I can't imagine we'll spend too much time talking about the Cubs this summer. That organization is undertaking a massive (and overdue) rebuilding project. The Cubs are built to lose this season, and their 9-16 record through the first 25 games is an accurate reflection of who they are. This is a team that will lose 90 games, maybe even 95 or 100. For the most part, there isn't going to be much to discuss with this collection of bums.
That said, every once in awhile this Cubs team is going to cough up such a large hairball that we can't help but comment on it. Such was the case Thursday afternoon when Carlos Marmol and friends treated us to a spectacular implosion that looked as if it could have occurred on your local Little League diamond.
You have to pity poor Ryan Dempster. In his first start back from the disabled list, he pitched a fine game. He fired eight innings of three-hit ball at the Cincinnati Reds. He struck out six, walked just one and left the mound with a 3-0 lead. Enter "closer" Marmol, and before you knew, the Reds had rallied for a 4-3 victory.
Cincinnati scored three runs in the ninth to tie, and it did so despite collecting only one base hit during the rally. You see, Marmol was just too afraid to throw a fastball to that fearsome offensive force known as Willie Harris. White Sox fans all remember Harris -- the veteran utility player with very little pop in his bat. If you challenge Wee Willie with a fastball, probably the worst thing that will happen is he'll hit it for a single.
Alas, Marmol threw Harris five pitches -- four of them sliders -- and issued a leadoff walk. In my book, that pitch selection counts as criminal stupidity. The next three hitters due up after Harris were Joey Votto, Brandon Phillips and Jay Bruce. Those are the best hitters Cincinnati has to offer. You don't want to put people on base ahead of those guys, and you certainly don't want to walk people with a three-run lead. Marmol should have attacked Harris with his heater and made him earn his way on. Alas he did not, and that poor strategy opened the gates to hell for the Cubs.
Marmol next walked Votto on four pitches. Even with the count 3-0, Marmol still refused to throw his fastball. Ball four was a slider nowhere near the plate. Once again, I can't for the life of me understand that pitch selection. Votto did not represent the tying run in that situation. He's going to be taking all the way, trying to get on base, so just pour one over. Instead, Marmol issued a second straight walk, bringing Phillips to the plate representing the tying run.
Finally, Marmol threw one over the plate to Phillips, who hit a tailor-made double-play grounder to third. All Cubs third baseman Ian Stewart had to do was pick up the ball, tag third base and throw to first. If he had done that, the Cubs get two outs and probably go on to win. But in his haste to tag third Stewart forgot to catch the ball, which squirted out into left field. Harris scored easily to make it 3-1. Still two on, still nobody out.
Up stepped Bruce, who lined a sharp single to right field to load the bases. Note, this is the ONLY hard-hit ball of Cincinnati's entire comeback.
Marmol then walked Ryan Ludwick (on yet another slider) to force in a run. 3-2. Bases loaded, still no outs. Mercifully, Cubs manager Dale Sveum removed Marmol and brought in rookie right-hander Rafael Dolis. You have to give Dolis credit. He put out the fire. He induced a double-play grounder from Devin Mesoraco. The tying run scored on that DP, but hey, in that situation you'll trade the tying run for two outs. Dolis then fanned Wilson Valdez to get the game into extra innings.
Naturally, the Cubs offense went quietly in the 10th, and then it was Dolis' turn to implode in the bottom of the inning. Cincinnati's Zack Cozart grounded a leadoff single into center field. Then, Chris Heisey laid down a sacrifice bunt that Dolis fielded, but his throw to first was right into the runner. The ball appeared to hit Heisey in the back and caromed away, allowing Cozart to make third base. First and third, no outs. A sacrifice fly by Scott Rolen followed. The Reds had their come-from-behind win, and the Cubs meltdown was complete.
Final totals for the last two innings: Four Cincinnati runs on two singles, a sac fly and a sac bunt, plus three walks and two Cubs' errors.
I have to admit, this comedy of errors was highly entertaining. But then again, I'm not a Cubs fan. On the Comcast SportsNet postgame show, host David Kaplan looked like he had just lost his last friend in the world. I wouldn't take this season too seriously if I were Kaplan or any other Cubs fan. This team has already crossed the line into "fun bad." When you're struggling like the Cubs are, you just have to laugh it off and get ready for 2015.