Results tagged ‘ Ryan Dempster ’

2016 Cubs Convention: Friday Night with Ryan Dempster

The highlight of the 2015 Cubs Convention is back again in 2016, as former All-Star Ryan Dempster hosts a late night-style talk show with your favorite Cubs executives, players and alumni. Comedy sketches, baseball stories and off-the-wall interview questions highlight this fan favorite. Scheduled to appear are Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, Joe Maddon, Anthony Rizzo, Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, David Ross, Kyle Schwarber and more.

The 2016 Cubs Convention kicked off Friday night in memorable fashion. Shortly after players and coaches were cheered at the Opening Ceremony, former Cubs favorite Ryan Dempster took to the stage to host the wildly popular Friday Night with Ryan Dempster variety show.

The opening monologue was full of praise of the 2015 season, a campaign that included 97 regular-season wins and a defeat of the rival St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Divisional Series. The mere mention of the NL Central foe brought a chorus of boos from the crowd, which also got excited with every mention of the NLDS win and St. Louis’ current hacking scandal.

It also included praise for some of the newcomers on the team. The size of outfielder Jason Heyward’s eight-year, $184 million deal was something that could not be ignored.

“Jason Heyward won Powerball before it even happened,” Dempster joked.

He also had some fun at the expense of new starter John Lackey, who was a teammate of the host’s in Boston. Aside from jokes about potentially being the father of some current Cubs, the 37-year-old Lackey, had, “made incredible adjustments since they lowered the mound.”

The first guests on the show were President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer. They discussed how difficult it was to lay out and then execute “Plan A” in terms of offseason goals, something the duo felt they accomplished by landing Heyward and fellow veteran Ben Zobrist.

“It doesn’t happen often, but we felt this was a year to be aggressive,” Hoyer said.

Epstein mentioned that 2015 was the most fun he’d had in baseball to date, crediting the loyal fans and their excitement for the team.

“Jed took over the team from 2012-2014, I took over last year,” Epstein said with a laugh.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon also made an appearance, and kicked off his time discussing how exciting it was to do some charitable work in Chicago this week. On Wednesday, the three-time Manager of the Year hosted “Thanksmas” dinner at the Chicago Help Initiative, an effort to feed the homeless.

He said he had a busy offseason and didn’t have an opportunity to travel like he might have expected. He also cited the season lasting longer as something that pleasantly cut into some valuable post-season free time.

Aside from the purchase of the Cousin Eddie 2, a 45-foot Winnebago, Maddon said he’s spent a lot of the offseason trying to come up with a team message. The skipper also said that with expectations as high as they are, it’s important to get there on the first day and make sure everybody is on the same page. He believes that this is not something that will be an issue given the personnel.

“We have a unique situation,” Maddon said. “There’s such a strong bond among these guys, … we have a chance to do something really special based on the personalities and talents in the room.”

2015 Cubs Convention: Friday Night with Ryan Dempster

Former Cubs pitcher and current front office special assistant Ryan Dempster made his comedic debut in front of Cubs fans Friday night. And if his new role with the Cubs doesn’t work out, the fan favorite may have found a second career on stage.

Friday Night with Ryan Dempster wrapped up the first day at the 2015 Cubs Convention. The show resembled a late night talk show, similar to Jimmy Fallon or Jay Leno. His opening monologue got the crowd into the performance and though the show was ultimately very PG, he warned fans early on that there was “no FCC to monitor.”

One of the jokes that got a lot of laughs was when he explained how the Cubs front office was prepping for the idea that Opening Day might be played with minimal fans in the bleachers. He joked that to prepare for the sight, they just turned footage of old White Sox games.

Along with his standup, there were intermission videos describing Dempster’s importance—or lack of importance—in the Cubs front office. One video explained that the former right-hander was a key component in landing his old teammate Jon Lester to come to the Cubs. This notion was quickly shot down by a dismissive Tom Ricketts. In that same video Lester was asked about the host’s role, where his response was simply “Who’s Ryan Desmpster?”

On-stage guests included the likes of baseball president Theo Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer, first baseman Anthony Rizzo and newcomers Lester and manager Joe Maddon.

Prior to Maddon’s arrival, Dempster gave a top 10 reasons the Cubs signed the former Rays’ skipper, with the top reason being “Of all the other managers we tried to tamper with, nobody else called us back,” in reference to Tampa Bay’s initial inquiries that the Cubs may have acquired Maddon without going through proper channels.

