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Cubs, Marmol: No one better than the great Rivera

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Cubs, Marmol: No one better than the great Rivera

Sunday, Sept. 18, 2011
Posted: 3:57 p.m.

By PatrickMooney
CSNChicago.com CubsInsider Follow @CSNMooney
Carlos Marmol pulled the souvenir from a bag stashed in the back of his locker and yelled out: BAM!

Marmol proudly unfolded the white pinstripe jersey with the interlocking NY on the front. Inside No. 42 on the back, the great Mariano Rivera had written a personalized message in Spanish to the Cubs closer. Roughly translated, it read: God bless.

Marmol met his hero for the first time when the Yankees came to Wrigley Field in June. The autographed jersey will be framed this winter and hang somewhere in his house in the Dominican Republic.

Its another sign of the universal respect given to the 41-year-old man about to break the career record for saves.

He is simply the best, Marmol said. Every closer in the big leagues wants to follow Mariano. No doubt about it.

Rivera remained stuck on No. 601 which is tied with Trevor Hoffman for first all-time after not pitching in Sundays 3-0 loss to the Blue Jays in Toronto. Francisco Cordero began the day second on the active list with 323 saves. Thats the gap between Rivera and everyone else.

Rivera has been around long enough that hes the last player still wearing Jackie Robinsons number, which Major League Baseball retired in 1997. He brings grace and a quiet dignity to a job usually done by hyperactive players with mohawks.

As a young player, Alfonso Soriano had a locker next to Rivera in the Yankee clubhouse. Rivera was one of several veterans who looked after Soriano (which is why hes done the same with Starlin Castro in Chicago). The two would talk often.

Nothing negative, always positive, Soriano said. Hes got passion for the game, because you have to love (it) to be that good for so long. He believes in his pitch and what hes doing.

Rivera has been generous enough to teach Kerry Wood and others how to throw his devastating cutter. As a setup man for Rivera late last season, Wood could sense his presence, the calming influence over his teammates.

There was never any panic over there when the phone rang in the bullpen, Wood said when he returned to the Cubs this year. Everybody was real calm and Im sure Mariano has quite a bit to do with that.

Thats what Marmol is trying to remember during a difficult season in which hes converted only 34 of 43 save opportunities. Hes trying to regain the feel for his slider, his one almost unhittable pitch. He briefly lost his job and has been booed constantly at Wrigley Field.

Youre not perfect, Marmol said. Youre going to blow saves and youre going to go through a good stretch and youre going to have a bad one, too. (But) I understand the fans. Theyve been here a long time (without a) winner. Its tough.

The Yankees first scouted Rivera as a shortstop in Panama, where he once worked as a fisherman. For all his physical gifts it seems like Rivera has not aged at all in this high-stress job Marmol has noticed his mental edge.

The confidence that he has on the mound, Marmol said. You got to watch him.

Rivera has done it on an even bigger stage in New York, without being swallowed up by the citys tabloids.

Cubs manager Mike Quade listens to hard rock, but he cant stand the sound of Metallicas Enter Sandman, the ominous song that blasts through Yankee Stadium when Rivera jogs in from the bullpen.

Quade was an Oakland coach in 2000 and 2001, when Rivera saved five of the six games the Yankees won to eliminate the As from two playoff series. Thats where Rivera has cemented his reputation as a no-doubt, first-ballot Hall of Famer.

When the lights are brightest, Rivera has notched 42 saves and gone 8-1 with a 0.71 ERA in almost 140 postseason innings.

To put this career in perspective, a closer could string together 10 consecutive seasons of 30 saves and still be almost halfway to Riveras mark. Seventeen straight years of 35 saves would still leave him just short of 600.

Rivera has made around 130 million in his career, according to the salary database at Baseball-Reference.com. When you live on the margins of World Series title or total failure, a bulletproof closer is worth every penny.

As soon as Mariano came (in), wed say its game over, Soriano said, because 99 percent of the time we were going to win.

Thats why players become fans and ask Rivera for his autograph.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Cubs will be open for business as Theo Epstein weighs trading hitters for pitching

Cubs will be open for business as Theo Epstein weighs trading hitters for pitching

Theo Epstein answered questions from the Chicago media for more than an hour on Friday afternoon at Wrigley Field, but the most interesting part might have been what the Cubs president didn’t say, something along the lines of: These are our guys.

