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Posts Tagged ‘Carlos Marmol’

Zambrano Rips Cubs After Loss…This Time He’s Absolutely Right

Posted by sportsmaven on June 5, 2011

After the Chicago Cubs crafted yet another come from ahead loss to long time nemesis the St. Louis Cardinals, Carlos Zambrano could hold back no longer. Moments after Albert Pujols launched his second of back to back walk off homers to beat the Cubs on consecutive days, Zambrano took a minute comment on the Cubs morbid play and this time he couldn’t be more spot on with his commentary. In his post-game comments following Sunday’s 3-2 loss, Zambrano pulled no punches when asked what he thought of the outcome, as reported by Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune:

“The problem wasn’t Pujols,” Zambrano said in a loud voice, glancing toward Marmol’s locker as he spoke. “The problem was (Marmol’s slider to Theriot).

“We should know better than this. We play like a Triple-A team. This is embarrassing. Embarrassing for the team and the owners. Embarrassing for the fans. Embarrassed — that’s the word for this team.

“We should know better than what we (did) on the field. We should know that Ryan Theriot is not a good fastball hitter. We should know that as a team. We should play better here. We stink. That’s all I’ve got to say.”

The unfortunate part of what is quickly becoming a lost season for the Cubs, Big Z seems to be the only one in the Cubs organization who is not only openly honest in how the team is currently playing, but also seems to be the only one with any sense of holding anyone accountable for poor play as of late. No, the problem wasn’t WHAT Big Z said, the problem was that he was THE ONLY ONE that stepped up to say it. Past history aside, maybe Zambrano should be questioned for being the bearer of this on the mark comment, as his past comments haven’t been sparkling to say the least. But Sullivan’s comment of Zambrano throwing Cubs closer Carlos Marmol under the bus? C’mon, this needed to be said. If not by Cubs owner Tom Ricketts, then certainly by manager Mike Quade, who is the orchestrator of the latest incarnation of the debacle known as the Chicago Cubs and is quickly losing the faith and support of the dwindling Cubs fan base.

The best thing to happen to Tom Ricketts, Mike Quade and their Cubs team was the long playoff run by the Chicago Bulls, which took all the pressure and focus off of a wobbly and challenging early season of marginal play by a team with a severe identity crisis. Unfortunately, the timing couldn’t have been worse for the Cubs, as the focus has shifted from the wildly successful Bulls season that ended prematurely, directly to a team that is in it’s worst performing stretch of play thus far this season.

And unfortunately for Mike Quade, direct comparisons with Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau will now start, as Quade seems to hold what appears to be a diametrically opposite coaching/managing philosophy to Thibodeau, who is notoriously known for holding his players accountable. Just ask Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah about accountability.

Another unfortunate situation for Quade is sharing the Chicago baseball spotlight with White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen who would, as Sullivan eloquently states, never allow another player to throw a teammate under the bus because that’s his job to do as Sox manager.

Being a player’s manager in and of itself is not a bad thing. The other thing that Tom Thibodeau is known for is being a players coach and he seems to be skillfully adept at managing that along with player accountability. What I wanted to hear from Quade today would be something to the effect of:

“We didn’t get the job done again today. We had the book on Ryan Theriot, went away from what we knew best and it burned us. We also had an opportunity to change our approach from yesterday and we didn’t do that and it cost us the game. This is an unacceptable performance today and in this series from the manager down to the 25th guy on the roster and we need to change this immediately in order to get better.”

Instead, according to Paul Sullivan, Quade chose to say this:

Manager Mike Quade, who watched Pujols beat his team in extra innings for the second straight day, said he would let his players “deal with” Zambrano’s critique.

“I don’t know exactly what that means,” Quade said of the “Triple-A” comment. “We had a chance to win a ballgame 2-1, and we didn’t get it done. The people that picked him up were not Triple-A caliber, (Sean Marshall) and Marmol.”

Marmol has blown saves in Zambrano’s last two starts. Quade said he had no problem with Marmol throwing a slider to Theriot with a 2-2 count and the tying run on first.

“He got ahead with his fastball,” Quade said. “Right now, I could care less. Those are the things you go back and look at tomorrow.

“Marmol throws a slider. Everybody is always (ticked) when he gets beat with his fastball. I’m just (ticked) when we get beat. ‘Z’ pitched good. That’s all I know.”

