Chicago Fire

Kaplan: Trio of suitors for Dempster

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Kaplan: Trio of suitors for Dempster

After a busy Monday evening that saw Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer swing two deals sending Reed Johnson and Paul Maholm to the Atlanta Braves for two minor league pitchers and catcher Geovany Soto to the Texas Rangers for another minor league arm, Tuesday looks like it has the potential to be another extremely busy day for Cubs management.

Baseball sources have confirmed to me that three teams are in play for Ryan Dempster and he will approve a deal to any of the three teams if the Cubs can agree on a suitable return in exchange for the veteran right-hander who is enjoying one of the best seasons of his career. The Los Angeles Dodgers, who have long been Dempster's preferred destination will have to increase their offer as the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have stepped up their pursuit over the last 48 hours. With Roy Oswalt having another poor performance on Monday evening, the Rangers have decided to upgrade their rotation and are looking at all available options including Dempster and Matt Garza.

"Texas is serious about adding a starter and Dempster isn't as expensive to trade for as Garza would be, but after finishing as runners-up in the last two World Series and seeing the Angels add Zach Greinke, Texas management has decided to make a run at adding pitching, a baseball source told me. "However, with three teams seriously involved, it won't be cheap to acquire him even though it is potentially a three-month rental."

"Dempster has made it clear to Cubs management that he would like to play in Los Angeles but he also understands that Epstein and Hoyer have a job to do and he will not stand in their way if it means that the best deal is somewhere else," a source with knowledge of the discussions told me this morning. "He never told them he would only go to LA, he only said that he wanted time to make the best decision for him and his family and that is his right as a 105 10 years in the majors, the last five with your current team man. Ryan is serious about wanting to win a World Series and he will approve a deal if it gives him that chance. People who have been critical of him about the Atlanta deal don't have all of the facts."

Former major-league reliever Mitch Williams told me yesterday on Chicago Tribune Live that he believes Dempster is right to use his veto power to determine where he plays next.

"Fans and media who are critical of Dempster are wrong to feel that way," Williams said. "He earned the right to determine his future and any one of us would use that privilege if we had it. He has been a tremendous player and teammate for the Cubs and he will go right up to the deadline before he makes a decision if that is what it takes to get him to the best situation for him and his family."

Injuries racking up and causing chaos for the Fire

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USA TODAY

Injuries racking up and causing chaos for the Fire

It wasn’t that long ago that it seemed everything was breaking the Chicago Fire’s way.

The Fire’s 11-match unbeaten run from April into early July featured of plenty of impressive performances from the Fire, but also a few lucky breaks. Dallas rested most of its starting lineup when it came to Toyota Park, Atlanta brought its two best players off the bench when it played in Bridgeview, New England couldn’t get a result against the Fire despite pouring on 24 shots.

It seems that luck is evening out a bit. The Fire dropped a fourth straight game on the road on Wednesday in Montreal and, while sloppy play was evident for the second game in a row, a rash of injuries to the back line played a role in the loss.

Left back Brandon Vincent has been out since picking up a quad injury in the warmups before a July 5 game in Portland. Right back Matt Polster suffered a left knee injury this week in training and did not travel to Montreal. On top of that, Joao Meira, who was listed as questionable for the game with a calf injury, left five minutes in with an injury. That’s not a recipe for success.

Christian Dean, acquired by the Fire seven days ago, had to make his debut as an injury replacement five minutes into a game. His center back partner, Jonathan Campbell, was making his first start since April 8. Johan Kappelhof had slid over to right back to fill in for Polster.

The resulting chaos shouldn’t come as a surprise. Dean’s first touch as a Fire player was a clearance that he didn’t cleanly hit. Ignacio Piatti blocked it with his chest and was suddenly open in the box for an early goal.

A Matteo Mancosu penalty and an incredible curling shot from outside the box by Piatti within a minute of each other put the game away before the first half was over. It finished 3-0.

Injuries aren’t things that have good timing, but this definitely qualifies as poor timing as far as the Fire are concerned. Being shorthanded against a Montreal team that may be playing as well as it has all season wasn’t good. On top of that, the Fire host league-leading Toronto.

That game against Toronto had been circled by MLS fans as a meeting of two of the top teams in the league, but the Fire’s recent slide (four losses in the last five matches) has taken some of the luster off it. Toronto is six points ahead of the third-place Fire.

In one final note, Wednesday’s game was the first MLS start for 18-year-old Djordje Mihailovic. He played 82 minutes before being subbed out.

The last time the Cubs faced Homer Bailey, Anthony Rizzo became the face of the franchise

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AP

The last time the Cubs faced Homer Bailey, Anthony Rizzo became the face of the franchise

How's this for a #WayBackWednesday?

Homer Bailey — the Cincinnati Reds' starting pitcher Wednesday night — has dealt with arm injuries the last few years, meaning the last time he faced the Cubs was July 10, 2014.

The only holdover from that lineup three years ago is Anthony Rizzo:

The full lineup:

1. Chris Coghlan - LF
2. Arismendy Alcantara - 2B
3. Anthony Rizzo - 1B
4. Starlin Castro - SS
5. Luis Valbuena - 3B
6. Ryan Sweeney - CF
7. Nate Schierholtz - RF
8. John Baker - C
9. Kyle Hendricks - P

Yep, that was Mr. Hendricks' MLB debut. He gave up four runs in six innings before a bullpen combination of James Russell, Pedro Strop, Neil Ramirez, Hector Rondon and Blake Parker shut down the Reds to give the Cubs a 6-4 victory in 12 innings.

But that's not all. 

That was the same day Anthony Rizzo tried to take on the entire Reds roster after Aroldis Chapman struck out Schierholtz with a 103 mph pitch close to his head:

Rizzo emerged as a leader that day, willing to take on an entire team to back his own roster and stick up for his guys. That was the year before the Cubs made the playoffs and to that point, Rizzo had only been a part of losing teams. But he put the Cubs on his back starting that fateful day in Cincinnati, the last time Bailey faced the Cubs.

Alcantara — who is now in the Reds system and was just outrighted to Double-A this week — had four hits and drove in three runs in that game while Valbuena drove in the winning runs with a two-out triple in the top of the 12th. The Cubs finished 73-89 in 2014 under Ricky Renteria, who got a World Series ring from the Cubs last month for all the work he did in 2014.

Since that day, the Cubs have ended their championship drought (obviously) thanks in part to Chapman and Rizzo has become the unquestioned face of the franchise and one of the top players in baseball.