The right stuff: Marmol built for the ninth inning

The right stuff: Marmol built for the ninth inning

Saturday, April 16, 2011
Posted: 8:53 p.m. Updated: 10:13 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

DENVER No one talks to Carlos Marmol when he does his job.

The media herd backed away after the Cubs closer finished dissecting his first blown save of the season. Marmol looked them over and said: I want to see you all here tomorrow when I strike out the side.

Marmol wasnt trying to intimidate anyone. He wasnt being defensive. He was looking forward to a new day.

I try to be funny sometimes, Marmol said. Im not a funny guy, but I try to (be one). I was joking around. That doesnt bother me. Ill talk about whatevers bad, whatevers good. Im going to be here for you guys.

Marmol is confident, low-maintenance and fearless. He usually punctuates his thoughts with a laugh or a smile or a curse word. He hates getting booed at Wrigley Field. Win or lose, you always know where to find him standing at his locker ready to answer questions.

Ozzie Guillen was right the other day when he said that a closer in Chicago needs to have guts. But the White Sox manager was wrong to think that Marmol doesnt face his critics or gets a free pass because he doesnt understand English.

The meltdowns the White Sox bullpen has experienced in the seasons first two weeks reminded you how valuable Marmol will be for the Cubs.

The sample size is too small to say definitively that Matt Thornton cant close on the South Side, and its too early to declare Sergio Santos or Chris Sale absolutely ready for the job. But theres no denying the corrosive effects losing late leads can have on a clubhouse.

As a player, when youre winning a ballgame into the ninth inning, its tough to lose (like that), Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez said. The closers know it and thats why when youre a good one, you get paid. You make good money because there arent too many good ones out there.

General manager Jim Hendry recognized that when he gave Marmol a three-year, 20 million deal in February. The Cubs have known Marmol since he signed with the organization as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic.

The Cubs couldnt know for certain that Marmol would have what it takes to be a closer he was a converted position player but eventually they had a pretty good idea he could handle it.

When discussing potential trades several years ago, the front office made Marmol untouchable, off-limits to any team scouting the minor-league system. Since taking over as closer in August 2009, Marmol has converted 91 percent of his save opportunities (53-for-58).

Hes got the stuff and hes got the attitude, Ramirez said. To be a closer anywhere, you got to have the kind of mentality that he has. Not only in Chicago. To be a closer in Pittsburgh, you got to have (it). Anywhere you close, its tough, man. When you blow it, you got to be ready for the next day.

So when Marmol loses the game like he did on April 3 against the Pittsburgh Pirates he will go out to dinner and watch a movie at home. He will go to work on April 4 as if nothings happened and finish off the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Same routine, Marmol said. I dont change.

There will be times where Marmol looks helpless on the mound. He has no feel for his slider and cant find the strike zone. But that unpredictability how sharp, where and when the slider will break makes him almost unhittable.

In the end, Marmol understands how this works. The closer has become so automatic that its only a story when he blows a save.

Of course, Marmol said with a laugh one day, sitting at his locker. I want all you (expletive) here. I strike out the side and nobody talks to me.

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

Joe Maddon ‘Anchorman’ vision for Cubs road trip: ‘We got the Sex Panther in today’

Joe Maddon ‘Anchorman’ vision for Cubs road trip: ‘We got the Sex Panther in today’

A homestand that has already featured Cincinnati Reds manager Bryan Price grumbling “Hail to the Cubs” after a game ended on an overturned replay review – and Milwaukee Brewers officials complaining about a premature rainout – will end with Joe Maddon’s team walking out of Wrigley Field dressed as “Anchorman” characters. 

The Cubs are hovering around .500 as a baseball product, but the defending World Series champs are already back in terms of getting under people’s skin and going viral on social media. That will happen again on Thursday, when the Cubs start posting photos of their 1970s outfits to Twitter and Instagram before boarding their flight to Southern California.

“We got the Sex Panther in today,” Maddon said during Wednesday’s pregame media session, sounding nothing like San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy.

Q: You got the what?

“Sex Panther,” Maddon said, “60 percent of the time, it works every time, you’re not aware of that?”

Q: Does it growl when you open it?

“It does,” Maddon said. “It growls.”

The official theme for the road trip through Los Angeles and (Stay Classy) San Diego would be…

“It’s the Ron Burgundy/Brick Tamland – and I also wanted to include Tommy La Stella – Tribute Road Trip, where 60 percent of the time, it works every time, sponsored by Sex Panther cologne,” Maddon said.

La Stella is the enigmatic pinch-hitter/backup infielder now playing at Triple-A Iowa. Steve Carell played Tamland – the weatherman for the Channel 4 news team – in the movie. 

“I just see him like Brick Tamland,” Maddon said. “I just see him kind of like Brick. It’s almost like two interchangeable guys. I see Brick, I see Tommy, I see Tommy, I see Brick. Put some glasses on Tommy like that, dress him up, some sideburns and have him scream a little bit, I got Brick.”     

And when the Cubs return home next week, it will be interesting to see if the St. Louis Cardinals notice the celebration shots on the big video board and find any amusement in the dancing relievers.

“Oh my God, absolutely, I love it,” Maddon said. “I think it’s very entertaining. I would have to believe two things: I believe the fans will really appreciate it, and I don’t think it’s disrespectful to the other side. 

“I just think it’s funny. I really believe if we’re on the road and the other bullpen did that, I would laugh. So whoever’s thought it was in the beginning, I commend them. I think it’s pretty funny.

“It really makes you look forward to the next home run, to see what these guys are going to do, so I’m all for it.”

Nick Offerman wants Jon Lester to grow a Ron Swanson-esque mustache

Nick Offerman wants Jon Lester to grow a Ron Swanson-esque mustache

Nick Offerman gave Cubs ace Jon Lester a shout-out after the southpaw's incredible outing Tuesday night at Wrigley Field and it led to a delightful exchange:

Lester responded in kind, quoting Offerman's most famous character, Ron Swanson of "Parks and Rec" fame:

Offerman — a Chicago native who just waited out a two-hour rain delay Friday at Wrigley to sing the Seventh Inning Stretch — believes Lester has a little Ron Swanson in him, too.

Except for the mustache, of course.

But Lester is just fine stick with his standard beard:

Lester's dominance against the San Francisco Giants continued with Tuesday night's complete game effort. In his last three starts — including Game 1 of last fall's — Lester has a 0.69 ERA and 0.54 WHIP against the Giants, striking out 19 batters in 26 innings.