Cubs starting pitcher Ryan Dempster pulled off an interesting manuever this week. The right-hander, who has the right to veto any trade because of the 10-5 rule, appeared indecisive regarding a possible move to Atlanta. The Braves, who were set to send starting pitcher Randall Delgado to the Cubs for Dempster on Monday, have seemed to have run out of patience, and are prepared to move on from this trade.
If he had his druthers, Dempster would stay right where is. He doesn't want to leave Chicago, and has made no secret that his desire is to stay with the Cubs. While there's little doubt that other deals will surface over the coming week, there does seem to be a measure of uncertainty regarding Dempster's intentions. There is some conversation surrounding the possibility that even if dealt, the veteran righty could wind right back up with Chicago when the offseason convenes.
While none of this is abnormaly interesting, it does point out the fact that many players do love the Wrigley Field experience. Dempster's hesitancy to leave the Friendly Confines isn't a new phenomonon. Two years ago, first-baseman Derrick Lee, despite having a below-average year with the bat, was on his way to the Angels unless he voided the deal. He did, leaving Cubs fans scratching their heads, wondering why he'd prefer to stay with a losing team instead of joining one in contention.
In Lee's defense, the Angels were barely hanging on to postseason hope, sitting third in the A.L. West, eight-and-a-half games behind the division-leading Rangers. But three weeks later Lee had another decision to make, as these same Braves came calling for his services. Being a first-place club, it was hard to resist this time around, but it doesn't mean Lee didn't agonize over the decision.
It's fascinating to analyze the reasons players from the North Side struggle with these scenarios. This is especially true when you consider that this is an organization that more often than not sees itself on the outside looking in. Without a World Series title for over a century, this club is usually fashioned as the seller, not the buyer, when trade-deadline deals arise. So that alone makes one wonder why leaving the Cubs would cause such internal angst.
Fans flock to Wrigley Field for a reason, because of the ivy, because of the history. The carnival-like atmosphere surrounding the ballpark is unmatched by any other venue in the National League. The joy that the average Joe gets out of attending a game there centers around the retro feel he gets by sitting in the stands. The city, all on its own, provides a myriad of reasons why a player would want to stay.
The loyalties for the modern player don't come close to the levels they used to be. Even in this losing season, Dempster's desire to win comes into question by callers flooding the airwaves with varying opinions. But it's refreshing to see a player of Dempster's ability to struggle with the decision to leave or not. It suggests that his personal baseball experience might be different than yours and mine, though it also might be more similar than you might imagine.
The 15-year veteran may also be viewing the end of his career, and might consider a rent-a-player situation somewhat of an unsavory move. With the thought that he may return to Chicago this winter anyway, he may not want have a two-month period interupting his nine-year Cubs career. Whatever the case may be, his thoughtfulness on the issue should be commended and not scoffed at. Frankly, his career choices need to be left up to him, not some fan calling up a talk show during rush-hour traffic.
All one has to do is look at the way Kerry Wood was treated when he retired in May. A career that never lived up to the hype was nevertheless celebrated in a wonderful and meaningful way. Maybe Ryan Dempster wants the same kind of curtain call, the same moment of finality as he shares it with the Wrigley faithful. Maybe Dempster likes what he's got going on in his life right now. Maybe he feels like this is where he belongs.