CINCINNATI – Sean Marshall had pretty much seen it all with the Cubs, how Wrigley Field could rock when they were in first place and how it could turn into a circus or become toxic with the wrong personalities. Everything except winning the World Series.
Marshall pitched for Dusty Baker, Lou Piniella and Mike Quade and played with Greg Maddux, Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. But the lefty reliever didn’t last long with Theo, getting traded to the Cincinnati Reds within the first hundred days of the Epstein administration, just before Christmas 2011.
Marshall thinks he has a chance to win a ring now. He felt good after throwing 20-plus pitches during live batting practice on Tuesday at Great American Ball Park. Shoulder issues have sidelined him since May 20, but he’s hopeful he can become a difference-maker in the National League Central race and pitch deep into October.
The Cubs viewed Marshall as a luxury item, knowing they wouldn’t have enough high-leverage situations and traded for years of club control. Travis Wood has developed into an All-Star and a potential Opening Day starter, but he never would have gotten that kind of opportunity with the Reds.
“They told me they were rebuilding,” Marshall said. “Being over here in Cincinnati, watching the team develop and change a lot of faces, I think they’re doing a very good job. They got some young players that put together good at-bats, some good arms, guys throwing 95, 98 mph.
“The master plan is on target. In the meantime, it’s still a rebuild for them. I know how the Cubs fans are – I know they want to win now and they want to win every day. But I think the work the Ricketts (family) is putting in over there will pay off.”
There wasn’t a “Marshall Watch” the way there was for Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and Alfonso Soriano. But he was always a popular teammate and a voice of reason in a clubhouse where Carlos Zambrano, Milton Bradley and “Cubbie occurrences” could take up so much oxygen in the room.
While some ex-Cubs have privately mentioned communication issues with the front office, Marshall understood the decisions. His twin brother Brian was drafted by the Red Sox in 2005 and pitched in the Boston system.
“They probably told them the exact same thing: ‘We’re in the middle of a rebuild,’” Marshall said. “They’re stockpiling the minor leagues and want to evaluate prospects under game situations. Theo did it with the Red Sox a couple years ago and brought them a couple championships. I think he’s going to do it again.”
Marshall is happy in Cincinnati, where he has an extension through 2015 worth $16.5 million. But he’s still a Chicago guy, keeping his offseason home in Lincolnwood near his wife’s family. Who knows how patient Cubs fans will be through this rebuilding process, but there’s no doubt they’ll come back to Wrigley Field when the team is relevant again.
“I love going back,” Marshall said. “I’ll go to the grocery store by my house or Best Buy or something and people will be like: ‘Hey, we miss you.’ And I’m like: ‘Well, that was two years ago.’ People are always pretty nice and I know the sports diehards they have in that city. I know they want to win.”