I was interested to see on Monday that the Chicago Cubs had decided to “demote” Carlos Marmol out of the closer role after blowing a save over the weekend in Atlanta. I thought at the time – and I still think – that a reaction of that sort after one bad outing was not only knee-jerk, but also extremely poor for team moral and so forth. The shortstop must be thinking now that he’s going to be sent to the minors as soon as he boots a ball, and the same is probably true of the centerfielder the first time a ball gets blown over his head in the at-times bizzare wind currents at Wrigley Field. However…is what the Cubs did such a bad thing?
For my money, I’m not a fan of what the Cubs did. That’s not as much an indictment of the Chicago Cubs as it is my view on life and management of people. There comes a point in any situation where someone’s struggling where you just have to make a change. And that’s not just a baseball or even a sports “thing,” it’s a “life thing.” I can tell you on good authority that I’ve made more mistakes in life than I care to admit. That’s not to say that I’m a total screw up, however I’ve done things I regret just like everyone else. For the most part, the powers that be in any given situation have been fairly understanding and haven’t held my hands to the coals. Obviously the implication is that I’ve had to made amends or improve whatever the situation was, and I’ve done that for the most part. However the point is that I wasn’t held accountable in an ultimate manner for making one error of judgement or one mistake. (And in turn I’ve offered the same courtesy to others when I’ve been in a position to hold someone accountable.)
On the other hand, the Cubs’ rebuttal would probably be that it would be stupid of them to keep trotting Marmol out there if they know that he isn’t capable of being a closer. In fairness to manager Dale Sveum, it wasn’t the first time that Marmol had given up runs (although it was his first blown save). Many employers also take this viewpoint when dealing with their associates. If someone’s late one day for whatever reason should they be terminated for it? If a fast food worker screws up someone’s order should they be let go on the spot? According to some companies (in this case the Chicago Cubs) they figure there’s no point in beating around the bush and they may as well cut their losses and move on.
Baltimore Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter often reminds the media that “we’re dealing with human beings.” In other words, people make mistakes; that’s something of which we should never lose sight. Some might look at my commentary yesterday about Manny Machado hitting second in the order and suggest that I’m advocating the same “jump-the-gun”-type of justice. There’s a difference between relieving someone of their duties and altering how their duties are done (moving them down in the order in this case). Should Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman then be sent back to Norfolk since they offered lackluster starts in their first outings? Should Jim Johnson be moved out of the closer role since he was tagged with a loss on Saturday night?
I suppose my point is that you have to give people a chance in their roles before making a change. As much as we said last year that Showalter “held the players accountable” for their play on the field, he was also very fair in doing so. Nobody was sent down after one poor start, however when it became a trend changes had to be made. Furthermore, demotions were never done in a punitive manner; the hope was that the player would go down to the minors, work with the various Orioles’ instructors, and hopefully work their issues out and be back in the big leagues as soon as possible.
A friend of mine who’s a die hard Cubs’ fan thinks I’m nuts incidentally. According to him Marmol’s been inconsistent over various years, and it was due time for this change to have been made. (Furthermore in general he buys into the one strike and you’re out management style in all things.) I might understand that to a point, however I’m also a firm believer that your slate is wiped clean each year. If Marmol wasn’t the guy to be the closer on April 8th, then he wasn’t the guy that should have been the closer on opening day. And he probably shouldn’t even have been on the roster. That’s the fault of the Cubs’ management, not that of Carlos Marmol.
As was the case last year, the O’s are giving the likes of Arrieta a chance to sink or swim before deciding whether or not he needs to go down. The same is true with a few other players, including perhaps Steve Pearce (who’s had a tough start to the year). You can’t base human decisions like that on such a small sample size. At some point if the O’s have to shake up a few things some fans will grouse that they should have done it earlier. But again, you have to be fair about things. Arrieta will make tonight’s start at Fenway as the Orioles attempt to even the series with Boston. He’ll be opposed by (former Chicago Cub) Ryan Dempster, who’s had his own issues with inconsistency over time. The O’s have reshuffled the rotation a bit with yesterday’s off day; Chris Tillman will start the series finale on Thursday, and Miguel Gonzalez on Friday night in New York.