Carlos Marmol and The Myth of the Closer

Why making one pitcher all-time closer is a little silly

As this is February and there's basically nothing going on in sports except for A-Rod's positive test -- thank goodness for that, or we'd all be out of business for the next 20 days -- pretty much everything being written about the Cubs and White Sox, our next great impending diversions, is of the recycled and/or not that important sectors.

Take today's brief report on Carlos Marmol wanting to be the Cubs' closer. We've been down this road before. The Cubs want Marmol and former Marlins closer Kevin Gregg to compete for the job. Marmol thinks he has earned the position. Lou Piniella wants to see a competition. And so on.

The real discussion here is whether the Cubs will get smart with their closer spot and ... eliminate it. Yes: eliminate it. What on Earth are we talking about?

We're talking about the way baseball teams use their best relief pitching inefficiently. Closers face their fair share of tight games, but if you truly believe your closer is your best relief pitcher, it would be more efficient to keep the possibility that he'll pitch in the seventh, or eighth inning open. Instead, most teams reserve their closer until the ninth; oftentimes, their offense negates the need for a pitch to throw, or they widen the lead to three runs from, say, one, making the situation the closer enters far lower-leverage than the one a middle reliever just pitched. See why that's sort of silly?

It would be profoundly interesting -- and a little brave, given baseball conventions on the matter -- if Lou Piniella said, no, you know what? We're not going to do that. We'll pitch Marmol when we need Marmol -- whether that's in the seventh, eighth, ninth, or extra innings. Now that would be a interesting February baseball story.

Eamonn Brennan is a writer, editor and blogger hunkered down in Lincoln Park. You can also read him at Yahoo! Sports, FanHouse, MOUTHPIECE Sports Blog, and Inside The Hall, or at his personal site,

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