Ryan Dempster was the Cubs most consistent pitcher during the 2008 MLB season – 33 starts, 17-6 record, 206+ innings pitched, 2.96 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 187 strikeouts against 76 walks. Dempster helped the Cubs win 97 games – the most of any National League team – as well as the team’s 2nd straight NL Central Division title, and his bold Spring Training training prediction that the Cubs would win the 2008 World Series looked more and more like a reality. Then came Dempster’s atrocious Game 1 start against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS and another 3-game sweep out of the playoffs without winning a single post-season contest, and the Cubs were right back where they started – 100 years and counting.
Cubs pitchers and catchers reported for Spring Training last week, but this time, there were no predictions from Dempster – except for what the club would serve the players for breakfast the next day. Dempster is occupying Kerry Wood’s old locker this spring and he admitted that it is hard not having this generation’s “Mr. Cub” in the clubhouse anymore. Dempster likes the Cubs chances in 2009 and although he wouldn’t mind seeing Jake Peavy in a Cubs uniform instead of a San Diego Padres uniform, he believes the Cubs have just as good a chance to get back to the post-season in October 2009:
“Let this team stand on its own merit as the 2009 Chicago Cubs, and hopefully we’ll do a really good job this year and take it one game at a time and keep playing hard. With the talent we have, we can do some really good things again. I don’t want to replace anybody on our team, because they’re all great. Any time you talk about having a guy of his caliber, it’s something that’s exciting to everybody. If that’s something that happens, great, but at the same time, I think we’ll do just fine with what we have.”
Let’s hope he is right. The Cubs and GM Jim Hendry made some minor tweaks this off-season, while no one in the NL Central – Brewers, Cardinals, Reds or Pirates – made any significant moves which should make the Cubs worry about their chances of winning a 3rd straight NL Central division title. Let’s hope the Cubs stay healthy, play good hard baseball, and actually show up in October for 11 big wins to capture that elusive World Series crown.