Cubs manager Dale Sveum finally made the move he never should’ve had to make: yanking Carlos Marmol as closer.
Sveum never should’ve had to make the move because team president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer should’ve traded Marmol. In fact, they did, or thought they did, and then came the embarrassing faceplant that blew up the trade for Dan Haren in the offseason.
The Cubs were bothered by Haren’s bad back. I’m bothered by the Cubs’ bad front.
As we discussed here last week, class, Epstein and Hoyer have a bad record in trading pitchers, or at least a worse record than you’d think saviors ought to have. If you’re scoring at home, the Marmol mess followed the Ryan Dempster embarrassment at the deadline. Sorry, but you can’t live forever off paying the Marlins to take Carlos Zambrano.
But what bothered me more was something Sveum said in the middle of Marmol’s opening week sabotage. Ironically, it came in the one game Marmol saved.
After Marmol was yanked before totally destroying a brilliant opening day outing by Jeff Samardzija against the Pirates, there he was, back to work in the ninth inning of the third game of the series. Marmol tried to blow that three-run lead, believe me, but somehow got out of another suicide outing.
During the post-game, Sveum said he was leaving Marmol “in until he gave it up.’’ Wait, isn’t Sveum’s job to WIN games, as unaccustomed to that as he might be?
First week of the season, and Sveum is willing to lose a game because, well, nobody is sure why. Sveum saw Marmol get in trouble in the opener and yanked him after one-third of an inning. Great. That’s what a manager gets paid to do. So, why was Game 3 different than Game 1?
If, as Epstein famously said, every season is sacred because it represents the chance to win the World Series, then it would figure that every win is sacred because it moves you closer to that goal. There’s nothing sacred about a manager stubbornly deflating 24 other players and a large fan base.
Or maybe Epstein and Hoyer ordered Sveum to showcase Marmol no matter the damage because it turns out that every trade is sacred. Epstein scoffed at the idea during an interview on the “Mully and Hanley Show’’ on WSCR-AM 670 on Monday morning, but that remains an uncomfortable possibility: that Sveum might be the dugout robot.
I never heard talk out of Boston that Epstein did that to manager Terry Francona, although word was that Epstein and his minions presented a daily pile of papers detailing situations and probabilities that Francona was expected to execute.
It always remains a possibility that a GM or team president would impose his agenda on someone below him on the food chain. It certainly has happened before that teams were managed by someone other than the manager, most famously in "Moneyball," the bible of hidden value that bringeth unto Boston two titles under Epstein.
I hope that’s not the case here. Sveum has to be allowed to make his own decisions if he is going to be judged fairly and if he is going to have any credibility in the clubhouse.
It would be bad news for Sveum and Cubs fans if this was part of a pattern in which the wonks in the front office forced the manager’s hand during the supposedly sacred season to make up for their failures previously.