then Cub fans should wonder what the hell Theo was doing wasting his time with the Braves in the first place.
But word is the team’s brain trust is very upset that Dempster pulled the rug out from under their best-laid trade at the last minute.
According to the Sun-Times Gordon Wittenmeyer, our show’s Cubs Insider, Dempster’s reluctance to waive his hard-earned no-trade rights for a deal to the Atlanta Braves last week had nothing to do with the “personal issues” Braves general manager Frank Wren repeatedly mentioned when talking about the would-be trade.
Wittenmeyer wrote Sunday: Dempster and his wife, Jenny, filed for divorce just before the season started, and despite speculation, Dempster and others close to him insist that it has played no role in his greater desire to go to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“Who’s to say I was going to say no or yes to whatever team,” he told the Sun-Times. “All I said was that I just, at that time, needed to think about everything. Whether you’re single, married, divorced, kids, no kids, you’ve got to think about a lot of things if you’re going to [consider a decision] to leave.”
Tuesday Dempster spoke of being on an “emotional roller-coaster” the past eight days
“I can only control what I can control,” he said. “I have to handle this the best way I can and be as professional as I can.”
So explain to Cubs nation Demp why you said what you did on June 7:
“Any one of us is susceptible to being traded,” Dempster said at the time. “For me, it’s a little different because I have the right to say ‘no.’ … Obviously I want to do what’s best for this organization. They’ve done nothing but right by me.”
Some $65 million worth of “right by you” over nine years of being mostly a fan favorite and a just better than average pitcher (67-66 record, 3.74 ERA and 87 saves).
Sure he was 58-46 over four-plus years as a rotation starter, with 200 or more innings in each season, including 17-8 with a 2.96 ERA and made the All-Star team for the Cubs’ last division winner in 2008.
He also issued seven early-inning walks in Game 1 of the ensuing playoff series opening game against Los Angeles, which set the foundation for a Dodgers sweep.
Maybe the Dodgers, the only team Dempster seemingly wants to join now, went back and watched video of his soiling the sheets in that big game and adjusted their trade offer down accordingly. After all, the Dodgers are trying to trade for a bonafide playoff pitcher.
Why would the Dodgers bid against themselves after Dempster has shrunk his trade market to only them?
The Cubs’ spin of late is they can keep Dempster, tender him a one-year contract extension after this season, and get the so-called “sandwich draft pick” as compensation when he signs a multi-year pact as a free agent this winter.
Dempster, 35, is in the final year of a contract that pays him $14 million this season.
One question Mr. Bad Harry Caray Impersonator? Don’t you want as many chances to win a World Series that you can get in the sunset of your career?
Dempster has enjoyed life here with the Cubs. His career was reborn in Chicago when former general manager Jim Hendry signed him coming off Tommy John surgery in 2004. Cubs fans rallied around the popular pitcher and his Dempster Family Foundation to help families with children born with DiGeorge Syndrome after his daughter Riley, 3, was born with the chromosomal anomaly associated with a wide range of birth defects.
“I built a home here. I’ve been here almost nine years,” Dempster told the Sun-Times.“The thought of leaving, no matter where it is, is a tough thing.”
People understand those emotions.
People also understand Dempster has apparently not been as upfront with the Cubs front office when it comes to a trade.
At least winning-is-secondary mopes such as Aramis Ramirez and Derek Lee made no bones about staying put in the ever-so-comfy Friendly Confines.
Nope, no lip service from those two about doing right by the Cubs to curry public favor, ala Dempster.
The Cubs’ front office has declined to comment on the subject, though last week a team official said that Dempster was kept in the loop and shouldn’t have been caught off-guard.
The Sun-Times sources say the Cubs’ failed efforts to acquire well-regarded pitching prospect Allen Webster from the Dodgers has left that process stalemated. It’s also unclear whether the Delgado option is completely dead. One National League source predicted that Dempster would wind up in Atlanta after all.
“I have a couple more days to choose what I want to do,” he said Sunday.
If Dempster does choose to stay here, he better ask Theo for those ear plugs when takes the mound Tuesday night.
Because tuning out the noise of 37,000 frustrated fans won’t be an option.