MILWAUKEE – Cubs fans won’t have Carlos Marmol to kick around anymore.
The negativity had reached a tipping point by Tuesday, when the Cubs designated their lightning-rod reliever for assignment. Whether or not Marmol can ever regain the form that once made him an elite closer, it certainly wasn’t going to happen on the North Side.
“Every time he threw two balls to start off a first hitter, he was getting booed,” general manager Jed Hoyer said at Miller Park. “I don’t think that’s easy for anybody and I think it became difficult for his teammates because there was a little bit of a sideshow mentality to it.
“We just felt like it was the right time. It had become a distraction.”
Win or lose, Marmol always stood in front of his locker and took the heat. He goes down as the franchise’s all-time leader in relief appearances (470) and a key piece to the teams that won back-to-back division titles in 2007 and 2008.
But Marmol no longer had the same unhittable slider – or unshakable confidence – that allowed him to escape all those jams at Wrigley Field and save 117 games for the Cubs.
“It kind of bums me out when I read some of the comments that people make about his career in Chicago, because they forget how dominant he was for four years,” Hoyer said. “Frankly, I think a lot of his ineffectiveness now is related to the fact that he was ridden so hard when he was at his best. He gave a lot to the Cubs.
“People would do well to look at his Baseball-Reference page and remember how good he was when he was at his best.”
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To take Marmol’s spot on the roster, the Cubs selected the contract of outfielder Brian Bogusevic, the Oak Lawn native who was hitting .319 with a .929 OPS at Triple-A Iowa.
It’s easy to forget how Marmol notched 138 strikeouts in only 77.2 innings in 2010, a lights-out performance that earned him a three-year, $20 million contract that will pay him $9.8 million this season.
The Cubs have 10 days to put Marmol on waivers, release him or trade him. Hoyer indicated the Cubs had tried to trade Marmol since last August – during a season in which he’d post a 1.52 ERA after the All-Star break and convert 19 straight save chances at one point – but drummed up no real interest.
“We (realized we) really would never be able to trade him or acquire any value for him,” Hoyer said. “He had a really good second half last year on paper and no one really bit at the August deadline.
“We never had any offers other than just someone else’s undesirable contract for ours. There was a lot of talk about trade value and things like that, but that was something we sort of had given up on long ago.”
The Cubs had convinced Marmol to waive his limited no-trade rights and accept a deal to the Los Angeles Angels last November, before it collapsed over concerns about Dan Haren’s medicals/financials.
When Marmol reported to spring training, he denied all sexual-assault allegations, maintained his innocence and insisted he was the target of a blackmail scheme back home in the Dominican Republic, where he was subsequently cleared.
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Marmol rolled with last month’s Spygate, when a fan eavesdropped on a meeting with his agent in the lobby/lounge of his apartment building and sent photos and play-by-play commentary over Twitter to a popular Cubs blog.
Marmol has a real stubborn streak. He loved Chicago and considered it to be a second home, long before his 14th year in the organization. As a position-player prospect, he had resisted the change and finally had to be talked into trying pitching. He struggled to commit to throwing anything other than his once unhittable slider.
Manager Dale Sveum put Marmol on notice on Opening Day, pulling him in the ninth inning and taking away the closer’s job only five games into the season.
Marmol’s 2-4 with a 5.86 ERA, but had pitched effectively in lower-leverage situations in the sixth and seventh innings. The breaking point came on June 16 at Citi Field, where he blew a three-run lead in the ninth inning of a brutal 4-3 walk-off loss to the New York Mets. It was all in his head.
“That’s going to weigh on your mind, like: ‘I can’t blow this. It’s all gonna happen again. I’m gonna get booed,’” Sveum said. “That’s the way human nature works. In all the other roles, he seemed to be very calm and collected.”