Consider those crowd reactions when a pitcher takes the mound as a visiting player, and the inverse meaning of one will help you understand why I keep going back to the failed deal late last year between the Cubs and Los Angeles Angels that would have swapped the former Angels' starter for the Cubs' closer.
I'll understand if you chime in in the comment section with a November called, and it wants its story back line, but the non-move is as relevant today as it was then for this reason: Marmol is still in Chicago, and his erratic delivery has already tried its best to blow both wins for a team that is in a fragile enough state without him.
He's the ex who shows up unwanted and unannounced, ruining days and creating sleepless nights, his continued presence making moving on more difficult than it already is for a down-and-out person.
I'm not privy to the information the Cubs' front office had last fall, so I'm not going to out and out blame president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer for throwing water on the deal. They haven't been afraid to pull the trigger on deals since they've been in Chicago, and they've made some good ones.
Looking back, I remember the rumors of the Haren-Marmol trade stirring in late-October and thinking this was one of those ideas drummed up by a detached radio caller, a la-Well, what if we trade Alfonso Soriano in a three-team deal to the San Francisco Giants, but they share custody of the left fielder with the New York Yankees every other weekend, and we get Matt Cain's first-born son and any of Robinson Cano's baseball-playing younger cousins who haven't yet been noticed in the Dominican?
It wasn't. It was legit. Had the Angels elected to pick up Haren's 2013 option and moved him to the Cubs, both pitchers would have had expiring contracts that would pay them substantial 2013 salaries. Haren's health was clearly a concern, but so was Marmol's nosedive from dominant to unhinged. It was a question mark for question mark deal, though Marmol is seen a bit more in Chicago as a question mark-ironic exclamation point combination.
The Cubs apparently passed, the Angels let Haren walk, and a month later the Nationals deemed him healthy enough to sign him to a one-year, $13 million deal.
He had a terrible spring, going 0-4 with a 6.39 ERA in six starts, but no one is going to argue Haren would have been the bigger headache on the mound.
Marmol is validating that through his first two appearances of the season with a 20.25 ERA and 4.50 WHIP. His market value is analogous to 1986 Chernobyl property. His approval rating resembles 2006 George W. Bush. The man is nuclear. And probably even nucular, if you ask Bush.
The reality of the present-day situation is that the Cubs' bullpen cannot move forward with Marmol on the team. I'm not going to go all detached radio call-in guy on Epstein and Hoyer and tell them to cut him with the $9.8 million he's owed this year, but figure something out so the team can progress. Because right now Kyuji Fujikawa and the rest of the group are having their roles defined by someone who doesn't belong, and it's impossible for manager Dale Sveum to manage without self-confliction.
Look at the first two games Marmol has appeared in this year. Sveum pulled Marmol April 1 in the opener after putting three of four batters on base. He didn't have the same option April 4 when he had already used Shawn Camp, James Russell and Fujikawa. Looking back at those two situations, you can't tell me now that Sveum isn't wondering whether he needs to save one of those guys to rescue Marmol when he inevitably gets in trouble. No manager should have to manage his bullpen that way. This team has enough problems.
Closers, by definition, are supposed to be the endgame. They aren't supposed to need life rafts. They sail successfully, if not smoothly, or they drown. Marmol likely remains the closer because the Cubs are trying to audition him, but putting a manager in a situation where he has to consider such rescue is a formula for hindering an already conspicuously flawed team's ability to win baseball games.
That wouldn't be as much of a problem if it were late in the year and this arose with the Cubs 15 games back in the standings. But we're three games in. Continuing to trot this guy out to close games tells the baseball world one undeniably unspoken thing: We've already conceded that we aren't going to compete this year.
That may be true, but it's not a message Cubs fans or other Cubs players are going to take kindly to in Week 1.
I'm sure plenty of readers are having the standard Move on thought as they read about a failed trade from November. That was 2012. It didn't happen. Move forward with what you have.
But moving forward is impossible when what you have was rejected long ago.
Kevin Chroust has covered baseball and various other sports since graduating from Colorado State in 2005. He has been following the Cubs since age six when Mark Grace hit .647 in the NLCS against the San Francisco Giants. You can follow Kevin on Twitter @kevinchroust.
- Sports & Recreation
- Carlos Marmol
- Chicago Cubs
- San Francisco Giants
- Dan Haren