There is only one person to blame for the closer situation and that person is Jim Hendry. He was the mastermind (pun intended) who put the Cubs into the situation.
I want to say that up until now I have given Hendry the benefit of the doubt in putting the team together and adding pieces. I have defended him because I felt the team had underperformed to their ability this year. But fault on the closer situation falls clearly on Jim Hendry's shoulders.
The first mistake was letting Kerry Wood walk. The reason they gave for letting him walk was that he could get more in the free agent market then the Cubs could offer him.
Kerry Wood stated he wanted to return to the Cubs and would play for a discount. The Cubs still showed Kerry Wood the door.
That led to the second mistake. By letting Kerry Wood walk you leave the closer situation open. The closer role is one of the most crucial spots on the team. Most relievers can not handle pitching in the 9th inning.
Letting your established closer walk for an unknown person at the time is a huge gamble and the Cubs lost in the end.
The next mistake was not naming Marmol the closer after letting Wood walk.
Marmol was easily one of the top relief pitchers in all of baseball last season. Marmol easily earned the spot if they were going to let Wood walk. The Cubs management should have showed they had confidence in Marmol and named him closer.
I know some of you will point out Marmol's struggle as a closer in the situations he was in this year. But keep in mind that I am suggesting that he should have been named the closer in October/November of last year.
The Cubs should have rewarded the kid and shown confidence in him from the start.
Instead of naming Marmol the closer, the Cubs traded for Marlins closer Kevin Gregg. The same Kevin Gregg who had the most blown saves in the National League while playing in a hitters park in Florida.
What did Jim Hendry think he was getting when he picked Gregg up? He had nine blown saves and 29 saves. He blew one out of every four opportunities.
Yet Hendry thought that Gregg would be a nice replacement for Kerry Wood?
The Cubs then announced there would be a "closer competition." For anybody to actually believe there was a real competition is a complete fool.
The competition meant that Kevin Gregg was the closer unless he managed to implode and lose it himself.
Does anybody really believe that the Cubs would trade for a closer and not give the guy the job?
The truth is the Cubs could not afford to make Marmol the closer because he was the only pitcher in the Cubs bullpen that could actually get out of a jam. By taking Marmol out of that spot the bullpen, a lot of games would never get to the 9th with a lead.
There was no closer competition. It was all smoke and mirrors by Cubs Management.
The blame clearly is on Jim Hendry.
How do you let your established closer leave when he is offering to stay at a discount?
How do you not name one of the best relievers in baseball who is already on your team the clear closer?
How do you trade for the NL leader in blown saves the previous year and essentially pencil him in as the closer?
Hendry is the one who has to answer all these questions.