It took three shaky outings with the last one ending in a blown save—not to mention four less-than-perfect spring outings before that—before Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum finally decided that he needs to talk about removing Carlos Marmol from his closer responsibilities.
Needs to talk about? More like should’ve done that before Opening Day. That lack of foresight will cost one digit in the win column. And it had to occur when the offense scored five runs.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Sveum mentioned Shawn Camp and James Russell as potential candidates for that ninth-inning role. This came after Marmol blew his first save of the 2013 MLB season. On Apr. 6, Atlanta Braves outfielders B.J. Upton and Justin Upton both hit solo home runs en route to a 6-5 victory. The Cubs entered that inning with a 5-4 lead.
In the short term, Kyuji Fujikawa did himself no favors when he allowed three earned runs in the eighth inning. A 5-1 lead was trimmed to 5-4. That opened the door for Marmol, who didn’t have the luxury of facing an unintimidating Pittsburgh Pirates lineup in the cold weather of PNC Park. Marmol now has a 27.00 ERA with a 4.80 WHIP.
What did Marmol think of his performance? According to him:
“I had my pitches working. I just missed my pitch. I didn’t do anything bad.”
Not a great choice of words. Missing your pitch means you did something bad. And if you missed your pitches to the point of two 419-plus feet home runs, then your pitches weren’t working that well—or at all. It’s not divine intervention, a curse, dumb luck or the result for the team who has the fewest religious players; it’s you.
On Apr. 8, the Cubs will host their first game of the season when they start a three-game series with the Milwaukee Brewers. That’s begins a 10-game home stretch that also includes a series against the San Francisco Giants and Texas Rangers. While Sveum “talks” or “thinks” about his team’s closer role, he must understand that there’s no way that he can extend Marmol’s leash into that series.
Just imagine Marmol getting a save opportunity during that home stretch. Not just a save opportunity, but a seventh-inning appearance during a close game. For Marmol, the added element of his own fans booing him may cause him to meltdown more than ever.
There’s nothing left to say for Marmol. For whatever reason, he just can’t keep it together. If management is worried about trade value, then build it through middle relief. And if Marmol continues to implode there, then either create some reason to put him on the disabled list or eat that $9.8 million and release him (highly unlikely).
But whatever the Cubs do, never promote Marmol back to closer again. No fourth chances.