Carlos Marmol sucks.
This is not new information to Cubs fans, who have watched the once-electric closer lose his job less than a week into the 2013 season. Marmol’s been awful, going 0-1 with a 27.00 ERA with a 4.80 WHIP and .600 opponent batting average in three appearances before manager Dale Sveum finally pulled the plug.
But this being the Cubs, I got to wondering if this was the worst week for a closer in team history. A popular debate amongst Cubs fans is “Who is our worst closer ever?” and there are plenty of choices when you consider that Joe Borowski was one of the best.
My personal go-to for worst ever is Mel Rojas, though my friends are willing to throw out names as varied as Rick Aguilera, Antonio Alfonseca, Kevin Gregg or the washed-up version of Goose Gossage. However, those answers are usually based on the emotions associated with a particularly devastating series of blown saves.
When you crunch the numbers, who actually comes out on the bottom?
Dave Smith, 1991
Season: 0-6, 6.00 ERA, 17 saves, 7 blown saves
Worst Stretch: April 19-22, 3 appearances, 1 2/3 innings, 0-2, blown save, 27.00 ERA, 5.99 WHIP, .667 opponent batting average
A heralded free agent signing in the ’91 offseason, Smith was expected to be a key cog on a Cubs team that thought it could compete for a division title when it also brought in George Bell and Danny Jackson. Instead, Smith sucked balls, helping get manager Don Zimmer fired when the team stumbled out of the gates with an 18-19 record.
Mel Rojas, 1997
Season (with Cubs): 0-4, 4.42 ERA, 13 saves, 7 blown saves
Worst Stretch: June 3-7, 3 appearances, 3 innings, 0-0, 1 blown save, 15.00 ERA, 2.33 WHIP, .308 opponent batting average
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before — Cubs free agent closer to big contract, he sucks. They took their losses with Rojas, though, trading him to the Mets in a post-deadline waiver wire deal on Aug. 7.
He promptly blew his first save attempt in New York.
Rick Aguilera, 2000
Season: 1-2, 4.91 ERA, 29 saves, 8 blown saves
Worst Stretch: May 6-17, 5 appearances, 2 2/3 innings, 1-1, 3 blown saves, 27.00 ERA, 4.49 WHIP, .500 opponent batting average
Aguilera’s final season in the majors leveled off to the point that he was just barely below mediocre by year’s end. However, for a two-week stretch in May, he was one of the worst pitchers to ever wear a Cubs uniform — which of course made him one of the worst to wear any uniform.
Antonio Alfonseca, 2002
Season: 2-5, 4.00 ERA, 19 saves, 9 blown saves
Worst Stretch: July 28-August 11, 5 appearances, 6 1/3 innings, 0-2, 2 blown saves, 14.21 ERA, 2.53 WHIP, .414 opponent batting average
So, the Cubs make an off-season trade for a closer, and… yeah, I’m not going to go any further with this sentence. (Did I mention they traded away the 2003 Rookie of the Year in that deal?)
LaTroy Hawkins, 2004
Season: 5-4, 2.63 ERA, 25 saves, 9 blown saves
Worst Stretch: September 21-29, 5 appearances, 4 2/3 innings, 1-0, 2 saves, 3 blown saves, 5.79 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, .300 opponent batting average
If you would have told me the only two pitchers from this team still in baseball would be LaTroy Hawkins and Kyle Farnsworth… no. That conversation never would have happened between any two sane people.
Hawkins has always been a good setup man, which is what he was supposed to be on this team before Borowski got hurt and the Cubs decided not to pick up another closer. And he had a better year than anyone remembers… until the final 10 days of the season. That’s all that anyone remembers when you finish 2-7 and miss the playoffs by 3 games and had two of those games wrapped up before Hawkins came in.
Kevin Gregg, 2009
Season: 5-6, 4.72 ERA, 23 saves, 7 blown saves
Worst Stretches: August 1-17, 8 appearances, 8 innings, 1-3, 2 saves, 3 blown saves, 11.25 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, .294 opponent batting average; September 4-9, 3 appearances, 1 2/3 innings, 0-1, 37.80 ERA, 5.39 WHIP, .545 opponent batting average.
This goggle-wearing piece of shit was so bad that I couldn’t figure out which stretch of horrible pitching was his worst. This season was the last time the Cubs even sniffed a playoff spot, and Gregg’s incompetence (combined with Milton Bradley’s insanity) helped assure it of being no more than a sniff.