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Carlos Marmol bummedEntering each of the last two seasons (if not the last three), I was very confident that the Chicago Cubs would suck. It is by design, it is the byproduct of a plan with which I agree, and it is the way it has to be. But each of those seasons, when you actually experience the suck – and it hits you earlier and earlier each season  – it’s hard to swallow.

  • That all said, the platitudes are all true, and they’re easier to say now that the day after has arrived: last night’s loss was just one game. Many losses are of the frustrating, “what might have been” variety. Even if the Cubs aren’t expected to be any good this year, they’ve played just five games. If they win today, they split a couple road series against the Pirates and Braves, and did so at far less than 100% strength. If you can set aside the feeling of last night, you’d take a .500 start, yes?
  • About Carlos Marmol: it’s time to make a change. It was time a couple days ago, but that’s no longer relevant. Continuing to allow Marmol to close isn’t good for the Cubs (they risk losing games they should win), it isn’t good for Marmol (can you imagine what’s going on in his head right now?), and it isn’t good for the Cubs’ long-term (Marmol’s value is *not* going to be magically reclaimed simply by virtue of racking up shaky saves). The best thing for everyone is to move Marmol into a less-visible, less-pressure-packed setup role, and hope that he pitches well there for a few months. From there, given that no team was going to view him as a closing option anyway, maybe he has a sliver of trade value as a setup guy. At least then, if he succeeds, there’s a narrative: “He simply couldn’t handle being a closer, but, see, he’s always been a dominant setup man. You should want him as YOUR dominant setup man!”
  • It sounds like that’s probably going to happen. Dale Sveum told the media that the Cubs are “definitely going to think about” making a change in the ninth inning, and mentioned Shawn Camp and James Russell as possibilities. “You got Camp and Russell that seem to be pretty efficient when they pitch,” Sveum said, per ESPNChicago. “They’ve never had to do the last three outs of the game, but there is a mix of pitches. Those are options.”
  • The elephant in the room in those comments? Sveum didn’t mention the obvious, purported closer-in-the-waiting, Kyuji Fujikawa. Is that because Fujikawa really wouldn’t be given the chance to close, or is it simply because Fujikawa had just given up three runs in an ugly 8th inning and Sveum didn’t want to bring undue attention onto him? (UPDATE: Fujikawa is now the closer.)
  • Carlos Villanueva, who’s nice debut was spoiled by the bullpen woes, offered another quintessential Villanueva quote, per Cubs.com: “I’m more concerned for how [Marmol] feels. Results are going to change, obviously. We all want to do well, we want to win every game. I’m more concerned about him as a human being. I’ve known him for a long time, and I know he’ll come back tomorrow and try to get it done again.” I really hope Villanueva proves to be awesome. I already like him as a human being.
  • On the substance of Villanueva’s comment: we could all stand to remember that Marmol – and all the Cubs’ players, coaches, management, etc. – is a human being. He’s not just images on a screen, or numbers on a stat sheet. There are ways to discuss disappointment with his performance without lowering yourself.
  • Theo Epstein offers some love for Luis Valbuena, who finally put together a good game last night. “Part of the reason we were comfortable gambling on bringing Ian [Stewart] back was we felt we had Valbuena as a real good safety net,” Epstein told the Tribune. “He’s someone who played real good, underrated defense (last season). If you look observationally or by the numbers, he was one of the best handful of third basemen in the game, so that adds value. Obviously his offense, though he had his moments, it wasn’t really a consistent season.”
  • Dan

    Do you think Marmol had to count Upton’s to fall asleep last night instead of sheep

  • gutshot5820

    So now Marmol can blow the lead earlier in a game. I don’t see how moving him to the 7th or 8th inning is going to help the club in any way if they feel he is ineffective.

    If the goal is truly to win games, DFA him, send him to the minors until he starts throwing strikes and gets his confidence back as they did last year. I wonder if his performance is related to being in sub-par condition.

    • Jeff

      I think Marmol should only be brought in when we are losing already, that way if he continues to suck, we can justify it by telling ourselves we were already losing the game anyway….lol.

      Marmol can be the “save the bullpen” guy.

      • gutshot5820

        I was thinking that too, but just using him as a mop-up guy does the Cubs and Marmol no good. It’s not as if moving him to the 7th or 8th inning will all of the sudden make him throw strikes and no walks. Marmol is who he is and nothing’s going to change by changing his role.

