Theo Epstein and Ryan Dempster stir up trade speculation with public chat

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There was an odd scene at Wrigley Field yesterday as Cubs president Theo Epstein and right-hander Ryan Dempster had a one-on-one chat while sitting in the stands during batting practice.

Dempster was in uniform and by choosing to have their conversation in public with multiple reporters looking on they had to know that it would create tons of speculation about the Cubs trading the 35-year-old impending free agent.

Dempster revealed only that they “discussed a lot of things and obviously there are a lot of things being talked about … we talked about being on the same page and trying to do what is best for our team.”

However, according to Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago the conversation was indeed about potential trades. And because Dempster has the right to block any move as a 10-and-5 player presumably Epstein was laying out various scenarios to gauge his willingness to pitch for other teams.

Terrible run support has kept Dempster from an impressive win-loss record, but he’s started 11 games with a 2.31 ERA and 63/20 K/BB ratio in 74 innings. While perhaps not quite a No. 1 starter Dempster has had a sub-4.00 ERA in four of the past five seasons and would no doubt generate plenty of interest from contenders leading up to July 31.

Umpire Cory Blaser made two atrocious calls in the top of the 11th inning

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The Astros walked off 3-2 winners in the bottom of the 11th inning of ALCS Game 2 against the Yankees. Carlos Correa struck the winning blow, sending a first-pitch fastball from J.A. Happ over the fence in right field at Minute Maid Park, ending nearly five hours of baseball on Sunday night.

Correa’s heroics were precipitated by two highly questionable calls by home plate umpire Cory Blaser in the top half of the 11th.

Astros reliever Joe Smith walked Edwin Encarnación with two outs, prompting manager A.J. Hinch to bring in Ryan Pressly. Pressly, however, served up a single to left field to Brett Gardner, putting runners on first and second with two outs. Hinch again came out to the mound, this time bringing Josh James to face power-hitting catcher Gary Sánchez.

James and Sánchez had an epic battle. Sánchez fell behind 0-2 on a couple of foul balls, proceeded to foul off five of the next six pitches. On the ninth pitch of the at-bat, Sánchez appeared to swing and miss at an 87 MPH slider in the dirt for strike three and the final out of the inning. However, Blaser ruled that Sánchez tipped the ball, extending the at-bat. Replays showed clearly that Sánchez did not make contact at all with the pitch. James then threw a 99 MPH fastball several inches off the plate outside that Blaser called for strike three. Sánchez, who shouldn’t have seen a 10th pitch, was upset at what appeared to be a make-up call.

The rest, as they say, is history. One pitch later, the Astros evened up the ALCS at one game apiece. Obviously, Blaser’s mistakes in a way cancel each other out, and neither of them caused Happ to throw a poorly located fastball to Correa. It is postseason baseball, however, and umpires are as much under the microscope as the players and managers. Those were two particularly atrocious judgments by Blaser.