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Reds 6, Cubs 4: The Carlos Marmol Experience

When are Theo and Jed going to make a decision on what to do with Carlos Marmol? He can't keep hurting the team like this.

David Banks

I could sit at my keyboard and write things like "ZOMG DFA MARMOL HE SUCKS ZOMG", but really, what is the point of something like that?

Every one of us knows that Carlos Marmol is having a bad year. "Bad" turned to "ridiculous" on an afternoon when Marmol's appearance on the mound alone set a franchise record. It was his 453rd career relief appearance -- that's the most games any Cubs pitcher has ever appeared in as a reliever, breaking the mark set by Lee Smith in his 1980-87 tenure on the North Side. (The franchise record for pitcher games is 605, held by Charlie Root, and you're thinking now, "Please don't let Marmol break that one!")

This was one of the worst. Marmol threw 14 pitches, just four of them strikes, and after he had loaded the bases with a pair of walks and hitting Brandon Phillips, Dale Sveum came to get him; Marmol left to loud boos, even though the Cubs still had a two-run lead. For those of you who weren't around during Lee Smith's tenure, Smith was getting booed off the mound like this during the 1987 season, a year in which he had 12 blown saves. It was clear at the end of that season that Smith, who was 29, had to be traded. The problem, of course, is what then-GM Jim Frey got for him.

No need to rehash that now, and the problem with Marmol is that his trade value is pretty well zero. I suspect that after outings like this one, even the scouts will stop coming. Here's what Marmol has "accomplished" this season:

  • Faced 60 batters. Retired 33 of them. (Hint: that's bad.)
  • Blown three saves in 14 appearances. (Hint: that's really bad.)
  • Allowed at least one baserunner in 13 of those 14 appearances. (Hint: that's awful.)
  • Issued 13 walks in 11⅔ innings.
  • Hit three batters in those innings; only one other pitcher this year who has thrown exclusively in relief has hit that many batters. That's the Cubs' Hector Rondon.

Oh. Well, that isn't good either. Rondon was called on to bail Marmol out, and for a moment it looked like he might. A floater into left field dropped for a hit in front of Alfonso Soriano, who took a bad route to the ball; that scored a run. Another fly ball went for a sacrifice fly, tying the game; after an intentional walk, an unintentional walk tied the game. Had Soriano made the catch on that single, maybe Rondon pitches to Xavier Paul and gets him out. Unfortunately, Rondon then issued an unintentional walk to Jack Hannahan, giving the Reds a 5-4 lead and another sac fly made it 6-4 before Rondon finally got out of the inning.

I like Rondon and still think he could become a decent major-league pitcher. But he was bad Saturday.

All of this ruined a nicely-fashioned 4-2 lead that the Cubs made with a pair of two-run homers from Soriano. Yes, it's May. Yes, the weather's turned nice, and just like 2012, Soriano's bat has started to heat up. He's always been a streaky hitter, and perhaps this streak can carry the Cubs to some wins. They'll have to get better bullpen work to do that; Jeff Samardzija again threw far too many pitches (111 in six innings) by running a number of long counts and issuing three walks. That means too many of the Cubs' relievers have to come in to help preserve leads like this, and the Cubs simply don't have enough good relievers to do that. Shark gave up just one earned run -- the other unearned due to his own throwing error -- but the Cubs' offense isn't good enough to give him a big enough lead to survive bad bullpen work.

I don't know what the answer is with Marmol. Release him and eat the contract? That's an option, I suppose; as noted above, his trade value is pretty well zero and what team is going to take him on? Or, perhaps he can come down with a mysterious arm malady and be stashed on the disabled list for a while. Iowa's roster is not filled with great pitching prospects, but there are at least four pitchers there (Cory Wade, Drew Carpenter, Zach Putnam, Jaye Chapman, and maybe others) who I'd trust with an eighth-inning lead before Carlos Marmol.

These games are winnable. It doesn't seem that difficult. The Cubs are getting excellent starting pitching this year and enough offense that good bullpen work would probably have put away at least five games that are in the "L" column that could have been wins. That alone would make this a .500 club. Kyuji Fujikawa is headed to Iowa for a rehab appearance or two, and should be back in the pen soon -- that will help. Also, Matt Garza spent quite a bit of time before the game doing sprints in the outfield, which he followed by signing autographs along the third-base line for about 10 minutes. He, too, is headed for Iowa, expected to start one of the games of Iowa's doubleheader Sunday.

Sigh. The weather was nice. I met and sat for a few innings with Bud Elliott, SB Nation's editor of college football recruiting, who was making his first-ever visit to Wrigley while on a trip to cover a Chicago-area football camp. Nice guy, and quite baseball-knowledgeable.

But the Cubs really have to do something about Carlos Marmol. It's up to you, Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. Time to start making some tough decisions.