The Cubs and Cardinals face off for Game 2 of their three-game series Tuesday night in St. Louis. Catch all the action live beginning at 7 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet!
ST. LOUIS – The fans and the media can vent their frustrations and second-guess on Twitter, but the Cubs aren’t pointing the finger at manager Dale Sveum.
The problems run so much deeper, a point general manager Jed Hoyer made while defending Sveum before Monday night’s 5-2 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals in front of 44,172 fans at Busch Stadium.
It goes beyond wins and losses for Sveum, who’s viewed as a key part of team president Theo Epstein’s culture-changing mission, and not some placeholder in the dugout.
“He’s kept the guys really upbeat. He continues to relate really well to the players,” Hoyer said of Sveum. “I’ll say the same thing I said at the end of last year: The talent on the team – we’re not up to par right now with the Cardinals and the Reds. Those are really strong, mature organizations and that’s what we’re trying to get to.
“In the meantime, he’s doing his best with the product that we have and that’s on Theo and on me – the talent.”
The day after Sveum got ripped for going with Carlos Marmol as a spot closer, the manager didn’t make it to the ninth inning, getting ejected while arguing a play at the plate in the seventh. It looked like the throw beat Yadier Molina and pitcher Travis Wood appeared to block the plate. Molina snuck in and got tangled up with Wood, kicking out his leg. This is where the Cubs (28-40) usually reach the boiling point.
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This is the first of three trips to Busch Stadium, where the Cubs had gone 4-13 the previous two seasons, getting outscored 99-54 and showing the huge gap between these two organizations.
This is where Carlos Zambrano delivered his famous “We stinks!” rant after another blown save by Marmol. This is where Mike Quade got second-guessed for pitching to Albert Pujols and admitted he felt like he was managing for his job.
“When the blame game starts, you can’t sit in this seat and not take some of it,” Quade said in July 2011. “There’s just no way and I understand that. But me sitting here and cowering because of that is absurd, so you attack every day.”
Sveum will get blamed for using Marmol, but it’s not like this bullpen is filled with weapons. Hoyer deflected a question on whether Marmol – who’s still owed more than $5 million of his $9.8 million salary this season – could get released at some point.
“I would never comment on a player’s status like that,” Hoyer said. “Marmol has obviously struggled closing, but he’s had a lot of really good outings in sort of lower-pressured situations. He has provided value to this team at different times. But he’s been a significant part of some of the losses that, unfortunately, are a big part of why we are where we are record-wise.
“As far as his status, I think he has pitched well in lower-leverage situations, and those are important innings as you get through a season.”
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So until the Cubs assemble a similar group of power arms and build the kind of relentless lineup the Cardinals (45-25) roll out every night, everything is going to be magnified.
There will be more tough-luck losses for Wood (5-6, 2.74 ERA), who gave up four runs, three earned, across seven innings. There won’t be much breathing room.
“We haven’t given (Sveum) the strongest bullpen, for sure, and we understand that,” Hoyer said. “You wish you could go down to the minor leagues and pluck a guy and say here’s another piece for the bullpen. We don’t have that ability, so we’ve been playing the waiver wire trying to find that. But, ultimately, that’s on Theo and that’s on me.”