Ryan Dempster key to any Cubs Turnaround



“Not many people care more than he does,” Chicago Cubs GM Jim Hendry said of Cubs starting pitcher Ryan Dempster.

The quirky, emotionally expressive hurler is known for both his interesting sense of humor and his burning desire. A native of Gibsons, British Columbia, he’s the team leader in quality starts and innings pitched. In addition to shouldering a lot of the burden on the field, he sometimes carries the load from a media/public/fan relations perspective.

Following his start Wednesday night, a win over Oakland, he was asked about the heat the Cubs are taking from fans and media lately. Specifically, if people are making macrolevel issues out of microlevel mishaps. (but not exactly in those words)

“Maybe the drought of not winning a championship here in so long makes things magnified a little bit more, but as players we don’t think that way,” Dempster responded.

By Paul M. Banks

If he’s the vocal leader in the Cubs clubhouse, then perhaps first baseman Derrick Lee is the leader-by-example; according to Dempster anyway.

“I’ve played with him for 12 years, he’s the pro’s pro. He knows that it’s a long season and he never lets anything negative affect him, and with the positives he realizes that he needs to go out there and take the same approach. I know that’s why guys look up to guys like him,” Dempster said of Lee.

In order for the Cubs to make anything of the 2010 season, Lee is one guy they need to get going- immediately! Tonight, he went 2-4 with a home run, and a tremendous play in the field; proving that he shook off his abysmal two error performance from the previous evening. Lee is a three-time Gold Glove winner and two time All-Star, but he’s hitting just .225, with 8 HR and 27 RBI this year. The other guy who needs to get it together right now is injured 3B Aramis Ramirez. Another two time All-Star, he’s hitting a laughable .168 on the season, and his run producing numbers aren’t much better. If Lee and A-Ram get on track, then perhaps the Cubs offense, THE weakest link of the season will get moving.

In terms of pitching, Dempster needs to be a centerpiece for the staff to build around. Following a fantastic 6 2/3 inning, 2 ER, 8 K performance against the Oakland Athletics, he’s 5-5 with a 3.67 ERA. Yet another two-time All-Star himself, Dempster served as the Cubs closer from 2005-07, and he’s one of just two active MLB pitchers (Atlanta’s Derek Lowe is the other) to record 85 saves and 150 starts in his career.

“You can’t control things around you, you can only control what you’re doing. And that’s being prepared for each game, and executing as much as possible. We got enough guys in there with big enough hearts that we’ll find a way to turn this thing around,” Dempster said after the game.

And in order for that turnaround to occur, Dempster needs to be the stability. Carlos Zambrano was an ace once upon a time, but he’s an emotional train wreck, and his immaturity greatly inhibits his performance. Ted Lilly is a decent pitcher who never gets any run support, Carlos Silva is pitching out of his mind right now, but personal history indicates he’ll come back down to Earth soon. And Randy Wells just isn’t an anchor of a MLB staff an any level just yet.

“Hopefully, we can string together some wins and win as many series as possible, I think that’s the key,” Dempster said.

Written by Paul M. Banks, President and CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest focused webzine. Banks is a member of both the Football Writers Association of America, and the United States Basketball Writers. He is also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Chicago Tribune’s blog network, Walter Football.com, the Washington Times Communities, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com

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