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Closing time: Another meltdown for Marmol in STL

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Closing time: Another meltdown for Marmol in STL

Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011Posted: 5:00 p.m. Updated: 6:15 p.m.

By PatrickMooney
CSNChicago.com CubsInsider Follow @CSNMooney
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WATCH: Marmol comments on his blown save
WATCH: Lopez sums up his season after his final start

ST. LOUIS It made you wonder if Carlos Zambrano was watching at home, chilling on the couch and talking at the screen, mumbling some version of I told you so.

In a season full of rock-bottom moments, one of the most memorable came here inside the visiting clubhouse at Busch Stadium. Zambrano looked around the room, glanced over at Carlos Marmols locker and delivered his classic We stinks rant.

Zambrano called this a Triple-A team on June 5 after Marmol blew the save. Zambrano will almost certainly never throw another pitch for the Cubs. And at this point, theres only so much they can get worked up over with four days left in the season.

But the next general manager will have to reassess the closer situation in 2012.

Again, Marmol couldnt preserve a one-run lead and finish off the Cardinals in the ninth inning. With a 2-1 comeback victory on Saturday combined with Atlantas loss in Washington St. Louis (87-71) kept its flickering hopes for a wild card alive, two games back with four to play.

When Jim Hendry rewarded Marmol with a three-year, 20 million deal at the start of spring training, the Cubs (70-88) thought they were getting someone whod be a foundation piece on a contender.

No one else in the majors has blown more saves than Marmol (10). The 28-year-old closer has the worst save percentage in the National League (34-for-44; 77 percent).

It goes back to stuff weve talked about all year mechanics, manager Mike Quade said. (He) just wasnt consistent with (the fastball) or his slider. Its a tough nut when youre trying to protect a one-run lead and youre struggling with both pitches.

We need to get it straightened out. All we need to do is get him back to where he was the last few years. And he will.

This one unraveled quickly. Marmol got two outs before loading the bases for Ryan Theriot, a hitter so undisciplined that Lou Piniella used to joke about how he would go from the Kentucky Derby to the Belmont without a walk in between (and hope the Cubs wouldnt have to wait until the Arlington Million before the next one).

Remember how Zambrano called out Marmols pitch selection last time? (We should know that Ryan Theriot is not a good fastball hitter.) The ex-Cub didnt swing once during a six-pitch at-bat, forcing in the tying run when Marmol walked the third consecutive batter.

Moments later, Marmol uncorked a wild pitch, and it was game over.

I know theyre taking a lot of pitches, Marmol said. All I have to do is throw strikes.

It ruined six shutout innings from Rodrigo Lopez, an emergency starter who began the year pitching for Atlantas Triple-A affiliate and finishes it with a 6-6 record and a 4.42 ERA.

The 35-year-old right-hander, whos about to become a free agent, took several pictures before Wednesdays final home game at Wrigley Field, so he can show his grandkids that he played there.

We have to wait until we have a new general manager, Lopez said. If it was (up to) me, it would be 100 percent coming back here. (But) right now I guess everythings up in the air.

The same goes for almost every player on this roster.

The next head of baseball operations could look at Andrew Cashner and Jeff Samardzija and figure they have the stuff to close. Sean Marshall and Kerry Wood have done the job before. Marmol will have to impress the new boss.

I dont like the year that I had, Marmol said. Hopefully, next years a better year.

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

The most underrated storyline of the Cubs offseason

The most underrated storyline of the Cubs offseason

There are plenty of intriguing Cubs storylines to monitor this offseason from their potential pursuit of the big free agents to any other changes that may come to the coaching staff or roster after a disappointing finish to the 2018 campaign.

But there's one question simmering under the radar in Cubs circles when it comes to this winter: How will the team solve the shortstop conundrum?

Just a few years ago, the Cubs had "too many" shortstops. Now, there are several different factors at play here that makes it a convoluted mess.

First: What will the Cubs do with Addison Russell? The embattled shortstop is in the midst of a suspension for domestic violence that will keep him off an MLB diamond for at least the first month of 2019.

Has Russell already played his last game with the Cubs? Will they trade him or send him packing in any other fashion this winter?

Theo Epstein mentioned several times he felt the organization needs to show support to the victim in the matter (Russell's ex-wife, Melisa) but also support for Russell. Does that mean they would keep him a part of the team at least through the early part of 2019?

Either way, Russell's days in Chicago are numbered and his play on the field took another big step back in 2018 as he fought through a hand injury and experienced a major dip in power. With his performance on the field and the off-field issues, it will be hard to justify a contract worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 million in his second year of arbitration (prorated, with a month's worth of pay taken out for the suspension).

Even if Russell is on the roster in 2019, Javy Baez is unquestionably the shortstop for at least the first month while Russell is on suspension. 

But what about beyond Baez if the Cubs want to give him a breather or disaster strikes and he's forced to miss time with an injury?

At the moment, there's nothing but question marks on the current Cubs shortstop depth chart throughout the entire organization and they're certainly going to need other options at the most important defensive position (outside of pitcher/catcher). 

There's David Bote, who subbed in for Baez at short once in September when Baez needed a break and Russell was on the disabled list. But while Bote's defense at third base and second base has opened eyes around the Cubs, he has only played 45 games at short across seven minor-league seasons, including 15 games in 2018. There's also the offensive question marks with the rookie, who hit just .176 with a .559 OPS and 40 strikeouts in 108 at-bats after that epic ultimate grand slam on Aug. 12.

The Cubs' other current shortstop options include Mike Freeman (a 31-year-old career minor-leaguer), Ben Zobrist (who will be 38 in 2019 and has played all of 13 innings at shortstop since 2014), Ryan Court (a 30-year-old career minor leaguer) and Chesny Young (a 26-year-old minor-leaguer who has posted a .616 OPS in 201 Triple-A games).

Maybe Joe Maddon would actually deploy Kris Bryant at shortstop in case of emergency like a Baez injury ("necessity is the mother of invention," as Maddon loves to say), but that seems a lot more like a fun talking point than a legit option at this current juncture.

So even if Russell sticks around, there's no way the Cubs can go into the first month of the season with just Baez and Bote as the only shortstop options on a team that with World Series or bust expectations.

The Cubs will need to acquire some shortstop depth this winter in some capacity, whether it's adding to the Triple-A Iowa roster or getting a veteran who can also back up other positions. Right now, the free agent pool of potential shortstops is pretty slim beyond Manny Machado.

Epstein always says he and his front office look to try to mitigate risk and analyze where things could go wrong to sink the Cubs' season and through that lense, shortstop is suddenly right up there behind adding more bullpen help this winter.

Podcast: In light of recent hitting coach turmoil, who’s to blame for Cubs offensive struggles?

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USA TODAY

Podcast: In light of recent hitting coach turmoil, who’s to blame for Cubs offensive struggles?

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, David Kaplan, Kelly Crull, Luke Stuckmeyer and Tony Andracki discuss the comments Chili Davis made after being fired as Cubs hitting coach, ask if the Cubs struggles on offense were Davis' fault or the players and what Anthony Iapoce will be walking into as he tries to gets the team back on track a the plate.

 

Listen to the entire podcast here, or in the embedded player below: