It’s not a matter of belaboring things or beating the guy up, but the closer is an important role, and the situation is fluid. So while we’ve talked about Craig Kimbrel a lot lately, there’s a potentially big update today.
After two ugly outings (both in results and every way you’d analyze it), which comes after big questions last year, this spring, and this summer, Kimbrel may no longer be the Cubs closer. These are the things you’d expect a manager to say when a transition, or at least a pause, is taking place:
David Ross, asked if he'd hand the ball to Craig Kimbrel in a one-run game, said, "I’m not sure on that yet. But I’ll get back to you on that one." When pressed, he said, "I’m in the middle of conversations with Craig, so we’ll have those with him before I talk to you guys."
— Maddie Lee (@maddie_m_lee) August 1, 2020
"I'll get back to you on that." –Cubs manager David Ross, when asked if Kimbrel gets the ball in next save chance, given that the veteran is working through some issues.
Said he wants to have conversations with Kimbrel before going down that road with reporters.
— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) August 1, 2020
In a season where every win or loss is magnified, there isn’t much of an excuse not to go all out every game, trying to win. To that end, at this moment, given all the context surrounding Kimbrel’s performance, it’s virtually impossible to say Kimbrel gives you the best chance to preserve a win in the 9th right now. I understand the sensitivity with not wanting to further wreck a guy who is clearly trying to work through some stuff, but if he’s out of whack, he’s out of whack. And the season is far too short to risk him working it out in a few winnable games (perhaps only to learn, after a few shouldn’t-have-been-losses, that it’s not coming back this year anyway).
We’ll see if this means Kimbrel is deployed in some other role soon, or whether it’s just a couple days off to recalibrate. If there’s a save situation tonight, it’s easy enough to use someone else (Jeremy Jeffress, most likely) and say it was a matter of not using Kimbrel back-to-back nights this early in the season. But after that, the questions get louder. And the fact that Ross didn’t commit to Kimbrel today probably answered them anyway.