Sounds like shades of ex-Chicago Bulls interim head coach Jim Boylan, who in 2008, had an incident with then-rookie Joakim Noah, who yelled at assistant coach Ron Adams when Adams was riding Noah particularly hard in practice. In a still stunning move, Boylan allowed Bulls veterans Adrian Griffin and Ben Wallace to add 2 additional games to the one game suspension Boylan had already doled out to Noah for the yelling incident. Yes, let’s let the players police themselves and deal with the critique. Good idea.

Of course Quade’s “players rule” mantra ultimately starts at the top with Cubs owner Tom Ricketts, who had a chance to inject some upfront honesty when asked by the Chicago sports media this week to assess how his team has performed thus far this season:

“When asked earlier today what was wrong with his 23-30 team (now 23-34 after the Cardinals weekend sweep) on the verge of being swept by the “worst” team in the National League (the Houston Astros), Ricketts said simply: “Nothing. Just a lot of injuries. We’ll be fine.'”

Of course if you believe that a team that has the longest current losing streak in MLB at 6 in a row, a team that has yet to win 3 games in a row all season, a team with a 23-34 record good for 5th place, has 7 players on the disabled list, the worst pitching in the NL, second worst fielding in the NL, a team that has taken the fewest walks in the league while giving up the most walks in the league is “fine”, then you have drunk the Kool-Aid the Ricketts have served along with the improved “Wrigley Experience”.

As famed Clinton political strategist James Carville would say if asked about the state of the Chicago Cubs, “It’s all about winning, stupid!” and the Cubs aren’t doing a lot of that along with not enough honest looking into the mirror either. Good for you, Big Z, wish your management would have beat you to the punch on that one though.

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Chicago Cubs Begin Their Struggling Season

Posted by sportsmaven on May 1, 2009

In comparison to 2008, the 2009 season has been brutally unkind to the Chicago Cubs.  From top to bottom of the organization, from the ballpark workers to the fans, the fuzzy lovefest that was 2008 has been replaced by a season that has all the markings of struggle written all over the brown, yet to grow ivy outfield walls.

(AP Photo/Kyle Ericson)

(AP Photo/Kyle Ericson)

The Cubs struggles seem to be set in motion during a devastating post season playoff series against the Los Angeles Dodgers to close out what was then developing into a magical season of 2008.  As dominant as the Cubs were in winning 97 games in 2008, they were equally as feeble once the playoffs began.  The Dodgers sucked the life out of the Cubs, exposing every weakness and shutting down the most powerful NL lineup and battering around the league’s #3 pitching staff in a NLDS sweep.

In the off season, Cubs GM Jim Hendry, tried in earnest to make his team more flexible for manager Lou Piniella.  What he did was inadvertently neutered his two-time division championship team, cutting them off at the knees.  Like a mad scientist, Hendry first moved to clear his entire bullpen, short of his All-Star setup man, RHP Carlos Marmol.  Included in that purge was All-Star closer RHP Kerry Wood, who finally found a successful niche as a power closer.  Not that he didn’t need to purge most of that bullpen, but it’s unclear to me as I watch the Cubs struggle, why Wood, the heart and soul of the Cubs team and the most tenured of all Cubs players, leader on and off the field, was allowed to depart. Essentially, Hendry traded Wood for former Florida Marlins closer, RHP Kevin Gregg, a one-sided trade then, and even more magnified in view of this horrible start.

The other perplexing move was trading 2B Mark DeRosa to the Cleveland Indians, replacing him with free-agent RF Milton Bradley.  All Bradley has done since signing a 3-year, $30M contract is injure his hamstring, get kicked out of his first game at Wrigley Field, bump an umpire while arguing, earning himself a 2-game suspension, which he appeals, all while needing to sit out at least 16 games due to that injury, incidentially, while not being added to the disabled list.

This is the type of flexibility that Hendry and Piniella wanted?  A further highlight about how “flexible” the 2009 Cubs roster is, C Geovanny Soto injures his throwing shoulder and has to sit out a few games to re-evaluate the injury.  While Soto is out, reserve C Koyie Hill filled in very capably, but because the Cubs don’t put Soto on the 15-day DL, they are forced to list 2B Aaron Miles and others as the backup catcher.

