Carlos Marmol is the Chicago Cubs closer; at least he was as of last night. Many people are furious with Dale Sveum for keeping him in the closers role when everyone knows that he simply is unable to do the job at any level in professional baseball. After last night, I have a hard time defending the use of Marmol at all in situations when the game in on the line. However, I do believe that the fans anger is directed at the wrong person.
Everyone in and around baseball knows that the Cubs and Theo Epstein are desperate to trade Marmol. They even had a deal to send him to the Anaheim Angels completed, and got Marmol to waive his no trade clause. However, that deal was killed when Epstein saw something on Dan Harren’s medical records that he did not like. So, Marmol is still here, and is still the Cubs closer. So the Cubs continue to look for a deal in which they can move him off the roster.
Whether you like the idea of Marmol as the closer or not, I fully believe that is exactly why Sveum continues to parade Marmol out to close games no matter how poorly he has done this season, or the previous two years. Epstein is desperate to find a trade for Marmol, and he knows that he has absolutely no trade value if he is not the closer. So, with the Cubs in rebuild mode and wanting to losing as many games as possible in order to obtain as high of a draft pick as possible, he gave orders to Sveum to continue to use Marmol is save situations in order to try to rebuild his trade value.
Sveum comes off as a very intelligent guy who knows his baseball. I am sure that he knows that Marmol has struggled to get the job done in save situations, despite his run of 20 consecutive saves last season. He knows that there are far better closer options in his pen than Marmol. James Russell and Kyuji Fujikawa are both better options to close games, but if the boss tells you to do something, you better follow orders.
But would not allowing Marmol to close games and blow saves hurt his future with the team? Isn’t a manager’s job to win at all cost? In the normal baseball world, you would be absolutely correct. In most circumstances, the General Manager gets you the pieces he thinks you need and then expects you to use them in the way best suited to win games. However, this is not a normal situation in the baseball world for the Cubs. This is a world where the Cubs are trying to trade as many veteran players for prospects as they can to rebuild the farm system and make the Cubs future a hell of a lot brighter than things currently look.
Sveum is willing to do what Epstein wants and risk losing games with Marmol as his closer, because he knows that he is not being graded on how many wins the Cubs get year after year. He was hired with the full knowledge that he was being brought into a rebuilding team and that the wins would be hard to come by. Even though he is still trying to win every game he manages, he also knows that he has other jobs to do.
His first job is to develop the younger players and turn them into super stars, if that is at all possible. How he handles Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo and Darwin Barney is the biggest key to his tenure as Cubs manager. As long as he continues to develop the younger players he will remain the Cubs manager until he fails to win games when they are ready to contend. Time will tell if he is able to continue his good work with the kids when Javier Baez and Jorge Soler come up to the big leagues.
His other job is to build value in the veteran players in order to move them. That has been a mixed bag, as Alfonso Soriano has completely rejuvenated his career and new platooning players Scott Hairston and Nate Schierholtz have shown promise early in the season. But Marmol has not been good at all and Ian Stewart has not been able to stay healthy enough to gain any value whatsoever.
Perhaps last night was the last straw and Epstein has realized that rebuilding Marmol’s value is a losing battle. Perhaps last night was enough for him to finally remove the marching orders to use Marmol any time there is a save situation.
I used to have fantasies that Marmol purposely gave fans heart attacks when closing games because that was how he got his jollies. Sure, he would allow a run or two, put the winning run in scoring position, but he always put up a respected save percentage. At the end of the day, I do not care how the job gets done, as long as the game is closed out. Marmol did that, scared the hell out of us, but he did that. But apparently, my fantasies were completely wrong, and he just simply sucks.