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Sunday Mail: A few parting thoughts on Ryan Dempster's surprising goodbye

Posted by Chad Finn, Globe Staff  February 16, 2014 12:51 PM

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Wait a second. Wasn't this supposed to be an uneventful spring training?

So much for that. While many of the Red Sox regulars are already in Fort Myers, raring to begin their title defense, the official workouts haven't formally begun. And already we have some surprising and eventful news.

Ryan Dempster, the innings-devouring 16-year veteran righthander, announced he won't pitch this season and will be placed on the restricted list. He explained that he has a disc problem in his neck and that he wants to spend more time with his kids.

While the timing seems somewhat curious, his motives are admirable, and the decision to leave his $13.25 million salary on the table is downright stunning on the surface.

Then again, had Dempster collected his salary for the coming season, it would have put him over the $100,000,000 threshold for his career. That is a lot of zeroes -- hell, it looks like a linescore of a well-pitched game. As he said Sunday morning, money is not an issue at this point. But it's still impressive that the best interests of the team mattered to him.

A couple of other thoughts on Dempster's departure:

I mentioned this earlier on Twitter, but it was the memory that rattled to forefront of my mind when I heard he was going on his way, so I'll share it here, too. On the night the Red Sox clinched the World Series, Dempster truly savored the moment. Reporters leaving the ballpark after filing their stories spotted him still on the field around 3 a.m., maybe later, throwing batting practice to family and friends (actor Mike O'Malley among them), turning Fenway into a private playground. He was a guy who enjoyed the journey and savored the moment, big or small. If the closing credits are now rolling on his career, he had a hell of a final scene.

* I don't know how much Dempster would have helped the Red Sox this year. He was sixth starter behind a high-quality five-man rotation (Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Felix Doubront, and Jake Peavy). Even with the knowledge that attrition affects just about every team's rotation during the long season, losing him isn't akin to trading "depth piece" Bronson Arroyo in March 2006, especially with a rotation of legitimate prospects down in Pawtucket. At this point in his career, Dempster was sort of a conventional late-career Tim Wakefield, someone who could deliver a lot of slightly-below-league-average innings. There are better options on the way, I suspect.

* But don't dismiss what he did last year. Dempster gave the Sox a chance pretty much every time out, and his reliability mattered when Buchholz was out. And he played a meaningful role in the essential fast start in April, when he had a 3.30 ERA in five starts, striking out 43 in 30 innings. And when he was marginalized late in the season, he handled it with a grace that less-accomplished players (see Reggie Jefferson, 1999) sometimes have not been able to do.

renkofinn116.jpg* His No.1 career comp? Steve Renko, who pitched for the Red Sox in 1979 and '80. I think those who remember him can see the career resemblance.

* [9:15 a.m.] Phone rings in Scott Boras's office/lair: "Hey, Scott. Ben Cherington. Sorry to bother you on a Sunday morning -- I know that's your, uh, Scott time, when you count all your money and cackle, then count it again -- but I figured you'd consider this interesting news. It seems Ryan Dempster did us something of a favor. Looks like we've got, let's see, about $13.25 million to play with that we didn't have yesterday. Probably don't need to tell you we could earmark some of that for Stephen and still stay under the $189 million threshold. We're open for business, but the decision needs to be made soon. You know we're comfortable with Xander, and, uh, hey, we're still open to locking him up long-term now, too. But you probably knew that. Anyway, let Stephen know we've got a spot for him if he wants one. I can't imagine he plans to play for the Camden Riversharks again. Take care. Enjoy your Sunday counting and, uh, Bogaerts. Long-term. Give it some thought."

* What, no farewell tour?

THE MAILBOX

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Looking back over the past championship years in Boston (2001-current) if a fan vote was created to name the top 10 most beloved and respected athletes in that time which team would get the most players on the top 10?
-- PJ

My first instinct was the Patriots, but it would probably be an even split between them and their fellow three-time champs, the Red Sox.

Let's start with the no-brainers:

Patriots: Tom Brady, Adam Vinatieri, Tedy Bruschi

Red Sox: Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Pedro Martinez

Bruins: Patrice Bergeron

Celtics: Paul Pierce

Well, there's eight already, and that doesn't include Zdeno Chara, Kevin Garnett, Gronk, Wes Welker, Ty Law, Vince Wilfork, Mike Vrabel, Tim Thomas, Dennis Seidenberg, David Krejci, Ray Allen, Rajon Rondo, Manny Ramirez, Jon Lester, Jason Varitek, Curt Schilling ... I mean, this list of candidates could go on until we've listed 30 names.

We're not even counting players who weren't stars but are beloved/respected: Shawn Thornton, Gregory Campbell, Troy Brown, Kevin Faulk, Joe Andruzzi, Dave Roberts, Bill Mueller, Perk ...

I'm probably forgetting someone since I'm doing this off the top of my head, but I'd say you go with the eight I listed, plus Z and KG.

So who'd I miss?

Irony is that the better Will Middlebrooks plays, the more likely it is he gets traded. Still smell the Marlins big deal coming.
-- Richfromconn

Agreed on the last part-- what, you guys thought I was giving up on the Giancarlo Stanton theory? Never! I could see Middlebrooks sticking around long-term, though, if he has a breakout year and Garin Cecchini stagnates. But I don't believe either of those things will occur.

The one good thing that makes me happy about the year long send off for the captain is that A-Rod is going to be at home watching all the love he could never get being showered on the type of player he so desperately wanted to be. That's something to enjoy, don't you think?
-- Time to Make the Donuts

Sure, but we haven't seen the last of him. He's sitting at home planning on how he's going to crash Jeter's farewell party (step 1: beat him to the top step of the dugout!). There's a decent chance he's spending his days watching "Single White Female" on repeat and taking extensive notes. Watch out for that stiletto to the calm eye, Jeets!

As a percentage, what do you think most NHL Olympians would choose if they could only have one -- Cup for team or Gold for country?
-- llmb

Before winning in Vancouver, I'd have said the gold medal for the Canadian players. There was such a tortured history there that I wouldn't be surprised to learn someone wrote a book called "The Curse of the Forsberg." But now, it's probably the Cup for the majority. Let's say 60 percent.

Until next Sunday, the mailbox is closed. Exit music, please.


About Touching All The Bases

Irreverence and insight from Chad Finn, a Globe/Boston.com sports writer and media columnist. A winner of several national and regional writing awards, he is the founder and sole contributor to the TATB blog, which launched in December 2004. Yes, he realizes how lucky he is.

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