Thursday afternoon was a terrible day for these two particular closers. In Cincinnati, Carlos Marmol continued to struggle as the Chicago Cubs closer. He blew a 3-0 gem by starter Ryan Dempster, who went eight innings, in the ninth inning as he walked the first two batters he faced before an error by Ian Stewart allowed Brandon Phillips a fielder’s choice, giving the Reds their first run of the game.
Jay Bruce followed with a single to load the bases and Marmol proceeded to walk his third batter of the inning – mind you he hasn’t recorded an out yet – which resulted in him walking in the Reds second run. Manager Dale Sveum pulled the plug on Marmol after this, but the damage was done. Rafael Dolis finished the ninth, but not without allowing the tying run, a runner Marmol was responsible for, giving Marmol his third blown save of the season.
Marmol is clearly not the answer for the Cubs in save opportunities. He has only recorded two saves out of five chances. In 8.2 innings this season, Marmol has walked 12. On Thursday, only six of his 18 pitches were strikes. With coaches demanding he focus on his fastball, Marmol continues to try and throw his slider more than he should and more often than not, it’s ending up outside of the zone.
Sveum has admitted a closer change could be brewing after the Cubs’ collapse in Cincy on Thursday and he acted quickly on that statement following Friday’s matchup against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Both Dolis and James Russell will split the closing duties until Sveum finds who he believes is the Cubs’ closer going forward.
With the Cubs trying desperately to rebuild and clear up huge contracts, Marmol is not making it easy for the Cubs to get rid of him by the deadline. Even if he somehow heats up these next three months, teams are not going to eat Marmol’s current salary because he tends to bounce back and then fall apart again. Teams know the good and very bad of Marmol and they will not be willing to make a major splash with Marmol in their pen.
Here’s my last rant before I get into the other closer situation that surfaced on Thursday. While I blame Marmol for continuing to throw his slider, a majority of the blame must go upon Dale Sveum. He should know his team better than this, which includes knowing his closer’s strengths and weaknesses, especially when he was a coach of a division rival.
After the second walk, Sveum should have sprinted to the mound and grabbed the ball and handed it to anyone else in the park; the beer vendor might have been a smarter choice. Marmol has had too many chances in Chicago and his time as an MLB closer is running on life support as he cannot be trusted with any kind of lead.
Another closer’s career may indeed be on life support— if not finished entirely. New York Yankees’ closer Mariano Rivera, the current all time saves leader, tore his ACL when shagging balls in the outfield in Kansas City. This has been part of Rivera’s warm-up routine for years and no reason to think he’d change it because of age; baseball players after all are a creature of habit.
But at 42, MLB baseball may have seen the last of The Sandman. An ACL injury – as we fans in Chicago know all too well – is not something you can bounce back from. It will take six to nine months of rehab, so this is a season-ending injury. He could be ready to pitch next season after completing intense rehab, but at 43 I find it hard to believe he’d want to come back and risk another injury. However, he did tweet that he will be coming back.
It’s awful to see a guy like Rivera possibly have his career end like this. But because he is a Yankee and they always compete, I wouldn’t be surprised if he pitches once more and then retires.
Now begins the replacement phase New York has been procrastinating for years. Who will take the reigns from Rivera, a face of the franchise for his entire career? Whoever it is, he will have the biggest microscope on him not only because he is replacing a Hall of Famer, but because it’s the New York Yankees, after all. The first blown save will have Yankee fans up in arms like Cubs fans were yesterday, demanding a closer change. Whoever the new closer is, he will be sweating more than a batter facing Rivera in the ninth of a post-season game.
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