The Chicago Cubs spent $146,859,000 on their 2010 payroll, which works out to an average of $5,439,222 per player and is good for third in all of Major League Baseball. Only the Evil Empires—the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox—shelled out more scratch for their squads.
Only the Bronx Bombers are paying more per victory.
They boast Marlon Byrd, Ryan Dempster, Kosuke Fukudome, Derrek Lee, Ted Lilly, Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Silva, Alfonso Soriano, Geovany Soto, and Carlos Zambrano. Each player mentioned is a current or former All-Star with the exception of Silva.
Each player on that list also makes eight figures with the exceptions of Byrd, who is the lone 2010 All-Star, and Soto.
Finally, they have one of the game's best managers (allegedly) at the helm in Lou Piniella.
Nevertheless, the Cubbies are nine games under .500 (41-50), nine games behind the first-place Cincinnati Reds, 8.5 games behind the second-place St. Louis Cardinals, and struggling in the National League Central—not exactly a juggernaut division.
They're also nine games off the NL Wild Card pace with a half-dozen teams jockeying for position better than Chicago's.
It's true that injuries and insanity have derailed the club, but similar concerns have befallen organizations with a lot less money/talent and they've managed to stay the course.
Shoot, the Sawks have seen their regular second baseman, catcher, center fielder, left fielder, Opening Day starter, and No. 3 hurler hit the shelf for extended periods. Boston did spend about $16 million extra on payroll, but don't tell me that explains the competitive disparity. (The Red Sox own a 51-39 record in the Show's toughest division.)
Given the mediocrity of the NL Central, there is still time for the Not-So-Lovable Losers to right the water-logged ship and they've come out of the All-Star break on a two-game winning streak, so there's hope.
The Cubs' 2010 epithet isn't carved in stone yet.
That caveat notwithstanding, the North Siders have to be one of baseball's biggest disappointments to date (along with the Seattle Mariners).
But don't for one second blame the Cubbies' closer, the scintillating Carlos Marmol.
In fact, the season Marmol is cobbling together is almost reason enough to root for his spend-and-burn franchise. After all, if he were saving truly meaningful games, his remarkable campaign would be far more celebrated.
Actually, if Chicago could simply climb to the fringe of contention, the 27-year-old would be getting his just deserts considering the national audience the organization commands.
At the moment, though, it's flying criminally low on the radar.
As one of his supremely satisfied fantasy owners, I've been watching this absurdity unfurl itself and it's been quite an eyeful. Check the numbers before play starts today—17 SV, 20 SVOpp, 81 K, 28 BB, a 2.11 ERA, a 1.20 WHIP, a .153 BAA, a .306 OBPA, a .207 SLGA, and a .513 OPSA in 42 2/3 IP covering 42 G.
The WHIP and on-base-percentage-against aren't all that dazzling because of the Dominican's propensity to get a wild hair up his nose, but the rest are outstanding. The low batting-average-against and minuscule slugging-percentage-against suggest Marmol is as unhittable as he looks.
As of Chicago's 91st game, only the immortal Jeff Clement has taken the closer deep in 2010.
Sounds about right.
Of course, everything else pales when compared to those lovely, lovely strikeouts.
I'll handle the math (or the navigation to his baseball-reference.com page)—81 whiffs in a shade over 42 frames equates to a 17.1 K/9.
Let that sink in.
If the filth merchant dusts a tenth of a batter more per three outs, he'll be striking out opposing lumber at the rate of two hitters per inning.
The last human we saw do that was 14 and he was playing against 12-year-olds.
Carlos Marmol is doing it against professional hitters.
Like I said, the feat should make us all Chicago Cub fans if only to get Carlos some love.
Because in this Year of the Pitcher, he's been one of the best.
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