Or at least Epstein didn’t give the same full-throated endorsement of The Core that he delivered after engineering the Jose Quintana trade with the White Sox this summer, getting an All-Star pitcher without giving up anyone from the big-league roster.

Whether it’s the way the Los Angeles Dodgers dominated the Cubs throughout the National League Championship Series that ended Thursday night, the inconsistencies and frustrations during a 43-45 first half of this season or the reality of losing 40 percent of the rotation, you walked out of that stadium club press conference thinking big changes could be coming.

“We’re going to pursue all avenues to get better,” Epstein said.

The Cubs already understood this would be a challenging time to dramatically reshape their pitching staff, with Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, Big Boy John Lackey and All-Star closer Wade Davis about to become free agents.

The Cubs don’t really have many (any?) high-end, headliner prospects left to trade after borrowing heavily from their farm system to acquire Aroldis Chapman for last year’s World Series run and get Quintana to help solidify the rotation through 2020.

All of Major League Baseball is looking beyond this winter and preparing for the monster free-agent class that will hit the open market after the 2018 season.

Meaning it’s time for the Cubs to make some difficult decisions about all these young hitters they’ve collected.

“It may or may not be,” Epstein said. “Those choices, they’re not unilateral things. You can’t sit there and decide: ‘Hey, this guy, we’re moving him.’ Because you don’t know what the return might be. You don’t know how the different moving parts might fit together.

“I think going into the offseason prepared to make some tough choices and execute on them — and keeping an open mind to anything — is appropriate under the circumstances where we have some obvious deficits and we have some real surplus with talented players who are really desirable.”

Let’s assume All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo, MVP third baseman Kris Bryant and catcher Willson Contreras are essentially untouchable.

The Cubs used the ninth overall pick in the 2015 draft on Ian Happ with the explicit idea that the college hitter should be on a fast track and could be flipped for pitching later: Is it time to sell high after the rookie just put up 24 homers and an .842 OPS?

During an exit meeting with Albert Almora Jr., Epstein said he couldn’t promise an everyday job in 2018, though the expectation would be more responsibilities: Think anyone else would be interested in a potential Gold Glove center fielder who’s already playoff-tested?

Do you want Addison Russell or Javier Baez as your everyday shortstop for the next four years? Is there an American League team willing to bet big that Kyle Schwarber will crush 40 homers a year as a designated hitter?

The Cubs have to ask themselves those types of questions, which could mean getting outside of their comfort zone and taking on some riskier pitching investments and sapping the strength that has turned them into the dominant force in the NL Central.

“We’ve really benefitted from having two or three extra — and ‘extra’ in quotes because they’re not really extra — starting-caliber players on the roster,” Epstein said. “That helped us win 97 games in ’15, 103 last year, 92 this year. That’s as big a part of the club as anything.

“Having an Addison Russell go down and being able to move Javy Baez to shortstop — that’s an obvious example of it. But those things show up every week for us. There’s a day where someone can’t make the lineup and someone else slides in and you’re still starting eight quality guys. That’s huge.

“Sooner or later, you reach a point where you have to strongly consider sacrificing some of that depth to address needs elsewhere on the club. There’s no sort of deadline to do that. But I think we’re entering the phase where we have to be really open-minded to that if it makes the overall outlook of the team and organization better.”

Translation: The Cubs are open for business. Make your best offer.

Cubs Talk Podcast: 2017 season obituary and previewing an interesting winter for Cubs

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: 2017 season obituary and previewing an interesting winter for Cubs

In the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, Kelly Crull, Patrick Mooney and Tony Andracki close the book on the 2017 season following Theo Epstein’s press conference, looking back at what will go down as the craziest calendar year in Cubs history from last November through the team’s loss in the NLCS this October.

Moving forward, where do guys like Kyle Schwarber, Albert Almora Jr., Justin Wilson and Mike Montgomery fit? Will the Cubs re-sign Wade Davis or go after another proven closer? And how worried should fans be about the offense that completely disappeared in the postseason?

Take a listen below: