Closing is 80 percent mental, 40 percent physical
In which I provide a counterpoint to Kurt's earlier post:
In other words, Kurt, you ignorant slut!
For most of last year, Kurt went out here and bemoaned the overwork and certain breakdown of one Carlos Marmol, and for most of last year, I went out here and told Kurt to get a grip, and then what happened is that Marmol DID go into his July slump, whereupon he was treated more gently, and lo and behold, he corrected himself, found his slider again, and was dominant down the stretch. So therefore Kurt was correct in this instance, and thus we should take appropriate heed when he worries about Marmol's workload.
But, when it comes to Closer 2009, a few points:
I think we can all agree, first of all, that Marmol has a much greater upside than Kevin Gregg. Marmol's slider is a very special pitch that only a few men possess.
I also believe that Kurt's current worry may be an extension of last year's worry, in that while the "closer" only is asked to get three outs in today's game, the "eighth-inning" guy is sometimes asked to enter the game in the seventh inning, and thus may pitch to substantially more innings that the "closer". And since Marmol's slider is dependent on not only the health and soundness of his right arm, elbow, shoulder and wrist, but more importantly his ability to CONCENTRATE on throwing said pitch, keeping him as fresh as possible is key. I think that is what Kurt is saying, and I agree with this, and I think that the "eighth-inning" guy in today's ballgame should be treated with as much care and respect as the "closer". The way Cubs games have gone the past several years, both men are equal, key performers.
I think we can also all agree that while Marmol blew leads in not only Spring Training, but also in the WBC as well as in Winter ball, Gregg did not give up a single run. If a true competition existed, which it did, Gregg won it fair and square.
And it is that competition, and Marmol's comment about how it didn't exist, is what worries me about him, and what convinces me that he is not yet mature enough to close. When asked if the WBC hurt him in the competition, he commented that it didn't, because they (Cubs management) knew what they were going to do from the beginning.
I mean, I am not on the roster, nor am I a beat writer, who has been privy to all the conversations had between Hendry, Piniella, Rothschild, and Gregg and Marmol this spring. Marmol was, and maybe he knows something we don't. I can only go by what was said to the media, the recent history of the two men, and the results this spring. And in the interests of disclosure, I have a lusty man-crush on Marmol and his filthy slider, and I in turn have no respect whatsoever for saves earned on the behalf of the Miami Marlins, who have not played an important game in five years.
I am also somewhat understanding of Marmol's disappointment. I am glad to see he WANTS the role. (Unlike, say, LaTroy Hawkins a few years back) But Marmol has absolutely no reason to feel that he has earned the autonomy to feel entitled to the role. A Trevor Hoffman has, a Mariano Rivera, perhaps even to a certain extent the 2004 Joe Borowski could claim a certain sense of entitlement. But not the 2009 Carlos Marmol. Or even the 2009 Kevin Gregg.
Marmol has pitched decently this spring, even managing to find the grip on his deadly slidepiece in the desert, no mean feat. Even if Gregg had posted similar results, I feel Marmol's past contributions to the Cubs should tip the scales in his favor. But from my vantage point here in middle America, Gregg threw conclusively better this spring, and if Marmol had stated that he was disappointed, but understands that Gregg had a Great Spring and won the job fair and square, then I would feel much better about Marmol's mental maturity than I do now.
Because Carlos Marmol was immature enough to suggest that his coaches and management were LYING about the closer competition, then that tells us that he has some growing up to do. And, therefore, I don't want someone who has some growing up to do getting our last three outs.
Nobody is going to get those last three outs every time, not even Saint Brad Lidge. Physically, men fail, and mentally, men let up from time to time. But I need to see that mentally, you are tough enough to accept what life deals you today, and go out tomorrow and fix it! Marmol's statement suggests he has some work to do in this regard.