During Rizzo’s time on stage, he noted that Jason Hammel is the best-dressed player in the clubhouse, while worst-dressed honors went to Travis Wood. Rizzo also participated in a Home Run Derby, with a few fans walking away with autographed baseballs.

Lester took the stage donning a Dempster jersey and a beer. The host quickly gave him a box of Popeyes Chicken to “make him feel comfortable,” a reference to the infamous Red Sox’s 2011 chicken and beer debacle. The two also joked that Lester, who hasn’t recorded a hit in his major league career, will have to face opposing pitching on a regular basis since the switch to the National League.

Overall, a good time was had by all. Though it’s often not recommended, Dempster might be able to quit his day job.

Be sure to follow us all weekend, as we’ll be blogging many of the panels including the Ricketts Family Forum, Joe Maddon and His Coaching Staff and the Cubs Business Operations Update.

Ryan Dempster announces retirement, will join Cubs front office


(Photo by Stephen Green)

After 16 seasons in the majors, longtime Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster has announced he will retire from baseball and take a position in the Cubs’ front office.

The right-hander was able to retire as a member of the Cubs organization and will become a special assistant to baseball president Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer.

The 37-year-old concludes his career as a two-time All-Star and a 2013 World Series Champion with the Red Sox, in what would become his final active season in the majors. He was an All-Star with the Marlins in 2000 and the Cubs in 2008, a year that marked his return to the rotation in which he went 17-6 with a 2.96 ERA to help the team to a second straight NL Central division title.

Overall, the well-liked Dempster spent nine seasons with the Cubs from 2004-12 and posted 67 wins and 87 saves, the only pitcher in club history with more than 50 wins and 50 saves.

For his career, the right-hander went 132-133 with 87 saves and a 4.35 ERA in 579 appearances (351 starts). Along with his time on the North Side and his season in Boston, Dempster played for Florida (1998-2002), Cincinnati (2002-03) and Texas (2012).

His new role with the organization will include spending time with the club during Spring Training, visiting the club’s minor league affiliates during the season, evaluating amateur players leading up to the draft and going on professional scouting assignments.

From the Pages of Vine Line: Christian Villanueva prospect profile


(Photo by Scott Jontes, Daytona Cubs)

For hundreds of professional baseball players, the season doesn’t end when the Wrigley Field ivy turns red.

In the Sonoran desert, nearly 2,000 miles southwest of Chicago, Cubs third baseman Christian Villanueva is manning the infield for the Yaquis de Obregon of the Mexican Pacific League. Villanueva, who was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, was acquired from the Rangers in July as the main return for Ryan Dempster and finished the 2012 season at High-A Daytona. Baseball Prospectus recently named the 21-year-old the Cubs’ No. 9 prospect in a front-loaded system they believe now easily ranks in the top half of baseball.

“Villa’s a great kid,” said Jason Parks, who heads prospect coverage for BP. “The Rangers were absolutely heartbroken to see that kid go. This wasn’t, ‘Let’s look at a list because Texas is calling.’ The Cubs scouted Villa. They knew what they were getting.”

What they got was a player who commands the hot corner at a young age, and has the offensive potential and makeup of a future big leaguer—even though he’s not expected to be a prototypical power-hitting third baseman.

“The kid can really, really play third base. I think he has—some people are afraid to say it, but I’ll say it—a seven [out of eight], plus-plus glove,” said Parks, specifically noting Villanueva’s quick reactions and strong, accurate arm.

Villanueva, who was recently added to the Cubs 40-man roster, has struggled at the plate in Mexico. In 51 at-bats, he’s hit only .176 with two home runs and 25 strikeouts. But he posted solid numbers between Myrtle Beach of the Carolina League and Daytona in 2012, hitting .279/.353/.427 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 14 home runs.

The extra experience Villanueva is getting this winter may be particularly valuable as he prepares to make the large leap to Double-A. He’s already shown he can square up velocity inside, but in the high minors, he’ll be tested by advanced pitchers with quality offspeed stuff.

That’s what Cubs farm director Brandon Hyde says Villanueva is seeing right now in Mexico.

It’s a real advantage, from a player development standpoint, to be playing more competitive games,” Hyde said. “A lot of those teams—like the one Jae-Hoon Ha is on [in Venezuela]—they’re looking to win.”

Villanueva’s Obregon team has been at the center of many of the league’s—and the Caribbean’s—best games in recent years. After a 26-year title drought, the Yaquis have won three league championships in five years and the 2011 Caribbean Series crown. The team’s stadium can hold up to 13,000 fans—more than almost any minor league venue—and tends to play to raucous crowds.

