Alfonso Soriano recently gave some tough love to beguiled closer Carlos Marmol after he blew another game Sunday for the Chicago Cubs. Reporter Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune said he's never seen Soriano more upset during his seven-year stay with the Cubs:
Soriano said the Cubs "have (Marmol's) back," but he wavered when asked if Marmol can succeed again as a closer.
"I don't know," he said. "It depends on him. He used to be good. I think he's good, but he's lost a little bit of his confidence, and this game is all about confidence. … I hope he gets it back and becomes the Marmol I know."
"He used to be good." Ouch. Of course, the same could be said for Soriano, who actually has produced at an above-average rate for most of his 3,313 career plate appearances with the Cubs, even though he never was worth the $136 million contract he signed before the 2007 season. He has endured recurring leg injuries, has played defense in left field awkwardly, and he doesn't steal bases anymore. And this season, at age 37, he's also not hitting.
However, the shot against Marmol is an attempt at leadership on Soriano's part, so it should be respected. Maybe his teammate won't respond well to it, or at all, but at least Soriano gave it a try. He has respect in that clubhouse because he's been around, he apparently works hard, he has taken criticism himself and has kept a positive attitude — not always easy while the Cubs are Cubbing around. One thing's for sure: His contract comes off the books after the 2014 season, and that will help the new Cubs regime continue to fix past mistakes.
As for Marmol, he could not save a three-run lead against the New York Mets on Sunday, and has two saves and three blown saves this season to go with a 6.21 ERA and a 1.73 WHIP. The Cubs have tried taking his closer's role away, they've tried giving it back. They haven't tried the minors, assuming Marmol still has options, but the Cubs are so thin in the bullpen that even something radical doesn't make a lot of sense.
Marmol, who was a catcher in the low minors who couldn't hit so they converted him, has had some great moments in relief through the years. He's had some awful ones, too. Mostly, he just terrifies Cubs fans ... and then the game ends, win or lose. His control always has been erratic, but he's also allowing too high of a batting average this season. With his built-in wildness, it's an impossibly tricky combination.
Chances are, even a stern talking-to from Soriano won't help. He's not yet 31 years old, but it seems the time has come and long gone for the Cubs to move on without Carlos Marmol. But can they finally quit him?