In an announcement Monday morning, Cubs manager Mike Quade proclaimed Ryan Dempster as the opening day starter for the 2011 season. Dempster beat out fellow staff members Matt Garza and Carlos Zambrano for the job, making it the first time in six seasons in which Zambrano will not be the first Cub on the bump.
In our recent IvyReport poll concerning who should be the opening day starter, 42% of voters cited Dempster as their top candidate. The runner-up was Matt Garza with 31%, and Carlos Zambrano finished last with 27% of the vote; perhaps this shows that fans, along with Quade, are ready for a change when it comes to who is the ace in the rotation. Fans are ready for someone who will represent the Cubs in a professional manner, someone who will go out and get the job done no questions asked, and someone who will refuse to inflict self-harm (Big Z anyone?) upon oneself. Ryan Dempster provides that someone.
As stated in my prediction on the matter, in the grand scheme of a 162-game schedule this announcement is negligible and completely insignificant. One or two bad performances and Dempster, just like any other pitcher, could be ousted from his newly acquired position, and Zambrano could return to his throne atop the rotation.
However, it can definitely be perceived as a strong statement of what Quade is expecting out of this team. As he did with Dempster, he is going to reward competence and professionalism over antics such that Zambrano displayed last year. Of course stats, performance, and matchups are going to make up the majority of his decisions, but it is safe to say Quade is going to go about the 2011 season with a different mindset than that of which has been displayed the past couple years.
In the end this was the right move for Quade to make. Although he removed a veteran from his six year reign, he instilled one of the most dedicated and hardworking players on the team in his place. Ryan Dempster is the epitome of how a pitcher should go about the game, and regardless of his performance come April 1 he should be regarded as the right man for the job.