  • preacherman86

    I really think there is something to the weather this time of year that hinders marmol in a big way. Possibly also his offseason prep sucks. But year in and year out it seems that during these dry and cool first few months his slider has minimal bite and is not a swing and miss pitch, and without that going good on a consistent basis a straight 94 mph fastball is entirely too hittable. At this point in the season a hitter sees slider and keeps the bat on his shoulder, and sees fastball and rips. That leads to bad things for the Cubs. But as the air gets heavier and moisture picks up Marmol’s fastball gets a little drop to it and his slider bites hard. Not making excuses, just saying a product of climate could be a partial reason for the ineffective nature of his pitching in april/may? By mid may I think you will see the bite back on the slider and the fastball with some drop and Marmol will put up very similar second half numbers. Now if the Cubs can protect his numbers until mid-may and then cut loose with him, you could make this same argument to a team and see the value he adds in the postseason for sure, which is when it counts for these teams anyway!

  • TheoProjectFails

    Dale…its time for you to calk Theo and say 3 out of 5 games is enough. No GM in their right mind was going to trade for Marmol.

    • Caryatid62

      Evidence that the “closer” term is overrated: they won two of the three games in which he’s been terrible.

      Putting him in a setup role is worse than having him in the ninth-the game’s no less in jeopardy at that time. It should be either mop-up duty or a DL stint.

      • Dumpgobbler

        This. Pitchers who aren’t getting outs should be picked far less often then those who are. Outs in the 8th are just important as outs in the 9th, which are just as important as outs in the 6th.

        Good news in Marmol is his velocity is good. Hes just not fooling anyone ATM.

  • Dustin S

    I don’t want to overreact when we’re only a few games in, but playing the Braves has been some cold water in the face. It’s a reality check that the Cubs are quite a way from really being a contending playoff-caliber team.

    Outside of Marmol, the issue isn’t pitching. The closer role needs resolved (Marmol hasn’t been good since 2010, but I won’t beat that horse). More than that the problem is the quality of positional players, especially if/when Garza and Baker come back. On a good team probably just Castro and Rizzo, and maybe Barney (when he’s back) and Castillo, are starters for most teams. It’s hard to take a step back and admit that, but the other 4-6 batting spots are AAAA/bench players that we’re hoping overachieve and have career years all the same year. Barney’s one of my favorite players and yes he’s a Gold Glove, but he was also #26 last year offensively for major league second baseman. If the rest of your team is the Angels/Braves/Rangers/Dodgers, etc. lineup you can cover that up a bit, but not with this lineup. And as awesome as Soriano was last year, he’s 37 and is overdue for a more major decline.

    So as frustrating as the stubborness to keep running Marmol out there as closer has been even after he had 10 BS in 2011 and has had a WHIP over 1.4 since then, the overall picture isn’t going to improve until we revamp the entire outfield (ATL cough cough) and 3B. If those 4 lineup spots are outstanding, Barney will be ok, otherwise you sadly have to add 2B to that list. There’s some work cut out for this FO.

  • King Jeff

    I don’t know that Marmol will be any better in a setup role, but the fact remains that there have to be options to replace him when he pitches, and it’s obvious that he doesn’t have his stuff under control that outing.

  • Rooster

    He is human yes but I will remind you all…he does make 9 million dollars a year. If this were the real world do you think a company would pay an employee 9 million dollars a year to be ineffective. He’s paid to close games. It’s simple…do your job. Ineffective employee costs companies big bucks. Fire him, easy. He’s not the 1st to get released nor the last. Blame it on Hendry and move on. Join Hayden Simpson on the unemployment side of baseball. Damn you Dan Haren for screwing this up!

  • hansman1982

    It’s only 5 games, it’s only 5 games, it’s only 5 games.

  • Die hard

    Don’t want to try Marmol as starter? OK- release him and send a message

  • gutshot5820

    On a side note, everyone is bashing Marmol, but did you expect anything less from a team that is going to possibly lose a 100 games this year? Get ready for more heartaches and moaning or whining or learn to accept that this is who we are. Marmol bashing today, tomorrow it will be Lillibridge, Rizzo if he goes into a slump, Navarro, Soriano, everyone will get a turn at some bashing this year.

    Last year it was LaHairtastic and then.. now its Rizzo OMG…

    Just learn to expect these kinds of losses for now. There is a reason we are losing, we stink..

    • Grant

      This isn’t a 100 loss team. Probably not even a 100 loss team after a midseason selloff.

