Dempster overshadows everything else in Cubs' orbit

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Dempster overshadows everything else in Cubs' orbit

You could get whiplash trying to keep up with all the Ryan Dempster drama on Twitter, and how his image appears to have changed for Cubs fans.
Dempster isnt scheduled to throw another live pitch until Tuesday night, or more than four hours after the trade deadline. So that sense of urgency for Cubs executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer and Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti might not kick in this weekend.
But the trade market isnt going to remain static. The Dodgers could search elsewhere for pitching help. A contender could enter the picture and allow the Cubs to bring Dempster another trade for his approval. The Atlanta Braves might whiff on finding another starter and circle back.
All those scenarios in the run-up to the deadline mean that until this is resolved, it will overshadow everything else around this team, which is exactly what Dempster didnt want to happen.
Remember Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo? The two new faces of the franchise were a spark on Friday, combining for five hits, four RBI and four runs scored, but it wasnt enough on Ron Santo Day.
By the end, St. Louis Cardinals fans were high-fiving each other at Wrigley Field after Fridays 9-6 win over the Cubs. Now back to our regularly scheduled Dempster Watch.
We know its part of the game, manager Dale Sveum said, but I dont care who you are, it gets (old). You want to move on to other questions. Theres no question about it.
With the wind blowing out and facing a Cardinals team (54-46) that has now outscored the Cubs 32-7 in the past week, Travis Wood didnt look like an answer for the post-Dempster rotation.
Wood gave up five homers, including one Yadier Molina put on Waveland Avenue, and tied a club record last set by Carlos Zambrano (the night Big Z packed up all his stuff at Turner Field and told people he was thinking about retirement).
Things didnt go as planned, Wood said. I missed some pitches and they didnt. They ended up hitting them out of the park.
The Dempster negotiations didnt follow the script either. And for all the breathless updates on Twitter, there is still plenty of time for the Cubs (40-58) to try to make a deal.
But once a possible trade to the Braves was leaked through the Atlanta media this week, Dempster didnt want to have to make a decision so publicly while he was weighing family concerns.
After being a model teammate by all accounts for almost nine seasons with the Cubs, Dempster was catching heat from fans and being portrayed as selfish (or worse).
Whether or not that sticks, you could have looked to Dempsters old friend Kerry Wood, who was back at Wrigley Field catching the first pitch from Santos grandson. No. 10 was designed into center field and put on the blue flags on top of the upper deck as part of a day-long tribute to the late, great Hall of Famer.
Wood didnt want to go out in May with the final image being his glove and hat tossed into the stands. Ten days later, Kid K got his perfect ending by striking out the final batter he faced, hugging his young son by the dugout and walking into retirement.
Everyone was over Irrelevant, dude.
Also remember that the reasonable voices usually arent the loudest on social media. If you understand where Dempsters coming from, or respect what hes done for the franchise, then you probably dont need to use ALL CAPS and (expletives).
Fortunately for Dempster, hes got the 10-and-5 rights, Sveum said. People dont know whats going on behind the scenes and all the reasons why you accept and why you dont. So its one of those unfortunate things (where people) jump to conclusions.
Hes one of the most class guys youll ever be around (and) obviously very productive when he goes out there every five days. (Its) a tough situation.
Keeping Dempster (2.25 ERA) past the deadline is viewed as an extreme long shot, though the odds seemed to have slightly increased after the Braves deal fell apart.
The new collective bargaining agreement means that to get draft pick compensation for Dempster, the Cubs would have to offer him a one-year deal worth around 12 million at seasons end (and make sure he doesnt take it). The draft choice might be more useful in terms of the extra money that would funnel into the bonus pool, enabling them to go after more players with sign-ability issues.
But the Cubs wouldnt see any value in that until next summer at the earliest (as opposed to immediately getting a prospect or two into the system and working with them into 2013).
And if Dempster somehow stays in a Cubs uniform for the final two-plus months, no one inside the clubhouse is going to complain.
It would be a nice issue if we have him the rest of the year, Sveum said. Were only going to be a better team with him on the field this year. So as far as issues, theres not going to be any.

Kyle Schwarber has rocky start to Triple-A stint

Kyle Schwarber has rocky start to Triple-A stint

The Cubs gave Kyle Schwarber time to sort things out by sending him down to Triple-A Iowa, and Schwarber's first game back in the minors shows he may need some time.

