Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Ryan @^#%$+ Dempster: How Much is Enough?

Memo: To Cubs Management Subject: Ryan Dumpster—er, Dempster—and "Oh, no, it happened AGAIN." Okay. As a Cub fan, I have to say this. You can spout all the PR you want, you can apportion the blame for last night’s loss as many ways as you need to, you can decry the lack of offense at key times…but enough is enough. The plain fact of the matter is, you gave the ball to your closer, and he couldn’t close the game for you. Ryan Dempster lost that game for you last night. No one else did. Quit blaming the lack of offense. Quit blaming mental errors. Quit saying “we missed opportunities to win.” RYAN DEMPSTER LOST THAT GAME FOR YOU IN THE NINTH INNING. PERIOD. Harsh? No. Unrealistic? No. He’s a CLOSER. By definition, that means you hand the ball to this guy, and his job is to get outs. And if he does his job right, he only has to get three of them. What’s so dadblamed hard about that? Yes, I know he’s facing major league hitters. But that’s why he’s a major league pitcher…because he’s supposed to know how to face these guys and get them out. This is where, and why, he earns his living. Yes, I know he “only” had a one-run lead to work with. But that's part of a closer's work with what he's dealt. He doesn’t get the right to complain about the lead being too small. One run is plenty for a legitimate closer. A closer closes. He saves leads. He thrives on the challenge of getting those monstrous three outs. And he doesn’t “tip his cap” to the other guy for being able to hit a fly ball and tie the ball game, as Dempster did to his opponent. Because a real closer hasn't put the tying run within range of scoring on a sacrifice fly in the first place. A closer’s job is to finish. Keep the lead, keep the bases clear, and get people out. Not put runners on base. Not flirt with disaster, time after time, by walking guys, hitting guys, or throwing wild pitches. Dempster makes a habit of this. Has for a few years now. If we have a six-run lead, he’ll come in and give up three. If we have a two-run lead, he’ll come in and give up one. If we have a one-run lead, WE CANNOT GIVE THE BALL TO HIM. HE CANNOT DO THE JOB. Yes, technically this year this is his first “blown save.” Let’s look at that for a few minutes though. Really look at it. You tell me if it’s not the stupidest piece of cockamamie illogic to enter an already illogical field (i.e. professional sports). Under the “blown save” rules, you can come in with a three-run lead, blunder your way through an inning and give up two of those runs, and have the tying run at third base…but if the team still manages to win the game somehow, you get a save. NONSENSE. “What else would you call it?” someone may ask. “He saved the game.” To which I would have to say, “You mean he just didn’t find a way to lose it.” A closer’s job isn’t to throw pitches not to lose. A closer’s job is to pitch to win. In one inning. Game. Set. Match. Done. A closer’s job isn’t to mount up drama by putting his team in danger, time after time, by letting the other team get men on base. Closers don’t come into games to make them exciting. Closer’s jobs are to make the game boring at that point. I repeat...Game. Set. Match. Done. A closer’s job is to get those other team players out. Period. It’s called CLOSING for a reason. Every once in a rare while, a closer gets “dinged.” Mitch Williams has probably one of the most famous “dings” in history, an unfortunate end to what was a great career. But even Mitch had started to put himself in precarious situations way before that happened. So one could even say, in that particular World Series case, that the dynamite he’d been playing with so often just finally came back and blew his fingers off. That will happen with time, to even the best of them. Which is how they know when to quit. But what’s Ryan Dempster’s excuse? He’s not even a veteran yet. He hasn’t had the brilliant rise of a career, the World Series wins, the playoff finishes, the laurels to fall back on. He hasn’t been around long enough to claim that he’s on the denouement of a great pitching run. All he has right now is an official stat that says he’s “saved” X number of games, and “blown” one of those potential saves this year. But how many more games did he come close to blowing, and was rescued by the skin of his teeth? Or because his team had enough runs in the bank that even he couldn’t blow them all? The work he's done to get credit for all these so-called “saves” isn’t closer quality. It’s not even close to the kind of performance he’d have to put forth in a league championship or World Series game. And it won’t be, as long as we continue to run him out there and give him credit for saves that he just doesn’t manage to give away before the other side gets itself out. He’s not alone in this mediocre performance level, either. There are others. But I don’t have to hang my team’s record on their numbers, so how other teams deal with this nonsense is up to them. I have, however, a modest proposal for the Cubs. What I wouldn’t give to hear the GM pull aside non-closers like Dempster and say something like the following: “Ryan, we’ve noticed there’s a bit of a problem in the area of getting out of the ninth inning without the opposition crossing the plate. This is a serious problem. And no, the solution isn’t that your teammates need to score more runs. Ryan, to be honest with you, unless we have eight or more runs in our pockets, we can’t be sure you’re not going to find a way to fritter away the lead anyway. No lead, in essence, is safe with you…and in the playoffs, where we’ll be facing tough competition and close games, we simply can’t afford to gamble on you unless you make some changes. “So we need you to make a commitment to fix this. It’ll go like this. “For every runner that reaches base (on anything but an intentional pass we call from the dugout) while you’re pitching, you’ll owe us $10,000. “For every runner that scores while you’re pitching, you’ll owe us $50,000. “And if you blow the game for us totally, you will refund to us the day’s pay we gave you for that game. “Are we clear enough as to how bad this is? And how committed we are to making sure it doesn’t continue? “You say you believe you want to talk to the Players’ Association about this? Well, that’s certainly your right. But before you do, you might want to talk to some other folks in real labor unions. Folks who actually have to perform at their jobs to get paid. Folks who will never see the kind of money you make in their jobs…ever…even if they add up every single paycheck they make until they retire. “Because, Ryan, plain and simple…you’re already taking the money out of their pockets for that game they bought tickets for. You come in and blow that game, you owe them that money anyway. And sometimes it takes weeks, even months, for a working person to save up enough money or have space in the budget just to take their kids to the ballgame—at least partly because guys like you get paid so stinkin’ much. “When a guy like that sees what you do on the mound, he has to wonder about that. “So maybe if you have to give up an amount proportionate to the outlay a fan has to make, it’ll make you concentrate a little better on the mound. Maybe then you won’t take their ticket price and toss it back in their faces, and send them home unhappy, because you as a grossly overpaid Major League Baseball player can’t manage to get three lousy outs to give your team a win at the end of a ballgame…even though that’s all your job is. “So you go out there, son, and you talk to them about that. And then, you come back and tell me about unfair. Or harsh. Or unreasonable. But I don’t think you’re going to want to after that. “Maybe you’ll just want to earn your keep and do your job, like you’re supposed to be doing anyway. “Ya think?” --Janny


Donna Alice said...

Wow! And I thought my Dad got really vocal shouting at the games! LOL--I think I saw this game or parts of it--I'm SURE I heard Dad shouting and fussing even though it's the Cincy Reds all the way for him.
What gets me is the $$$$$$$$$ these guys get and then they can perform any lousy way they want.

Janny said...

Actually, this column was a great catharsis for me, and the beauty of it is...among the plethora of sports opinion out there, mine's as good as anybody's. :-)

My dh thinks I'm way too tough on these guys sometimes. I disagree. If I edited books the way some of these people play, I'd be getting bad performance reviews. What's their penalty?

Exactly. :-)

Oh, and if you ever sit beside me at a ball'll hear VOCAL, trust me on this.

heee heeee!

Janny said...


Feel free to share my sentiments with your Dad. :-)