  • BubblesHargrave

    “On the substance of Villanueva’s comment: we could all stand to remember that Marmol – and all the Cubs’ players, coaches, management, etc. – is a human being. He’s not just images on a screen, or numbers on a stat sheet. There are ways to discuss disappointment with his performance without lowering yourself.”

    Gee, thanks for the sermon. I don’t think anyone is saying he should be banished from the face of the earth, just tired of seeing the same thing over and over and with the same results. It’s mind-boggling how it can be allowed.

    • Yohler

      I think you’re missing the point. People keep beating the horse like a bunch of drunks at a bar saying:” He’s a bum, cut him! why not DFA him? Who cares, blah blah blah” The facts are the Cubs were trying to put him and the team in a better position by having him pitch in big spots. This has ultimately failed and I believe they will rightly make a change to the back end of the bullpen. Lets not forget that the Braves are a 95+ win team and the middle of that order will destroy far superior bullpens this year in a similar way. Baseball is a game of highs and lows that have to be ridden out, and this team is constructed only slightly better than the Astros and the Marlins. Whomever pitches that 9th inning is going to get smacked around, and that’s only assuming this lineup will occasionally score enough runs to create a save situation.

      • Tom A.

        ” Whomever pitches that 9th inning is going to get smacked around ”

        You are either saying nobody on the Cubs is any good or the Braves are very good. What everyone else is saying is that Marmol is very bad and we are tired of multiple years of looking at his badness. If this was one time or even five times he has failed, we might not be saying to drop him.

        By the way, IMO Marmol is the least reliable pitcher in the bullpen. If I was the manager, I would not pitch him in the 9th — unless I was told to by my boss or would lose my job.

        • Yohler

          I’m saying both, honestly. Who would really justify as a great relief pitcher on this roster?

  • Willie Smith

    people, remember we are playin; for the draft pick here. as theo said in the spring; either your a top 10 team or a bottom 10 team; in the middle is in nomad’s land. so I say let him close all year; maybe we are really bad and somehow sneak past the Astros or marlins for top pick.

  • Die hard

    In 2 min Sports Center showing highlights if interested

  • JB88

    Marmol is an asset at this point. You either try to maximize that asset’s value for a trade or you write him off. If this Cubs’ team had any legitimate shot at making the playoffs, then you shelve him, but they don’t, so you move him and hope he pitches well enough that you can trade him for a few prospects.

    • BubblesHargrave

      i don’t agree with the statement that they have no shot at the playoffs. every team does. take the Orioles last year as an example. Remember the Cardinals won the World Series in 06 with Jeff Weaver as their clinching pitcher. No team should be counted out or count themselves out this early.

    • Tom A.

      Hope he pitches well enough ? He has had his chances. Drop him ! That would do more for the Cubs than anything we would get in return for him in a trade. Excellence breeds excellence. Badness breeds badness. He really hurts the team and young players , as they see the organization accept his badness.

      I often wonder about Sveum. He has to know he is bad. Do you think he is being told to pitch him ? Maybe he pitches him in these situations so his badness shows and soon they will not tell him to pitch him. Sometimes you have to uncover something as bad before can be removed from situation.

    • Bric

      Anyone who thinks Marmol still has any trade value left just stop it. NO team is going to trade for a pitcher who gives up two homers in an inning to blow a game. He’s not 24 anymore. He has no upside at this point. His only value is to the Cubs if he can get himself back together. Or else he’ll take a vacation on the DL, get cut, or placed on waivers. In any case no one is going to trade anything for him, they’ll just wait for him to get waived.

  • Cub fan bob

    It hurt losing like that last night. Especially the media nut cupping the two Uptons due to that 9th. But you know what the Braves are an elite team in the NL and the Uptons two of the best players in the league so you just tip your hat, say good game, and send the Shark out there to end the bleeding. Besides every team has a handful of blown games a year. It’s unavoidable and hooefully few and far between.

    • Yohler

      exactly.

  • nkniacc13

    rotoworld says Kijt will replace marmol as closer .per Paul sullivans twitter

  • Yohler

    Jesse rogers just tweeted Kuji will now close

  • http://www.justinjabs.com/blog/ justinjabs

    If Marmol is moved to the “less pressured” setup role, than he blows the game in the 8th against Upton/Freeman/Uggla just as Fujikawa pretty much did yesterday. Let him mop up, or just get some work in before you start trotting him back out there with leads of 2 or less. Also thanks for mentioning that penultimate bullet. Everyone is figuratively calling for his head — myself included — but let’s not make that literally. TCM tweeted the hashtag “#KillMarmol” yesterday and that was … unfortunate to see, imo.

