ST. LOUIS -- “Who the (bleep) should I be closing with?”
Dale Sveum hasn’t exploded with a Jim Leyland rant yet, and the Cubs manager isn’t at all concerned about the perception of how he’s doing his job after another Carlos Marmol meltdown.
“No,” Sveum said Monday at Busch Stadium. “That’s people’s prerogative. I don’t really care what people think about me. That’s part of this job. You’re always going to be second-guessed and all that. There’s nothing you can do about that. Players are put into positions to perform. And if they don’t, obviously, the decision-making is always going to be second-guessed.”
That’s especially true on Twitter and inside the 24/7 news cycle. Sveum heard and recognized Leyland’s recent comments about his Detroit Tigers, a first-place team with a bad bullpen and no good answers for the ninth inning. Sveum got stuck in that position on Sunday at Citi Field, where Marmol blew a three-run lead in a crushing 4-3 loss to the New York Mets.
“It doesn’t matter what the situation is,” Sveum said. “If I would have put somebody else in that has never closed a game before -- and they give it up -- you’re in the same boat.”
Sveum had already used James Russell in the eighth inning and didn’t want to bring in closer Kevin Gregg, who had pitched four days in a row, or Shawn Camp, who hadn’t pitched in a big-league game since May 21. The Mets looked like a dead team walking.
Marmol had put together four straight scoreless outings, notching eight strikeouts against zero walks, and Sveum wanted someone with closing experience (117 career saves), believing it takes a certain type to handle the ninth inning.
In the fall of 2011, part of Sveum’s extensive interview with team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer involved game simulations, breaking down film and talking through the decision-making process.
“One of the hard things about running a bullpen is guys are down,” Hoyer said. “Fans don’t often understand which guys are available that day and which guys aren’t. If every guy was available for every game and no one was tired it would be a really easy job. But sometimes you get forced into a situation.”
Hoyer watched the end of Sunday’s game in the manager’s office, thinking the Cubs would fly to St. Louis on a high from a four-game winning streak. He heard the celebration at Citi Field when Kirk Nieuwenhuis drilled a walk-off, three-run shot off the second deck in right field, as well as the frustration when the players trudged back into the visiting clubhouse.
“The fans can ask, 'Why didn’t he use someone else?' and that’s a valid question, and I think Dale answered it appropriately,” Hoyer said. “The nature of that job is if Blake Parker goes in that game and blows the save, you ask: ‘Why is Blake Parker throwing in a save situation?’
“The nature of being the manager is when things go wrong, people ask questions. In our job, you always try to focus on the thought process more than the result.”
So the next time Gregg is unavailable, would Sveum go to Marmol again in the ninth inning?
“Well, I don’t know about that, but we don’t have a whole lot of other real options,” Sveum said. “It’s one of those things where whatever comes up, you still deal with matchups. But there obviously is an obstacle with those last three outs.
“It’s obviously to that point where we've got to try somebody else in that role if Gregg is out.”