Filed March 30, 2009
Manager Lou Piniella named Kevin Gregg as the Cubs' closer to start the season Sunday, relegating Carlos Marmol to setup status with the news.
Now, I don't know how you select Marmol over Gregg in any practical setting coming out of camp. Gregg is not only the experienced closer and has been able to work with Larry Rothschild closely all camp, but he has also been absolutely lights-out to boot.
Marmol was shaky in the WBC, shaky in spring training games, and I've not gotten the sense that he's grabbed the leadership reins—as is required to effectively operate in that role. That alone should make the issue something of a non-story.
But the worst part is, it makes sense—even if this wasn't the case.
I know most tend to think that it's purely a matter of who is better than who here, and maybe they're right. Personally though, I wonder if the inability to find a second solid late-inning man out of the Vizcaino/Gaudin/Hart/Samardzija camp sealed Marmol's fate.
Say what you will about arm overuse, but Marmol's ability to go two innings becomes even more important when you don't have a couple of guys that you, as a manager, have confidence in to work the eighth inning. If one of those guys mentioned had a great camp, then maybe you would do things differently.
Although, not one made a name for himself, leaving the Cubs to be flexible in looking for the most effective bridge to the closer possible.
A couple of rubber-armed relievers like Aaron Heilman and Marmol, paired together, allow a manager a trusted bridge from the sixth to the ninth, with each able to work multiple innings, and often on consecutive days. It's not perfect, but hopefully starting the season that way allows you extra time to see if someone like Gaudin or Vizcaino can return to form without having to risk high-pressure situations to find out.
Here's the good news, though: There's no more volatile position in sports than closer, with the exception of NFL quarterback. As the quote goes, "You're in till you're not."
Carlos should have ample opportunities to reinsert himself into the closer's spot over the course of a 162-game season, and I fully expect him to do so at some point this year.
In the meantime, taking the diatribes down a notch would probably go a long way into convincing the Cubs—and more importantly, the players—that he's the leader they need him to be.