Cubs

Marmol says he deserves the boos, and will take the heat

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Marmol says he deserves the boos, and will take the heat

When things go wrong, Carlos Marmol doesnt hide. The Cubs closer posts up at his locker and is willing to take the heat.

By now, Marmol knows the expectations around here, how much the fans want him to get the job done. So his reaction to all the booing at Wrigley Field is about what youd expect.

I deserve it all, Marmol said. Its OK.

The media pretty much left Marmol alone after Wednesdays 5-1 loss to the Cardinals. He had pitched a scoreless ninth inning, but thats not really a story.

Marmol can be an afterthought when the Cubs dont score runs and their rotation flickers in and out. The night before, Matt Holliday had muscled a 2-2 slider over the wall in left-center.

Marmol had waited 16 days for a save opportunity. Holliday a man with a World Series ring and a 120 million contract ruined it with a go-ahead, two-out, two-run homer in the eighth inning.

I say it every time the games not easy, Marmol said. Anybody who thinks that game is easy is wrong.

That was essentially Dale Sveums takeaway, giving credit to Holliday, and not setting off any warning flares about Marmol, who has held the opponent scoreless in six of his last seven appearances.

The players respect that the Cubs manager appreciates how hard this game can be, and it will provide cover during a rebuilding year.

Its not that easy to always get a one-run save, Sveum said. The other guys on the other side of the fence are paid a lot of money to hit home runs. Sometimes they catch one. Other nights, its the same exact pitch and its a pop-up to the infield.

So theres no closer controversy here. Sveum gave Marmol the vote of confidence, but in the ninth inning theres really nowhere else to turn. Theres no timetable for Kerry Woods return from the disabled list.

Sean Marshall is closing for Dusty Baker in Cincinnati. Andrew Cashner is throwing 100 mph heat for San Diego. Jeff Samardzija got what he wanted, the chance to show he belongs in the rotation.

Lets be honest, weve taken away from the bullpen, Theo Epstein said near the end of spring training. Thats a huge void. Thats a good bullpen right there, just with those guys weve taken away.

Across the past six months, Epsteins front office has already stripped apart the bullpen, waved goodbye to Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena, and paid roughly 20 million to get rid of Carlos Zambrano and Marlon Byrd.

A closer whos owed almost 6.2 million for the rest of this season, and 9.8 million next season, could be considered a luxury item for a team thats in rebuilding mode.

Either way, the Cubs are looking toward the future, which is why theyre carrying Rule 5 pick Lendy Castillo, and hoping for breakthroughs from Rafael Dolis, James Russell and Michael Bowden out of the bullpen.

We knew coming in that was going to be an issue for us to address, Epstein said. To be honest with you, most clubs address it all year long. So whatever seven guys out of the pen we start the season withthats not necessarily the final answer.

Lets be realistic, theres going to be tweaking and adjusting based on performance and health and attrition throughout the course of a whole season. Its a challenge for us, given what weve taken out of the bullpen, but its also an opportunity.

Were going to be pretty young (and) inexperienced. Its a chance for some guys to develop over the course of this season.

They wont want to copy Marmols off-the-wall mechanics, but they could learn something from a guy with a short memory whos taken the ball 400 times for the Cubs.

I dont make excuses, Marmol said. Whatever you got, you give it that day.

A messy night at Wrigley Field ends without a pitch being thrown

A messy night at Wrigley Field ends without a pitch being thrown

The NLCS rematch will have to wait another day.

Mother Nature and the power at Wrigley Field care not for your excitement about a "big series" between the Cubs and Dodgers.

Thunderstorms rolled over the North Side of Chicago, where the Dodgers ended the Cubs' postseason run 8 months ago. 

On top of that, the power at Wrigley Field was not cooperating with the lights down the right field line going out for hours during the rain delay. 

The lights came back on at one point before again going out again roughly a half hour before Monday night's game was officially called. After a delay stretching almost three hours, word finally filtered out just before 10 p.m. the game would be postponed a day.

The Cubs and Dodgers will make the game up as part of a day-night doubleheader Tuesday at Wrigley Field with the first game starting at 12:05 p.m. and the second at the regularly scheduled time of 7:05 p.m. Tyler Chatwood will start the first game for the Cubs with Mike Montgomery slated to go Game 2.

As of 10 p.m. Monday night, the Cubs were unsure what caused the power issue at Wrigley Field but were working on fixing the problem ahead of Tuesday's scheduled doubleheader.

The evening started with the tarp being rolled onto the field by the Cubs grounds crew roughly an hour before scheduled first pitch with a forecast calling for a 100 percent chance of rain.

Only a light rain fell until a downpour began around 8:15 p.m.:

That lasted only about a half hour before the grounds crew came back out around 8:45 p.m. to partially remove the tarp and attempt to get the field ready to play.

The only issue at that point was the light and a sinister forecast.

"It takes 45 minutes to get the field ready to play," said Julian Green, Cubs director of communications. "So once you take that tarp off, you saw them putting the chalk lines down, getting ready.

"We wanted to be ready — even in the face of rain — if the lights came back on, we wanted to make sure we could play baseball, even if it was a limited window of opportunity."

