What else can we say about Carlos Marmol that hasn’t been said before? The guy has always had poor control. With loss of velocity and more hitters being patient against him, Marmol has gone from being historically awesome to being piss poor. He’s probably done.
After today’s tough loss where Marmol couldn’t record a single out while leaving quite a big mess for Hector Rondon to clean up (Rondon didn’t clean anything up), Cubs manager Dale Sveum had this to say:
Sveum on Marmol: “He’s got to pitch. We only have seven guys, and they have to pitch.” #Cubs
— Bruce Miles (@BruceMiles2112) May 4, 2013
As much as Cubs fans would love for someone other than Marmol to take the ball in any situation (I could even see some pining for Kevin Gregg or Shawn Camp, lulzy), the fact is that relievers cannot be perpetually used due to the stress of warming up and having to toss high-pressure pitches in those stints. Maybe we could attribute those eight walks to home plate umpire Alan Porter’s ridiculously small strike zone or to the dangerous on-base duo of Shin-Soo Choo and Joey Votto, among others. I guess fans are okay with being beat if an option that is marginally better than Marmol were on the mound, but again, those other options need a rest period here and there. Or maybe it’s a matchup issue, as Marmol has had success (sample size notwithstanding) against Votto. Doesn’t help if one doesn’t throw strikes, but I can see the method to the madness here.
With (hopefully) solid reliever Kyuji Fujikawa still sidelined and most everyone in the bullpen throwing meatballs, it’s difficult to see what options Dale Sveum has. For his part, Sveum has been incredibly patient with Marmol despite fans wishing he would be bolted to the bench:
“He’s still got stuff, so I’m not jumping to any conclusions,” Sveum said when asked if he would just as soon give up on Marmol. “It gets tough to have any confidence in him with 16 people on base in 11 innings without getting a hit.”
When the Cubs first announced the three-year extension to Marmol worth $20MM, I was incredulous because I really though he should have been traded after the 2010 season when he struck out an insane-o percentage of batters faced. But if you were Carlos Marmol, and someone gives you the money to be 2010 Carlos Marmol, there’s no way you refuse it, right? So I don’t believe we can blame Marmol for taking the money, we can only yell at Jim Hendry for not trading him and giving him all that cash.
At the same time, just because he got all the money doesn’t mean Marmol won’t continue to work hard at his craft. Sometimes the ability just isn’t there, and as we all know, we will all eventually get old and will stop being able to do stuff that we used to do with ease. But that doesn’t mean that we stop trying to delay the inevitable before we have to cry “uncle” and retire. I have no idea if that’s the case with Marmol, but my guess is that he does try to listen to coaching (the famous “case of wine if you shake off” rule instituted by Chris Bosio is an example) and continues to work hard with his coaches and teammates. Sometimes you can work as hard as you want and you’ll still suck (see: Darwin Barney‘s bat). Again, it doesn’t mean the guy’s a lazy piece of crap. It just means he doesn’t have the tools anymore, or maybe he never had the tools in the first place.
And then, of course, Carlos Marmol has to deal with the fans. Oh, those lovely fans, who forgot that Marmol was actually doing THINGS before today’s meltdown:
After already losing his closer role in early April, Marmol had started to recover in less high-profile spots. He took a stretch of 10 scoreless outings into Saturday’s setup assignment, although 14 pitches later it was as if his recent run of success had never happened.
Despite the scoreless outings, there were signs Saturday’s most recent meltdown was coming. He had walked a batter in each of his last four appearances including a total of four walks in back-to-back outings at Cincinnati last week.
It is of course true that we were all tense from wondering when Marmol would melt down and give up that big inning again, partly because of his characteristically bad control. But those ten scoreless outings actually did happen, and many fans reacted today as if Marmol always gives up the lead. That wasn’t true even when he was bad Marmol, or when he lost his closer job last year for a bit before he got it back. Despite his hiccups, Marmol has actually saved more games than he’s blown over the past few seasons.
And I’m sure he knows at this point that he’s terrible. He can’t throw a strike and recognizes that. He could beat himself up publicly or throw himself off the John Hancock Center, but that’s not really productive either. I recognize a fan’s right to boo or call Marmol names even if I don’t agree with it, but I definitely supported James Russell‘s support of Marmol after the boo-fest in the home opener. So there’s probably a maelstrom of emotions going on inside Marmol’s head. On the one hand, he knows that he is disappointing the fans and letting his teammates down with his bad performance, and is unable to do anything about it for the moment due to some mechanical failure or lapse in confidence. On the other hand, he at least knows that his manager is going to continue giving him chances (against Sveum’s better judgment, I’m sure) and his teammates are there to support him.
Marmol is a very wealthy man, having earned milions over his time with the Cubs. He performed well enough at one point to give himself the opportunity for that huge payday. And now he can’t fulfill the expectations that come with said payday. It’s got to be a rough time to be Carlos Marmol, and while most of Cub fandom would prefer to see him far away from the pitcher’s mound, I do hope he’s able to figure something out. Players don’t get this far in their careers without some motivation to win and be the best. Marmol’s days of being the best are over, but he can still work to become serviceable. Or Roobs might be right, and he could be done for good.
Either way, maybe it won’t kill us to cut the guy a bit of slack, especially when he’s not the only reason why the Cubs are losing.