Dale Sveum was in an awful spot.
His big-money, trade-bait closer, Carlos Marmol, just wouldn't throw a fastball, even up three runs with a 3-0 count to the Reds Joey Votto.
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The once dominant slider has either floated perfectly into a batter's wheelhouse, or chaotically out of the strike zone. What used to be unhittable, yet difficult to lay off, is now a cookie or free pass waiting to happen.
On Saturday morning, his once legendary K/9 rate was just 63rd in the National League, while opponents have an amazing .426 OBP against him, "good" for 117th best.
The quotes from Sveum this week about Marmol's unwillingness to throw the fastball were infuriating, exposing the dysfunction further.
"To tell you the truth, I don't know. It's a confidence factor or something.
"We've talked about it, and when he gets out on the mound, things change."
They've talked about it. So Marmol is not just bad, he's disobedient, shaking off pitch selections.
You simply can't let that go unpunished if you aspire to keep respect and integrity among the players who matter most in the clubhouse.
Side note here; remember Carlos Zambrano's sloppy, selfish tirade in St. Louis last season that ended in the infamous "we stinks" quote? That was spurred by this exact same issue after Marmol pitched scared against a mediocre former Cub.
"We all know that Ryan Theriot is not a good fastball hitter," blurted Big Z.
As was often the case, Zambrano's angry blather had some baseball truth to it. If you missed it, there was restraint from Zambrano this week in Miami, quoted after Heath Bell blew a THIRD potential win for the former Cub.
Wonder if the Marlins will eventually be called out if they continue to "stinks."
We all know Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer desperately need Marmol to perform well to make him even remotely appetizing to the myriad teams with bullpen issues around the league.
Does old pitching coach Larry Rothschild want a crack at fixing him in New York, where the great Mariano Rivera has been lost to a torn ACL? Doubtful, even were it just for earlier innings.
But there are many more options. The Giants, Reds, Red Sox, and Blue Jays are all wannabe contenders working without their preseason ninth- inning appointee.
Marmol's contract is part of the expensive wreckage lingering deep below the waters Jim Hendry sailed -- $7.2 million this year and $9.8 next, for a wild former position player with erratic mechanics and a stubbornness now evident for all to see.
That's a lot some GM would have to look past in falling prey to what I like to call "out-of-town stupid."
I offer a bit of recent precedent here.
Last season, Francisco Rodriguez of the Mets was a problematic, fading closer with a $12 million price tag. In July, the Brewers decided it was still worth making him the setup man for John Axford. The Mets picked up 5 of the 12 mil, and K-Rod had an ERA under 2 and a WHIP under 1.20 in 31 games for a playoff team.
This is not a perfect parallel by any stretch; there was a vesting option year that the Brewers trade had to navigate around, and K-Rod's troubles were more off the field than on. But the point is, someone may still bite if Marmol can reclaim a shred of consistency.
Sveum had no choice but to move Marmol out of the closer role, hoping he regains some semblance of himself in a setup role.
And if it bothers Epstein? Well, it's a nod to his "parallel fronts" of rebuilding while trying to win, while also serving as an accountability reminder to the rest of the team.
Do what I say, players, even if you think you know better.
• Matt Spiegel co-hosts "The McNeil & Spiegel Show" 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday-Friday on WSCR 670-AM, and The Score's "Hit and Run" at 9 a.m. Sundays with his Daily Herald colleague, Barry Rozner. Follow him on Twitter @mattspiegel670. Matt thinks a runner trying to score from first on a double into the gap is the most exciting play in baseball.