    • http://www.justinjabs.com/blog/ justinjabs

      then* and other typos

  • Carlito

    Marmol can’t throw strikes or miss bats right now. Time to see if Fujikawa be like Nate Dogg an regulate

  • kevin

    Maybe the Reds would take him for Sean Marshall!

  • @cubsfantroy

    I had nightmares about that game last night. I hope I don’t have to relive another game like that for awhile. That was a bitter pill to swallow.

  • Vince

    Don’t forget the bases loaded failed situation in the eighth inning. This happens all too often and is always costly.

  • True(ly) Blue

    Can Marmol be put on waivers and then be sent to the minors when no one picks him up? Alternatively, I read that Lilly is sitting on the Dodgers DL list and that they are looking for a home for him. Trade M for L and add a few bucks?

  • another JP

    First of all I don’t quite buy into the weather scenario for Marmols’ struggles because last night’s debacle was in Atlanta. It’s more a function of him not being effective at this time of year and some real good hitting by the Braves… even Fuji got hit hard yesterday. Those same pitches were getting the Pirates hitters out and what KG will discover is that ML hitters are more advanced than those in Japan. I think another factor to consider is Fuji will be a good closer… sometimes they aren’t as effective in a set-up role. Best this all happened sooner rather than later. And don’t think Marmol will regain any trade value- if he had any to begin with he’d been dealt already. When his contract ends this season the best he’ll get is a minor league contract, ala Valverde.

  • Freshness21

    I think Brett said it well. We all knew, or should have know, they were/are going to suck this year. It’s by design. But nonetheless, it is frustrating to see it and its especially hard to see them blow games they should actually win. I think we all need to swallow a reality pill and just enjoy the hopefully 30 Rizzo-bombs, hopefully 200 Castro hits, and quality starts from Shark and expect that it’s going to be a long season. Then enjoy that top 5 draft pick next year and the couple of spinoff prospects we land before the deadline. The end.

    • Matty Ice

      Yep the plan was to tank Major League seasons, so Theo can play mad scientist or whatever he thinks he is. Every season is sacred after all, but hey don’t criticize, he’s Theo Epstein so whatever he does is beyond reproach.

  • Leroy

    it’s like my philosophy with Aaron Rodgers vs. Jay Cutler. You think Packers fans worry every time Rodgers throw the ball that’s its going to be picked off? I absolutely cringe every time Cutler throws the ball.

    Same thing. Every time I see Carlos Marmol throw a pitch I automatically think it’s going to be a walk or a hbp. You think Dodgers or Giants fans worry about their closer?

  • cubmig

    For awhile after reading “…we could all stand to remember that Marmol – and all the Cubs’ players, coaches, management, etc. – is a human being.”, I felt like I was reading Thomas Merton’s comment on how we, as human beings, have a tough time accepting the fact that we are imperfect, much less learning to live with our imperfections.

    …………………….none of this soul searching makes being a Cubs fan any easier. For what it’s worth, committing a little sin bashing and criticizing to win BIG is the only antidote we have.

  • Ivy Walls

    Who are the vestiges of the Hendry past? Soriano? Marmol? Garza? Castro? Samardzija?

    Marmol is so done he is a left over in the fridge that no one wants to touch to even put in the garbage can.

    DFA like Haraung and CO’s catcher….some teams have to bite bigger bullets.

  • Diamond Don

    Trade Marmol for Axford. They both are struggling and both have higher than 20.0 ERA’s. Change of scenery would be good for both.

  • HotRuta

    Marmol has [again] gotten into the same kind of “groove” that Zambrano got into — instead of pitching, just slinging the ball up to the plate. Neither one of them is/was capable of maintaining any kind of focus for more than a pitch or two.

    It also doesn’t help that Marmol looks like he has gained back about 10 of the 15 pounds he shed before the second half of last year — the last time he was any good.

    Time to send Marmol back down again, and tell him he’s not coming back until he gets it together. If he won’t go, then he needs to be released; he wouldn’t be any help to us anyway, and he has destroyed his trade/future-free-agent value [getting a pitcher with a bad hip in exchange for him doesn't sound like such a bad deal NOW, does it?] …

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