Sometimes it just isn’t your day, but Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Phillies is the latest sign that this just isn’t the Cubs’ year.
Carlos Marmol, who struck out the side in impressive fashion on Friday, entered Saturday’s game protecting a one-run lead. After getting Greg Dobbs to fly out to begin the ninth inning, he walked Brian Schneider and Ross Gload to put the tying run into scoring position. Marmol was able to strike out Shane Victorino for the second out, but surrendered a game-tying RBI single to Placido Polanco, who was activated from the disabled list prior to Saturday’s game.
Tyler Colvin, who was playing left field, actually made a very strong throw to the plate, however catcher Geovany Soto was unable to come up with the ball and apply a tag. Game tied. But that wasn’t the worst of it. Not only did Marmol walk the next batter Jimmy Rollins on four pitches, he threw ball four to the backstop, allowing Gload to score with the go-ahead run. Yeesh.
Marmol then intentionally walked Ryan Howard to load the bases after Jimmy Rollins stole second base. And that would make tons of sense if Marmol was capable of throwing strikes. He wasn’t. At least not on this particular day. Marmol proceeded to walk Jayson Werth, too, his fifth free pass of the inning. Just to put things in perspective for a minute, Cliff Lee has walked just six batters all freaking season.
Anyway, Cubs manager Lou Piniella finally pulled his closer from the game after he threw just 15 of 39 pitches for strikes. Again, bad day for Marmol, but he’s really been the least of the Cubs’ problems this season. Consider today’s painful loss just another notch in the “sell” column.
Infielder Javier Baez is back in camp with the Cubs after helping Puerto Rico to a second-place finish in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He was the focal point of what was, to many, the most memorable play of the entire tournament: Baez pointed at catcher Yadier Molina, who was attempting to throw out a would-be base-stealer, before applying the tag for the final out of the eighth inning.
While Baez didn’t receive much criticism for his theatrics, aside from an insignificant handful of spoilsports, he is one of the players who most exemplifies the emotional, celebratory culture that foreign players bring to Major League Baseball. U.S. (and Tigers) second baseman Ian Kinsler is on the other side of that spectrum, as he said prior to the WBC final that he hopes kids mimic the solemn way U.S. players play the game rather than the emotional, passionate way players from Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic play the game.
Baez isn’t about to apologize for the way he and his teammates play the game. Via CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney, Baez said, “We do a great job playing and having fun out there. That’s what it’s all about. This is a game. It’s not as serious as a lot of people take it. but, you know, everybody’s got their style and their talent. I have a lot of fun.”
He continued, “It’s their choice to look at how we play, how excited we get. To us, it’s really huge what we did, even though we didn’t win. All of Puerto Rico got really together. We were going through a hard time over there and everything got fixed up for at least three weeks. Hopefully, they keep it like that.”
Angels outfielder Mike Trout came up with an idea that would allow less experienced umpires an opportunity to call some major league spring training action. As ESPN’s Buster Olney reports, Trout thinks the veteran umpires should only call five or six innings as they get back into regular season shape. The rest of the innings could be called by minor league umpires.
According to Olney, baseball officials loved Trout’s idea when they heard about it last week. One official said, “It makes a lot of sense for a lot of different reasons.” Another said, “That’s Trout — he’s always paying attention to stuff beyond what he’s doing.”
Of course, I have to agree that the suggestion is a great one. As Olney notes, the turnover rate for umpires every year is relatively low, so younger, less-experienced umpires have few opportunities to get a feel for what it’s like calling major league action. Even beyond the actual interpretation of the rules, interacting with big league personalities would also be helpful for minor league umpires.