Theo: Its on Marmol to fix the problem

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Theo: Its on Marmol to fix the problem

Theo Epstein has vowed that his front office will block out all the noise while making decisions. But the Cubs president certainly pays attention to what is written and what is said.

Wrigley Field has no patience for Carlos Marmol anymore. You can hear it from the crowd at the first sign of trouble. This probably isnt the best place for a demoted closer to try to win back his job.

But Marmol was back beating his chest late Monday night after escaping an eighth-inning jam in a 5-1 win over the Atlanta Braves. He said the negative reactions from the fans forced him to focus after walking the first two batters.

Epstein who inherited Marmols 20 million contract, which still has a balance of more than 15 million through next season liked that response.

He put it well, Epstein said Tuesday. The way to work through it in this environment is to take the feedback that he gets sometimes and turn it into a positive. Last night he said that the booing kind of motivated him, because he knew he had to get it right and thats a mature approach.

Ballplayers are mainly (driven internally), but you cant help but notice when things like that are going on. So you might as well turn it into a positive.

Marmol earned that big contract with a lights-out season in 2010, saving 38 games in 43 chances and notching 138 strikeouts. Last year he led the majors with 10 blown saves. He entered Tuesday with a 5.06 ERA and 15 walks in 10 23 innings.

Everyone has to recognize he wants to succeed as much as anyone else, Epstein said. No one wants to go out there and fail, especially in a role where you let your teammates down. But hes paid a lot of money to do a job and hes got a lot of support around him. So its up to him to put the work in to go out and fix himself.

But I havent seen any signs of him backing down. So as long as he gives the effort and faces his challenges head-on, were going to support him and help him get where he needs to be.

People whove followed Marmols career since he was just a young kid out of the Dominican Republic remember how long it took the organization to finally convince him to convert to pitching.

Marmol viewed himself as a better hitter than the talent evaluators did. Theres still a stubborn streak, a reluctance to go away from his slider, the one pitch that once made him one of the most dominant relievers in baseball.

Since the start of spring training, manager Dale Sveum and his coaching staff have been trying to get Marmol to trust his fastball. Even if that happens, theres not necessarily a guarantee that the bullpen will take the same shape again.

I didnt say he did have to (go back in the closers role), Sveum said. Theres a possibility if hes throwing well and hes throwing his fastball and he shows me that hes capable of doing it again.

Kerry Woods right shoulder still isnt ready to handle pitching on back-to-back days. The Cubs like the poise and stuff shown by Rafael Dolis, a 24-year-old rookie. Closing is in the DNA of left-hander James Russell, whose father Jeff saved 186 games in the big leagues.

They will be given an opportunity to borrow a phrase from the front office to grab the job by the throat.

If Dolis is doing well and Russell (succeeds) in that role, Sveum said, Im not going to make change (just) to make change.

Maybe Marmol will find more motivation in that message.

Expansion of the College Football Playoff field continues to seem inevitable

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USA TODAY

Expansion of the College Football Playoff field continues to seem inevitable

There were six teams deserving of reaching the College Football Playoff this season. But there were only four spots.

But what if there were more spots?

An expansion of the Playoff field to eight teams has seemed inevitable from the day the four-team system was announced. Four more Playoff games means oodles more TV viewers, which means oodles more dollars.

And then we wouldn't be having all these arguments, either — but that's nonsense because of course we would, trying to figure out who got snubbed from the expanded bracket.

But this season's emphasis on the conference-champion debate might kick the efforts to expand the Playoff into high gear. Just take it from NCAA president Mark Emmert.

Now, technically speaking, there are 10 FBS conferences, each of which crowns a champion at the end of every football season. Emmert is obviously referring to the Power Five conferences: the Big Ten, Big 12, ACC, Pac-12 and SEC. He might want to pick his words a bit more carefully, considering he represents the other five conferences — the American, Conference USA, the MAC, the Mountain West and the Sun Belt — too, but his point remains understood.

This season has sparked a ton of controversy as the Playoff selection committee opted for the first time to include a team that did not win its conference, Ohio State, and it picked the Buckeyes over the Big Ten champs, Penn State. Plus, Big 12 champion Oklahoma was passed over in favor of non-champion Ohio State, too, actually falling behind another non-champion from the Big Ten, Michigan, in the final Playoff rankings.

With that decision brought the reasonable question of how much a conference championship should matter in getting a team into the final four and competing for a national championship.

The Playoff committee's mission is to pick the country's four best teams, and there aren't many people out there that will argue that Ohio State isn't one of the country's four best teams. But there's something to be said for winning a conference championship because if the Buckeyes can waltz into the Playoff without even playing in the Big Ten title game, why even have a conference championship game — besides, obviously, earning one more night of big-time TV money.

And so the call for an expanded Playoff bracket has reached perhaps its greatest volume in the short time the Playoff has existed. The obvious solution to Power Five conference champions continually being boxed out is to lock in five spots on the bracket for the five conference champions. Then, guarantee a spot for the highest-ranked team from the Group of Five conferences, and you're left with two "at-large" spots that this season would've gone to Ohio State and Michigan, two of the highest-profile programs in the country sure to drive TV viewership in battles against conference-champion Alabama, Clemson, Washington, Penn State and Oklahoma teams. And P.J. Fleck's undefeated Western Michigan squad takes the final slot.

That's quite the field. But if you think it would've solved all this year's problems, you're wrong. Still there would've been outcry that red-hot USC didn't make the field. The Trojans are playing so well that they could very well win the whole thing, despite their three early season losses. That debate over snubs will exist forever, no matter the size of the field, something we see play out each and every season in the NCAA men's basketball tournament.

Also, what a damper an expanded bracket would put on the final few weeks of the regular season. Ohio State's game against Michigan, the highest-rated game of the college football season with more than 16 million people watching, would've been effectively meaningless. No matter who won or lost, both teams would've made that eight-team field, right?

Additionally, another round of Playoff football would expand the season to 16 games for some teams. That means more physical demands on student-athletes and a season cutting deep into January, which would impact their educational and time demands.

But again, an expansion of the Playoff bracket has always seemed inevitable. There's too much money to be made, and at the same time fans seem to be all about that idea. People love the postseason for good reason, and the win-or-go-home nature of the NFL playoffs make those games the most-watched sporting events of the year.

Now the NCAA president is chiming in with hopes of an expanded field. So really isn't it just a matter of time?

Road Ahead: Blackhawks dealing with rash of injuries

Road Ahead: Blackhawks dealing with rash of injuries

CSN's Chris Boden and Tracey Myers have the latest on the Blackhawks in the Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland and NW Indiana Honda Dealers.

From an injury standpoint, it's been a tough few weeks for the Blackhawks.

The Blackhawks are down two key players in captain Jonathan Toews and goaltender Corey Crawford, and now may be without defenseman Brent Seabrook who sustained an upper-body injury in Tuesday's victory over the Arizona Coyotes.

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While the Blackhawks haven't had much luck on the injury front, their upcoming two opponents are in the same boat.

"You look at the New York Rangers, a very talented team, but this is what every team goes through every season. Your depth gets tested," Myers said.

Check out what else Boden and Myers had to say about the team's upcoming matchups in this week's Honda Road Ahead