As of 11 p.m., that second bout of rain had yet to materialize, but the lights issue also wasn't corrected and play on the field would've been impossible.

Fans lingered throughout the stadium for nearly three hours before an official conclusion came down. The Cubs kept the same announcement on the right field video board about the weather delay while the left field video board displayed the Brewers-Pirates and other MLB games.

This is the only trip to Chicago the Dodgers make throughout the 2018 season so the two teams and Major League Baseball did all they could to try to get a game in and avoid any issue where these two teams would have to play on a mutual off-day later in the year. 

The Cubs were in the midst of a stretch of 17 games in 17 days without a day off. They're still on that same schedule, though now with an unexpected day off Monday and a doubleheader Tuesday.

The Cubs are no stranger to postponements this season as wacky weather has continued to hamper this MLB season.

"Not only for the Chicago Cubs, but Chicago in general, this has been a really interesting spring and summer season," Green said. "We're taking our licks just like everybody else is.

"Our plan is to play baseball tomorrow and make sure we can accomodate fans as best as possible. So fans who have tickets to tonight's game will be able to use them for tomorrow."

How the Cubs are trying to help Kris Bryant out of his slump

How the Cubs are trying to help Kris Bryant out of his slump

Whatever Kris Bryant does from here, it's just frosting on the cake that is his legacy.

That's one way to look at the lasting impact of a guy like Bryant, who morphed from "The Chosen One" as the No. 2 overall pick. He's lived up to the hype from Day 1, has a Rookie of the Year and NL MVP Award in his trophy case and — most importantly of all — led the Cubs to their first World Series championship in 108 years.

A slump in May and June of 2018 won't tarnish that legacy.

But you can also forgive Cubs fans if they're growing a little antsy with their stud player. 

Just rest easy that he's growing a little antsy, too.

After chronicling his "temper tantrums" and actually admitting he gets so angry he is prone to breaking bats in frustration (still find that really hard to believe) last week, Bryant still isn't quite over his slump.

Maybe he's just simply trying to do too much right now.

"Kris is fine," Jon Lester said. "I mean, I think anytime you have a guy like that, he's got such high expectations not only of himself but the other people outside of the baseball world.

"I think he feels that — he feels pressure from his teammates, he feels pressure from himself and he wants to perform and he wants to do well every night. When he doesn't, it seems like he just keeps adding on. The rock on his back gets a little bigger every time."

As recently as May 22, Bryant was hitting .303 with a 1.007 OPS.

But since then — a span of 21 games — he's hitting just .241 with a .316 on-base percentage and .310 slugging percentage, good for a .627 OPS. More alarming than anything, he's struck out 28 times in 87 at-bats, taking a step back in the area he has made the most improvement in since breaking into the league in 2015.

The power has been an issue for even longer. Bryant just recently went a month without a homer before sending one into the bleachers Friday night at Busch Stadium.

Still, since May 15, he has only 8 extra-base hits (7 doubles and that 1 homer) in 27 games.

The struggle is real right now, but that hasn't stopped the Cubs from going 17-11 during Bryant's dip in power.

GM Jed Hoyer reiterated again that Bryant is the last guy the Cubs worry about in the big picture.

"The way he runs the bases, the way he plays defense, I feel like he's contributing to wins even when he might be struggling at the plate a little bit," Hoyer said Monday evening. "With guys like him, I always look at it and think to myself — that means a hot streak is right around the corner.

"I said that about Anthony [Rizzo] in April when he was struggling and he's been great since May 1. I think Kris will have the same kind of turnaraound. With him, it's just a matter of when he breaks out.

"Over the course of the season, every great player goes through one or two big slumps. We're in a strange sport where even the greatest players are not slump-proof. He'll get out of it and we'll all reap the benefits when he does."

Even with the struggles, Bryant ranks 23rd among position players in WAR (Fangraphs) with 2.3, pacing the Cubs in that category. That still puts him on pace for a roughly 6-WAR pace, which would be his lowest throughout his MLB career but is still very clearly elite.

In an effort to get him back to the "KB" we've seen so much over the last four years, Joe Maddon has twice resorted to bumping him to the top of the lineup, including Monday night's game against the Dodgers.

Maddon is hoping a move to the leadoff spot will reinstill in Bryant's head that he doesn't need to be a power hitter to help the team win.

For right now, it works. After all, Bryant is still tied for 9th in baseball in OBP (.389). 

"You really do start trying too hard," Maddon said. "You try to force things as opposed to letting them come to you. Especially a power guy that's not hit home runs in a bit. My take on power guys is that it normally is cyclical. They'll get it for a while, then they'll get away with it, then it comes back."

Like Hoyer, Maddon talked up Bryant's abilities as a "winning player" in every other area of the game even when he's not going yard. That includes his daily hustle and effort.

"When a guy like him goes through this moment, I want him to focus on that — not homers," Maddon said. "He probably hears that way too much about the power situation and I'm really not interested in that. 

"Put him back in the leadoff spot for the reasons I just said — he can help win a game in so many different ways and I want him to just focus on that. ... He needs our support; he's gonna get it. I just put him in that top spot to readjust how he's thinking and that's all."