2016 Canadian draft list
Letters of Intent
By Andrew Hendriks
In MoneyBall, the film adaptation of Michael Lewis’ 2003 W.W. Norton & Co. release published under the same title, Barry Moss said it best.
“We’re all told, at some point in time, that we can no longer play the children’s game. We just don’t know when that’s gonna be … Some of us are told at 18, some of us are told at 40. But we’re all told”.
Coming off of a season in which the 37-year-old hurler passed on a cool $13.25M contract from the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox, Ryan Dempster may be an exception to this rule.
Like many of the games greatest, no one had to show him the door.
Selected in the third round of 1995’s June amateur draft, Dempster would appear with five separate organizations across a career that spanned 16 seasons. By the end of the 2013 season, the two time All star had compiled an overall win-loss record of 132-133 to go along with an ERA of 4.35 in 579 major league contests.
Had it not been for his eventual release from the Cincinnati Reds in the winter of 2004, Dempster’s career may have come to an end well before it’s time.
After appearing to have flamed out as a starter with both the Flordia Marlins and the Reds between 1998 and 2003, the Chicago Cubs acquired the 6-foot-2 right hander and promptly relegated him to that of a long reliever/swingman ahead of the 2004 campaign.
A season removed from his north side debut, Dempster would replace a struggling LaTroy Hawkins as Chicago’s closer and from 2005 to 2007, the former Tip O’Neill recipient (2000) would notch 85 saves in 99 chances, effectively establishing himself as one of the most reliable shut down relievers in the National League.
After being swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 2007 National League Division Series, manager Lou Piniella decided to shake things up. Among an array of rash decisions, Piniella opted to move the often injured fire baller, Kerry Wood to the bullpen while promoting Dempster to the starting rotation, appearing as the Cubs No. 3 starter behind Ted Lilly and Carlos Zambrano.
This resulted in a 17-6, 2.96 showing from Dempster, a 34-save season from Wood and the Cubs punching their ticket back to the NLDS only to be knocked out by the heavy underdog Los Angeles Dodgers, in similar fashion to the year before.
For his efforts, Dempster would finish sixth in NL Cy Young award voting, reclaiming his once promising status as an outstanding right handed starter.
Surpassing the 200 innings pitched plateau in each of the following three seasons, Dempster, a free agent who was pitching to the tune of a 2.25 ERA over 104 innings with the Cubs in 2012, found himself involved in a mid-season trade that sent the then 35 year-old back the club that had drafted him 17 years prior to that year.
Before the 2013 season, the Canadian born hurler inked a two-year, $27.25 million contract with Boston, becoming a veteran presence in a rotation that helped pilot the Red Sox to an outstanding 97-65 regular season finish and eventual World Series victory over the St Louis Cardinals.
Having accomplished what every ball-player sets out to do when they sign their first professional contract, Dempster decided to to take a break from baseball in 2014, telling the media that he wasn’t retiring quite yet… only taking an opportunity spend more time with his family while nursing a nagging neck injury.
The Gibsons B.C. native formally announced his departure from the playing field on Friday, signing a one-day contract with the Cubs in order to ensure that the one time 17-game winner would retire with the organization in which he experienced the best years of his career.
Accepting a position in the teams front office and serving as a special assistant to GM, Theo Epstien, Dempster will remain with the Cubs as he transitions to life outside of the white lines.
-Follow Andrew Hendriks on Twitter (@77hendriks)