MILWAUKEE – After designating Carlos Marmol for assignment, the Cubs said he had become a sideshow for the fans, a distraction to his teammates.
Aramis Ramirez was always able to block out the noise. He never cared about things he couldn’t control and made himself comfortable inside the Wrigley Field fishbowl.
“It happened to me here and there, but it happens to everybody,” Ramirez said. “I heard them boo Sammy Sosa and he was one of the best players to ever play in Chicago.”
The Cubs didn’t have to watch another late-game implosion on Wednesday night at Miller Park. Nate Schierholtz caught a ball at the warning track for the final out of a 5-4 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers.
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Pinch-hitter Scooter Gennett didn’t drive a walk-off shot over the right-field fence and Kevin Gregg improved to 12-for-12 in save chances. No need to second-guess or rip the closer.
“That’s not fun,” Ramirez said. “I talked to (Marmol) a few times and he told me that as soon as he got up in the bullpen, they started booing him. That’s your home team. That’s not supposed to be happening at home.
“You can understand that on the road, but not at home. Your home fans should be cheering for you. You’re trying your best out there. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.”
Ramirez – who homered in the second inning off Scott Feldman (7-6, 3.46 ERA) to notch his 2,000th career hit for a going-nowhere Brewers team (32-44) – had become a kind of big brother to Marmol when they played together on the North Side.
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They have the same agent (Paul Kinzer) and hang out during the offseason back home in the Dominican Republic. Ramirez is the godfather to Marmol’s first daughter. Marmol called Ramirez with the news on Tuesday, saying his Cubs career is over.
“I was shocked,” Ramirez said, “especially as I was looking at their relievers – he’s not the only one struggling in the ‘pen. I was surprised that a guy’s making almost $10 million and they gave up on him like that. (But) I’m not trying to defend Marmol. He was struggling and they had a reason to do that.”
There are many reasons why the Cubs are 32-44 and tied for last place in the National League Central, but Marmol more than anyone else seemed to become the lightning rod for the fans.
“Yeah, they are (different),” Ramirez said. “Everybody knows that. They’re just frustrated. They want to win and it’s tough when you see a guy out there struggling.”
Marmol emerged as a major weapon for the teams that won division titles in 2007 and 2008 and wound up saving 117 games for the Cubs. Maybe it was being overused, getting the big contract or losing the feel for his slider. Maybe those funky mechanics couldn’t be maintained, and the ninth inning had become a real mental block.
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Whatever the reasons, Marmol (5.86 ERA) wasn’t the same lights-out guy anymore.
“I think it was good for him,” Ramirez said. “It was time for him to move on and go somewhere else and get a fresh start.”
General manager Jed Hoyer said Marmol is healthy, willing to take the ball and still able to flash that 93 mph velocity. It’s not unreasonable to think Marmol could be effective in a lower-pressure environment with his swing-and-miss stuff, like he was during the second half of last season (1.52 ERA in 30 games).
“I’m sure somebody will take a shot on Marmol,” Ramirez said. “It’s not going to cost them anything. He’s still got a good arm. He’s just wild right now. He’s one of the best when he’s on. When he’s off…there’s no in-between for him. He’s either real good or real bad.”
Ramirez heard all about Kinzer’s meeting last month with Marmol in the lobby/lounge of his apartment building, where a fan listened in and took photos and sent information to a popular Cubs blog.
“That ain’t right,” Ramirez said more than once. “In this day and age, you got to be careful, man. There’s a camera everywhere. (With) cameras, tweeters everywhere – you got to lock it in your house if you want to say something to somebody.”
Marmol had heard enough boos in Chicago, which is why he’ll be going to a place where he won’t be the center of attention.