After the tough outings on the road the first week of the 2013 season, former Cubs closer Carlos Marmol was welcomed home at Wrigley Field with a chorus of boos. Fred Mitchell of the Chicago Tribune went as far as to take note that the boos had begun from the upper levels of the grandstands. Marmol had been introduced with the rest of his teammates as part of the home opener ceremonies, which basically provided fans the opportunity to voice their displeasure with him for the past weekend’s performance and just the overall rollercoaster ride the Cubs righty has provided for a better part of his career.
In the eighth inning with the Cubs on the losing end of a 7-2 score line, manager Dale Sveum took the opportunity to roll out Marmol in his new role as a set up man, which in this game was mop up duty at the time. However Brewers superstar Ryan Braun greeted Marmol with a first pitch double and down came the unmistaken sounds of boos again from the fans at Wrigley. I am sure similar, if not explicit language, was being used by fans watching on televisions at home or listening to their car radios. Marmol would eventually get out of the inning with no further damage to the scoreboard, which did result in some cheers from the crowd. However it was hard to tell if the cheering was of the Bronx variety.
To Marmol’s credit, he has not taken the Carlos Zambrano reaction approach to the negative feedback from the home fans. All Marmol could do was flash a grin during player introductions and in post game interviews he said the right things. “I don’t even listen. I hear the boos, but I don’t take it in a bad way. I’m not saying that I enjoy that.” Marmol finished his comments with, “They pay the money to see us and some players don’t play good, they deserve that.” Marmol is not unfamiliar with his own struggles and for his sake he does have past history as recent as the second half of the 2012 season that proves that he is capable of bouncing back to be a productive member of the Cubs bullpen, if it he does not end up seizing the closers role back from Kyuji Fujikawa at any point this season.
However, Marmol’s teammates publically came to the defense of their teammate and friend after the game, with James Russell going as far as to question the Cubs fan base of where their allegiance lies. “It’s definitely not deserving of boos,” said Russell. “You get that in Chicago a little bit. There are some fair-weather people.” David DeJesus also voiced support for his teammates and Marmol acknowledged that he was aware that he had his teammates’ support. While it is still early in the season, that is positive news to hear, as Comcast anchor Todd Hollandsworth has admitted that he has been on teams where the late inning failings of a closure has torn a clubhouse apart.
The booing of professional athletes has become quite an argument it seems in recent years. There is the general attitude that since the fans are paying customers to see a quality product on the field, that they should be able to voice their feedback when things are going terribly. But I have to raise the question of whether or not the action of booing our own players does any good. By all accounts it is not like Marmol is the type of player that is dogging it out on the field and just approaching his struggles without taking into consideration the feedback of coaches. Marmol has followed instructions to not shake off the catcher (an effort to curb his love for throwing just his slider) and pretty much strictly threw fastballs on Saturday against the Braves in an effort to drill into his mind of establishing that pitch first before going to the wicked slider.
Marmol certainly does not want to let his teammates down by blowing a lead and a potential victory, as evidenced by the support he has gotten from his teammates via the media. And while I would not blame him if he had no warm and fuzzy feelings towards the Cubs fan base after all of the booing, the saying of the right things by Marmol to the media after blown saves shows that the desire is there to do well for the fans as well. While he may not get his wish to put the Cubs in a World Series this season, as he told Mitchell, the wish to make the Cubs successful is there.
So again the question to ask is why boo our own players repeatedly and beat a dead horse? If you were in Atlanta Saturday, by all means, boo the heck out of Marmol. But if you were at Wrigley on Monday afternoon, you had no reason to boo the man. He got out of his inning of work and was far from the reason why the Cubs lost 7-4 to their Interstate 94 rivals. Yes fans of the Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies are notorious for putting pressure on the negative team and individual performances in the past (even Phillies fans are questioning members of their own base after some were heard booing potential Hall of Fame starter Roy Halladay yesterday), but Cubs fans do not need to go there. I firmly believe that one of the factors that led to the Cubs mighty collapse in the 2003 NLCS to the Marlins was the fan reaction to the Steve Bartman play. Yes Moises Alou’s reaction to the interference helped prompt the crowd reaction to Bartman, but the booing and resulting negative atmosphere just help to fuel the flames of that disastrous half inning. The mood only deteriorated further as the fans started to get that sense of “oh no, here we go again with being cursed” attitude.
Yes professional athletes should have thick skin and should be able to perform to their contracts and roles, but they are human too. Cubs fans need to do their part and be more of a 10th man on the field and pull their weight in creating a positive winning attitude at the Friendly Confines if they want to give our boys on the field every chance to really bring a World Series title to the North Side in the near future. I am talking 2015 near future.
So how about it Cubs fans? To steal a line from the new Cubs marketing slogan, are you Committed?