Parks said Villanueva has the mature demeanor to thrive in that kind of environment. He gets along socially with teammates across cultures and has proved a quiet leader whose work ethic rubs off on teammates.

It also seems to leave an impression on talent evaluators. Parks last saw Villanueva in October, when Obregon played several exhibitions in the Arizona instructional league. Because the jerseys bore no names, one MLB team scout approached Parks to ask who the third baseman was. Parks told the scout it was Villanueva.

“And he goes, ‘Oh, that makes sense. That kid’s good,’” Parks said. “[And I said] ‘Yeah, he’s good. He’s a major leaguer.’”

—Sean Ahmed

1000 Words: Will and Zach’s mound party


(Photo by Stephen Green)

Former Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster participates in perhaps the first-ever pizza delivery to the Wrigley Field mound, courtesy of Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis. We’re not sure who got stuck with the bill.

This is another shot that didn’t make it into our 2012 photos of the year feature in the December issue of Vine Line. All month, we’ll be posting some of the extras here on the blog.

Cubsgrafs: Turkey trot

(Photo by Stephen Green)

Whether you’re all about the tryptophan-induced football coma or you prefer bowling away the holidays with your family, we’ve got a bonus, Thanksgiving-themed edition of Cubsgrafs for you.

Let’s define a new toy stat—a “turkey”—based on the nickname given when a bowler rolls three strikes in a row. For baseball, we’ll tally a turkey each time a pitcher records a three-pitch strikeout. The results for the 2012 season, limited to Cubs with at least 20 innings, are below.

So who are the Cubs’ 2012 turkey champions? The answers may surprise you.

It turns out three relievers—Scott Maine, Shawn Camp and Alberto Cabrera—stood above the rest with more than 6 percent turkeys per batter faced. But it’s Camp who deserves special recognition for being so efficient with the strikeouts he did rack up. Nearly four out of every 10 of his K’s took the minimum three pitches. It turns out that, while Camp may have been a fair bit below the team’s average strikeout rate, he also had the bullpen’s highest strike percentage (64%). It’s a definite boost for the Cubs that they’ve re-signed Camp for 2013.

Similarly, Travis Wood may have been only average with his strikeout rate, but he established himself as the rotation’s leader in three-pitch K’s. He and fellow lefty Paul Maholm were pretty efficient when they did rack up strikeouts, while the actual K kings Jeff Samardzija, Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster were a little less direct to the end goal.

Now, there’s not much reason to think that’s a bad thing. Many times you want a pitcher to bury his secondary offerings and get batters to chase. But for tonight’s feast, we’ll hand out the drumsticks to Camp and Wood and let the rest work their way through some sides first.

Now Playing: In the Dugout with Dale Sveum

The Cubs team Manager Dale Sveum takes into September is drastically different from the team that broke Spring Training in April. At the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline, the Cubs dealt away veterans Jeff Baker, Ryan Dempster, Reed Johnson, Paul Maholm and Geovany Soto in favor of high-ceiling minor league talent that could pay off down the road. This month, Vine Line talked to Sveum about the impact those deals have had on the major league club, what he expects out of the team’s recent call-ups and what he’s learned on the job this season.

To read the full interview, pick up the September issue of Vine Line, on sale soon at Chicago-area retailers. Or subscribe to Vine Line, the official magazine of the Chicago Cubs, for just $29.95.

Cast your vote for the best of 2012

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Santo’s induction? Rizzo’s walk-off? Kerry’s farewell? Even though this season has been a struggle in the standings, there’s been no shortage of memorable Cubs highlights. Which events from the 2012 season made you stand up and take notice? This month, Vine Line is letting you decide on the best of 2012. Cast your vote and see the results in the October issue.

Deadline dealing

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer’s first non-waiver trade deadline as members of the Cubs passed at 3 p.m. CST Tuesday with a flurry of activity. The front office made three trades in the last 24 hours, and they waited until the last minute to complete a deal sending away the team’s biggest trade chip, Ryan Dempster. Here’s a recap of the Cubs’ moves and a summary of what they received in the deals.

Cubs send left-handed starter Paul Maholm and outfielder Reed Johnson to the Braves for right-handed pitchers Arodys Vizcaino and Jaye Chapman

What they got:

Arodys Vizcaino: Baseball America rated the right-hander the Braves’ No. 2 preseason prospect and the 40th best prospect in all of baseball. Vizcaino, who has a live arm with a fastball that touches the high 90s, was the centerpiece of the Braves 2009 deal that sent Javier Vazquez to the Yankees. He’ll miss all of 2012 recovering from Tommy John surgery, but should be ready to go by early next season.

