Cubs' Piniella: Time For Change at Closer

Francisco E. VelazquezCorrespondent IAugust 18, 2009

CHICAGO - MAY 29: Kevin Gregg #63 of the Chicago Cubs delivers the ball in the 9th inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers on his way to a save on May 29, 2009 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Dodgers 2-1. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

With two outs in the ninth inning on Monday night, Kevin Gregg once again blew it.

With two strikes against San Diego’s Chase Headley, Kevin Gregg once again blew it.

With the Chicago Cubs five games out of first place and desperately needing to collect some consecutive wins, Kevin Gregg once again served up a titanic-sized meatball on a platter down the middle of the plate, ultimately blowing it.

This time around, the pitch was made to Kyle Blanks, ending the game on a three-run homer that was as hard to swallow for the Cubs and Cubs fans as any loss this season. Perhaps it is the pressure of time running out that has finally forced Piniella’s hand on this issue, because blowing five of 28 chances sure wasn’t. Now having blown six of 29, the time has come to make a change.

"I think we are going to make some changes as far as what we're going to do late innings," said manager Lou Piniella. "We'll see what we do,” he added.

Blowing a one-run lead is tough. Blowing a four-run lead is unacceptable. Having blown 20 percent of your chances is intolerable.

 But Gregg has not lost any esteem about his pitching. "Yeah, I still believe in my stuff," he said.

But we don’t, Kev. Neither does Piniella.

What’s worse for Northsiders is that Gregg’s critics have been right all along. But in the end, it may be because of Piniella (for just now seeing what many have seen all along) that the Cubs don’t make it into the postseason.

As The Cubs sit six games behind the St. Louis Cardinals on Tuesday morning, it’s easy to say that Gregg’s six blown saves, well, should have been saves. Thus, the Cubs in actuality (and despite their continued injuries and struggles at the plate) should be tied for first place in the division.

So, is it Gregg’s fault that the Cubs have slipped to their depths? No.

But it is his fault that the closer has not produced enough to keep his job? Yes. Now, what we have left is merely for Piniella to make a decision: who will fill that role going forward.

With some vital contributions needing to be made, Gregg has blown it.

With the Cubs needing an effective closer as part of a mediocre bullpen, Gregg has blown his role and, maybe, his last chance at a save.