3B Aramis Ramirez has missed the last 11 games due to a calf injury, but the Cubs choose not to add him to the 15-day disabled list, instead forcing an out of position 2B Mike Fontenot to play third.  In last night’s game, when Piniella needed to pinch-hit for the left-handed hitting Fontenot, he needed to employ Hill to finish out the game at 3rd base!  Recently, 1B Derrek Lee missed time with a strained neck.  1B/OF Micah Hoffpauir covered Lee at 1B, pushing RHP Carlos Zambrano into the lefty pinch hitting role.  Some flexibility.  This is the flexibility that results in 14 errors and many other misplays from players playing out of position.

Not to mention the current mess the pitching staff is in right now, started by the shoddy bullpen performance out of the gate and now spreading to the once very promising performance of the starting rotation.  The Cubs bullpen mess begins with the release of  RHP Chad Gaudin a trade-off engineered to essentially keep Rule 5 RHP David Patton and  RHP Angel Guzman, a player who is out of minor league options.  Patton’s been regulary pounded, the highlight, giving up a grand slam to St. Louis Cardinals 1B Albert Pujols in a recent 8-2 loss to the Cardinals last Saturday.  LHP Neal Cotts not only hasn’t been able to get anybody out, he has been a bases on balls machine, walking 6 batters in 5 innings.  The bullpen picture became even more muddled when Hendry was forced to release RHP Luis Vizcaino and his $3M contract (Vizcaino was picked up in a off-season trade with the Colorado Rockies for RHP Jason Marquis) to bring up power RHP Jeff Samardzjia, who probably should have been in the bullpen in the first place.  With both Marmol and Gregg struggling, RHP Aaron Heilman has been exposed and has been used too frequently, resulting in a bullpen that can’t be trusted to get anyone out at this point, much less protect any sort of a lead.

So after 21 games, what do we make of this Cubs team?  Apparently, the early showing is that the Cubs are a team that still appear to suffer from the hangover of last season’s crushing playoff sweep.  They also can’t stay healthy.  They are also a team that can’t hit, field, or pitch.  This is a team built to struggle, and struggle they will, and I predict, for the entire season.  This Cubs team might not have to worry about a 3rd straight playoff disappointment.

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What’s Wrong With Carlos Marmol?

Posted by sportsmaven on July 13, 2008

Sitting in the left field bleachers for today’s Cubs game against the San Francisco Giants, I, along with 41,554 other people, am wondering what exactly is wrong with Carlos Marmol? After witnessing Marmol completely implode (with a little help from Cubs SS Ryan Theriot) the enormously feeble Giants offense completely exploded for 5 runs in the 9th inning of this afternoon’s game.  Five runs is a good week for the Giants lately, so pardon my utter shock when Marmol made the Giants lineup look like the 1929 Yankees.

Marmol clearly didn’t have it today and the Giants knew it.  For the last 3 weeks, Marmol has been unable to get his slider consistently over the plate for strikes.  Because of that, fewer batters are swinging at his slider, preferring to sit on his fastball, which he’s also struggled to locate.  Up until 3 weeks ago, Marmol was garnering considerable attention from the national media labeling him as possibly the best pitcher in baseball this season, but his stuff has all of a sudden become hittable, his ERA bloating from 1.93 to 4.13 after today’s appearance.

At one point in the 9th inning, Cubs trainer Mark O’Neal came out to the mound to inquire about a potential injury.  After a couple of supervised practice pitches, Marmol shook everyone off and proceeded back onto the mound to continue his disasterous performance.  I don’t entirely blame Marmol for his horrific outing afternoon.  Cubs manager Lou Piniella left Marmol in 4 batters too long in this game, most likely due to the unavailability of closer Kerry Wood for today’s game.  A manager’s first responsibility in this situation is to secure the victory and Piniella seemed to be willing to let Marmol try to put out the fire he created, in hindsight, not the wisest of moves.  ESPN had a great quote on their website today, highlighting the recent struggle of Marmol describing an outing in Tampa Bay a couple of weeks ago against the Rays:

Another hitless wonder dept.: Cubs reliever Carlos Marmol, June 19 vs. Tampa Bay: 0 IP, 0 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 0 K, 2 HBP.

Marmol’s claim to fame: Marmol has been unhittable all year, but a lot of good it did him in this game. He was the first pitcher in the past 53 seasons to give up no hits and only two walks in a game, but still allow four earned runs — thanks to a Carl Crawford grand slam on the second pitch after Marmol departed, off a reliever (Scott Eyre) who hadn’t allowed a home run in more than a year.

