Cubs give Carlos Marmol his walking papers

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As expected the Cubs just released Ian Stewart from Triple-A, but they also made an even bigger move by designating Carlos Marmol for assignment.

Marmol has been awful this season, making it easy to forget that not so long ago he was one of the most dominant relievers in baseball and his career ERA in 542 innings with the Cubs is 3.50. He’s posted a strikeout rate of at least 10.0 per nine innings every year since 2007, including 10.4 this season, but Marmol’s inability to consistently throw the ball over the plate made watching him agonizing all too often.

Among all active pitchers with at least 500 career innings Marmol has highest strikeout rate at 11.7 per nine innings, the highest walk rate at 6.1 per nine innings, and the lowest opponents’ batting average at .185. Unhittable when he threw strikes, unwatchable when he didn’t.

Marmol is owed about $5 million for the remainder of this season, so he’s likely to pass through waivers unclaimed and could remain with the Cubs in the minors if they don’t find a taker for him via trade. They’d obviously have to eat a bunch of that money, but Marmol is still only 30 years old and still incredibly tough to hit, so no doubt quite a few teams think “if we could just get him to throw strikes …” Chicago almost had Marmol traded to the Angels for Dan Haren this winter before Haren’s health issues nixed the deal and both pitchers have been a mess this season.

Red Sox owner: “spending money helps”

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The other day Rob Manfred said, as he and other owners have said often in the past, that there is no correlation between payroll and winning. He said that defensively, in response to criticism of the slow free agent market of the past two offseasons.

As we have noted in the past, Manfred is not being honest about that. While, yes, in any given year there can be wild variation between payroll and win total — the Giants stunk last year, the A’s won 97 games — common sense dictates otherwise. What’s more, a recent study has shown that there is a pretty strong correlation between winning and payroll over time. Yes, you can fluke into a big season with a low payroll — Deadspin compared it to a cold snap occurring during a time of climate change — but if you want that “sustained success” teams claim they want, the best way to ensure it is to spend more money over time.

If you know anything about baseball labor history, though, you know well that the Commissioner and the owners will continue to mischaracterize the dynamics of the business as it suits them. Mostly because — present lefty sportswriters notwithstanding — very few people push back on their narratives. Fans tend to parrot ownership’s line on this stuff and, more often than not, baseball media acts as stenographer for ownership as opposed to critic. That gives owners a far greater ability to shape the narrative about all of this than most institutions.

Which makes this all the more awkward. From David Schoenfield of ESPN:

In apparent contradiction to his own commissioner, Boston Red Sox owner John Henry said Monday that, while there is not a perfect correlation between a bigger payroll and winning, “spending more money helps.”

Which is right. The correlation is not perfect — teams can spend a lot of money on a bad team if given the chance and a low payroll team like the Rays can bullpen their way to 90 wins — but you’re way more likely to win year-in, year-out if you’re spending than if you go cheap all the time and hope for a miracle season.

Which is not to say that Henry is some labor activist owner. He and his fellow front office officials have a long history of backing the league office on just about everything that matters and will no doubt do so with labor matters in the runup to the next CBA negotiation. The owners tend not to have a solidarity problem.

But Henry does seem to draw the line at peddling baloney, which is a shockingly necessary thing when the league and the union’s relationship turns acrimonious.