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.

Fast Break Morning Update: Cubs visit White House; Blackhawks, Bulls in action tonight

Fast Break Morning Update: Cubs visit White House; Blackhawks, Bulls in action tonight

Here are some of the top Chicago sports stories from Monday:

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Avalanche tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Bulls host Mavericks in search of third straight win

Cubs meet President Obama in unforgettable, symbolic White House visit: ‘They said this day would never come’

Blackhawks' rough weekend 'a little bit of a wake-up call'

The state of the Bulls after the first half of the season

Reports: Dolphins assistant Jeremiah Washburn to be Bears' new O-line coach

Does Cubs president Theo Epstein have a future in politics?

President Obama, with Cubs at White House: 'Among Sox fans, I'm the Cubs' No. 1 fan'

At Cubs' White House visit, President Obama touts Michelle Obama's Cubs fandom, shouts out Jose Cardenal

Fire trade for midfielder Dax McCarty

Cubs meet President Obama in unforgettable, symbolic White House visit: ‘They said this day would never come’

Cubs meet President Obama in unforgettable, symbolic White House visit: ‘They said this day would never come’

WASHINGTON – A "Let's go, Cubbies!" chant started at 1:38 p.m. on Monday when the team walked into the East Room. One minute later, a voice from above announced: "Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States." 

"They said this day would never come," Barack Obama said once he got in front of the podium. "Welcome to the White House, the World Series champion Chicago Cubs."

With those words that still sound weird more than two months later, Obama began his last official event at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., rolling through a speech that lasted almost 22 minutes and delivering a powerful message on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

"Sometimes people wonder: 'Well, why are you spending time on sports?'" Obama said. "Throughout our history, sports has had this power to bring us together, even when the country's divided. Sports has changed attitudes and culture in ways that seem subtle, but ultimately made us think differently about ourselves and who we were.

"It is a game and it is a celebration. But there's a direct line between Jackie Robinson and me standing here. There’s a direct line between people loving Ernie Banks and the city being able to come together and work together."

As Washington prepares for Donald Trump's inauguration – with the neighborhood turning into a maze of risers, fences and barricades – this became a parting gift from the White Sox fan in chief to all the Obama staffers and alumni who love the Cubs and are now facing life after the White House.  

"Listen, I made a lot of promises in 2008," Obama said, "and we managed to fulfill a large number of them. But even I was not crazy enough to suggest that during these eight years we would see the Cubs win the World Series.

"But I did say that there's never been anything false about hope."

After a searing election, Obama stood front and center in between Cubs board members Laura Ricketts (a Hillary Clinton superdelegate) and Todd Ricketts (Trump's pick to be deputy commerce secretary). With a booming voice and some good speechwriting, Obama commanded a room filled with Hall of Famers (Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins, Ryne Sandberg) and Illinois politicos (Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Sen. Dick Durbin, Rep. Mike Quigley, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, senior White House advisor Valerie Jarrett).        

Obama mentioned how his administration had hosted at least 50 championship teams in the Oval Office. Until the Cubs showed up, FLOTUS hadn't participated in any of those ceremonies, but she did make time for a private meeting with the group that ended the 108-year drought for her hometown team.    

"The last time the Cubs won the World Series, Teddy Roosevelt was president," Obama said. "Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison (were) still alive. The first Cubs radio broadcast wouldn't be for almost two decades. We've been through World Wars, the Cold War, a Depression, the space race and all manner of social and technological change.

"So the first thing that made this championship so special for so many is the Cubs know what it's like to be loyal and to persevere and to hope and to suffer and then keep on hoping.

"It’s a generational thing (that) Michelle is describing. People all across the city remember the first time their parents took them to Wrigley, their memories of climbing onto their mom and dad's lap to watch games on WGN.

"That’s part of the reason, by the way, why Michelle wanted to make sure Jose Cardenal was here, because that was her favorite player. Back then, he had a big Afro and she would describe how she would try to wear her hat over her Afro the same way.

"You could see (it in) the fans who traveled to their dads' gravesites (and) wore their moms' old jerseys to games (and) covered the brick walls of Wrigley with love notes in chalk to the departed fans whose lifelong faith was finally fulfilled."       

Obama gave shoutouts to David Ross – "we’ve both been on a yearlong retirement party" – and "my fellow 44, Anthony Rizzo." Obama congratulated newlyweds Kris and Jessica Bryant and described how chairman Tom Ricketts met his wife, Cecelia, in the Wrigley Field bleachers "about 30 years ago, which is about 30 years longer than most relationships that begin there last."

Obama turned toward groovy manager Joe Maddon, who wore a black turtleneck and an olive coat, and said: "Let's face it, there are not a lot of coaches or managers who are as cool as this guy. Look how he looks right now."

"He used costume parties and his shaggin' wagon," Obama said. "He's got a lot of tricks to motivate. But he's also a master of tactics and makes the right move at the right time, when to pinch-hit, when to pinch-run, when to make it rain."

The no-shows included Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester and John Lackey, but 22 players stood behind Obama. Dexter Fowler – the first African-American Cub to play in the World Series and now a St. Louis Cardinal – brought Obama a personalized pair of Air Jordans. The group photo included guys from Puerto Rico (Javier Baez), Venezuela (Miguel Montero and Willson Contreras), Cuba (Aroldis Chapman) and the Dominican Republic (Pedro Strop) who will be remembered together forever.

Before Obama exited the stage and the Cubs went to visit the wounded warriors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, the president delivered a final thought.

"Sports has a way of sometimes changing hearts in a way that politics or business (can't)," Obama said. "Sometimes it's just a matter of us being able to stay relaxed from the realities of our days. But sometimes it also speaks to something better in us.

"When you see this group of Cubs – different shades, different backgrounds, coming from different communities and different neighborhoods all across the country and then playing as one team and playing the right way and celebrating each other and being joyous in that – that tells us a little something about what America is. And what America can be."