So Cub fans ask as we wander out of Wrigley this afternoon with a huge sigh of relief, “What exactly is wrong with Carlos Marmol?”  You can believe that Cubs GM Jim Hendry, Piniella, and pitching coach Larry Rothschild are wondering the exact same thing.  With the All Star break next week and two more weeks after that until the trade deadline, Hendry is in a peculiar position.  He has watched his vaunted bullpen, considered a team strength, barf up a few leads in the past couple of weeks.  The stuggles of P Michael Wuertz, his demotion to AAA Iowa yesterday, the callup of P Kevin Hart, and Hart’s ieffectiveness in giving up 2 runs this afternoon is a tell tale sign.  Adding to the concern is the inconsistency of Neal Cotts, Bobby Howry getting hit harder than normal, and the yet to be defined role of Sean Marshall.  Does Hendry need to make a trade for some consistent bullpen help?  My senses tell me that’s the new hot item on Hendry’s list, although I would still love to see a Brian Roberts trade as the cherry on top of this stud Cubs lineup.

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Top 5 Moves To Improve The Chicago Cubs

Posted by sportsmaven on May 2, 2008

After yesterday’s tough to swallow loss to the Milwaukee Brewers, the Chicago Cubs sit 1/2 game behind the St. Louis Cardinals after setting a team record for wins in April (17 wins).   The Cubs offense has been way ahead of their pitching with the exception of Carlos Zambrano, Jon Lieber, Ryan Dempster, and Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Theriot in the leadoff spot and both performed very well in that role.  The Cubs surged to the top of the league in virtually all offensive categories in Soriano’s absence.  Both Johnson and Theriot bring a fiery presence to the top of the order.  The Cubs would be unbelievably formidable in the middle of their order with Soriano batting in the 5th or 6th spot. The Cubs should make this move immediately.

2.  Send LHP Rich Hill to Iowa, move RHP Jon Lieber into the rotation – Rich Hill has been a disaster this season, with tonight’s start the latest gaffe.  Hill’s inability to consistently find the strike zone with any pitch has taxed the Cubs bullpen.  Tonight’s 2/3 of an inning, 27 pitch outing where he walked 4 of the first 6 batters he faced has literally handcuffed Manager Lou Piniella for tonight’s game and possibly for the rest of a very key series against the Cardinals.  Hill needs to work out whatever issues he has in AAA and come back ready to pitch every time out.

3.  Send Of Felix Pie to Iowa and install Reed Johnson as the starting CF – Felix Pie is struggling big time against major league pitching.  He looks clueless at the plate and is hitting just above .200.  Pie needs playing time and not in Chicago.  Reed Johnson was one of the best spring training pickups of the season for the Cubs and provides exactly what the Cubs need – a gritty, hard nosed, all out effort performance every game he plays.

4.  Move Carlos Marmol to the closer role, Kerry Wood to long relief or setup – need I say more after yesterday’s game?  Wood has almost as many blown saves (3) as saves converted (4).  I love Kerry Wood, he is a competitor, a gamer, never complains, takes the ball in any situation.  He’s a man, but not a closer when you have Carlos Marmol and his repetoire of nasty stuff on your roster.  Marmol has been virtually unhittable this season.  He has come into games this season in pressure packed situations and has been completely dominant.  Give this guy the 9th inning and we have at least 3 more wins this season (and 3 less losses).

5.  Continue hydrating Carlos Zambrano – or continue limiting/restricting his caffeine intake.  Whatever the Cubs are doing to keep Carlos Zambrano healthy, focused and dedicated, continue to do it.  Zambrano has been fantastic this season, a true top of the rotation starter since Opening Day.  He’s 4-1 with a 2.11 ERA this season, by far, his best start to a season.  He would have been 5-1 but for yesterday’s 9th inning implosion.  Zambrano needs to have a big year for the Cubs to dominate.  He is well on his way going into May.

This Cubs started the 2008 season virtually the way they wanted to start, with a 17-10 record in April.  Their early season success (and at times, dominant play) have raised expectations even further for the remainder of the season.  With these suggested moves, the Cubs can position themselves to continue their hot start into the meat of their season.

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