Schwarber's first game with the Iowa Cubs was a forgettable one. He struck out in his first three plate appearances before singling in his last at-bat. He struck out looking in the first inning before striking out swinging his next two times up.

Schwarber batted third in the lineup and played left field. Iowa won 1-0 against the New Orleans Baby Cakes.

He last played for Iowa in 2015, but only spent 17 games there. He hit .333 with three homers and a 1.036 OPS in that short stint. Before getting sent down Schwarber was hitting .171 with the Cubs with 12 home runs, but also 75 strikeouts in 64 games.

Cubs show why they are defending champs while Nationals still have something to prove

Cubs show why they are defending champs while Nationals still have something to prove

WASHINGTON – The Cubs already visited the White House. The Washington Nationals are still the team with so much more to prove.

Dusty Baker needs this October to cement his spot in Cooperstown, the way Joe Maddon put the final bullet point on his Hall of Fame resume. Bryce Harper and Kris Bryant took different routes out of Las Vegas, but only one has the World Series ring to go with the Rookie of the Year/MVP hardware. While the clock is ticking on Max Scherzer and that championship parade down Pennsylvania Avenue, the Jon Lester megadeal essentially paid for itself.

Cubs vs. Nationals is supposed to be a circle-your-calendar event. Except the Cubs rolled out a Cactus League lineup on Monday night and Nationals Park featured rows and rows of empty seats amid a crowd of 29,651 where the celebrity vibe became more George Will than A-Rod and J-Lo.

The Cubs still hung on for a 5-4 victory that might have been their best under-the-circumstances win in a season that will hit the halfway point this weekend, showing why they’re the defending champs.

“It is exciting – don’t get me wrong,” Maddon said. “It’s just that we’re attending with a different group than we thought we would be attending this party with.

“And that’s OK, because these guys now are getting the kind of experience that is going to be very beneficial to us in August and September.”

A rash of injuries forced the Cubs to start Jeimer Candelario at third base and Mark Zagunis in right field and Javier Baez kept making highlight-reel plays while Addison Russell rested his sore right shoulder, leaping to grab to a Harper line drive and racing across the left-field line and sliding into the wall to make another spectacular catch in foul territory.

“Games like this is what we need right now – competition,” said Baez, who struck out in his first three at-bats and finished at 2-for-5. “Playing tight games like this will make us make adjustments better and be more in the game.”

With Kyle Schwarber more than 1,000 miles away in Des Moines and hitting the reset button at Triple-A Iowa, Willson Contreras became the leadoff hitter of the day and launched Gio Gonzalez’s fifth pitch of the game into the left-field seats.

The young Cubs manufactured their next run in the eighth inning when Baez stole third base and scored on Albert Almora Jr.’s perfectly placed bunt into the no man’s land between the pitcher’s mound and the first-base line. The bullpen is Washington’s Achilles’ heel and showed with a three-run meltdown in the ninth inning.

Eddie Butler – who began the season in the Iowa rotation – neutralized a powerful Washington lineup while getting just one strikeout in five innings. Maddon pushed a lot of bullpen buttons, not going to Wade Davis for a four-out save and then summoning the All-Star closer when Hector Rondon couldn’t work with a five-run cushion.

In a dramatic finish, Davis survived giving up three hits, a walk and a wild pitch, striking out Ryan Zimmerman with a curveball to end a game that lasted 3 hours and 54 minutes.

“To play so well and not win that game would have really been awful,” Maddon said.

The Cubs needed this with Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg looming the next two nights. But for all of their talent and regular-season dominance – three division titles since 2012 and close to a 100-win pace this year – the Nationals still haven’t won a playoff series in a city where the Senators once won it all in 1924.

This could be an epic matchup in October, bursting with stars and pumping with bad blood. Just listen to Baker during his pregame media briefing, responding to a question about a power hitter like Anthony Rizzo batting leadoff: “I ain’t worried about the Cubs. They can do their thing.”

Or Baker dismissing Maddon’s mind games and the possibility of intentionally walking Harper when Zimmerman is a Triple Crown contender: “It’s a new time and a new day.”

The last word from Maddon, who keeps insisting the 39-37 Cubs have a hot streak in them and that he digs the youth movement: “If this was a spring training lineup, we might get a call.”