2011 stats: 5-5, 3.06 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 9.3 K/9, 97 IP at three minor league levels;
1-1, 4.67 ERA, 17 K, 17.1 IP for Braves

Jaye Chapman: The 25-year-old has climbed his way through the minor league ranks since he was drafted in 2006. In two seasons at Triple-A Gwinnett, the reliever has struck out more than one-fourth of the batters he’s faced, and he’s only allowed three home runs in 2012.

2012 stats: 3-6, 3.52 ERA, 1.39 WHIP, 10.1 K/9, 53.2 IP at Triple-A Gwinnett

Cubs send catcher Geovany Soto to the Rangers for right-hander Jake Brigham

What they got:

Jake Brigham: A sixth-round pick in the 2006 draft, Brigham went 5-5 with a 4.28 ERA in 21 starts for Double-A Frisco this season. Baseball America rated him the seventh-best righty reliever in the Texas farm system. Last season, he went 3-1 with a 3.60 ERA in 21 appearances.

2012 stats: 5-5, 4.28 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 8.4 K/9, 124.0 IP at Double-A Frisco

Cubs send right-handed pitcher Ryan Dempster to the Rangers for right-handed pitcher Kyle Hendricks and infielder Christian Villanueva

What they got:

Christian Villanueva: Baseball America rated Villanueva the Rangers’ eighth-best prospect prior to the season. The publication called him “an easy plus defender with soft hands and easy actions.” The 22-year-old stole 32 bases last season in Low-A and finished with a .278 batting average.

2012 stats: .285/.356/.421, 10 home runs, 59 RBI, 9 SB, 425 PA at Single-A Myrtle Beach

Kyle Hendricks: The 2011 eighth-round draft pick had a 5-8 record with 2.82 ERA in 20 starts for Single-A Myrtle Beach this season, earning him a spot on the Carolina League All-Star team. He spent last season at both Low-A Spokane and Double-A Frisco.

2012 stats: 5-8, 2.82 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 7.7 K/9, 15 BB, 130.2 IP at Single-A Myrtle Beach

Cubs catching fire

Cubs fans hope first baseman Anthony Rizzo will one day fuel the North Siders to a World Series title. While that’s unlikely to happen this season, it’s difficult to ignore the sizzling run the team has been on since Manager Dale Sveum inserted the prized prospect into the third spot of the batting order on June 26. The Cubs are 11-4 since Rizzo’s call-up, having won four straight three-game series and splitting a four-game set with the equally hot Braves.

During this stretch, the pitching has been as good as it’s been all season. Couple that with some timely hitting, and things are starting to click. Vine Line examined why the last 15 games have been such a successful stretch for the Cubs.

Offensive Resurgence: Alfonso Soriano is known as a streaky hitter, but he seems to be finding a more consistent groove. The veteran has hit .286 with three homers, three doubles and nine RBI since Rizzo’s call-up. Geovany Soto, who currently owns only a .189 batting average, has hit .257 with a homer and a pair of doubles in that time. And if you look at the team’s averages over the last month, Reed Johnson and Jeff Baker’s numbers continuously appear at the top. They might not play every day, but they have definitely made the most of their opportunities. Johnson is hitting .440 in his last 25 at-bats, while Baker has hit .318 during the hot stretch.

Starting Pitching: Though Jeff Samardzija has struggled, the rest of the rotation has been the real difference maker for the team during the hot streak. Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, Paul Maholm and Travis Wood have gone a combined 9-1 over the last 15 games. In 62.1 innings, the quartet has surrendered a combined 11 earned runs (five of them coming in Garza’s July 5 start vs. Atlanta) and recorded a 1.59 ERA. The group has 46 strikeouts, or 6.67 K/9, while keeping the walks to a minimum (2.46 BB/9).

Anthony Rizzo: It all started with the phenom’s call-up. In his first game, he went 2-for-4 with a double and what would prove to be the game-winning RBI. He’s hit .356/.377/.627 in 61 plate appearances since. His altered stance has rewarded him with four homers, 10 RBI and just six strikeouts. While he’s crushing righties to the tune of a .429 average, the lefty is also hitting a respectable .250 against southpaws with a pair of homers. Many feared Rizzo woudln’t be able to hit lefties at the major league level. To say that Rizzo is carrying the team isn’t totally accurate, but he might very well have been the spark the Cubs were looking for.