There are many great things about being on vacation. There are the obvious benefits of the sun and long periods of relaxation away from school work and actual work, and this time, it appears, there is an added benefit of not being tied into the Cubs as closely as I normally am.
The Marlins series was highly stressful and depressing as we saw the Cubs bullpen forced into overuse and eventually fail in their efforts to hold the Marlins down late in each game.
There were many culprits. Marmol imploded on Friday. Gregg blew up on Saturday, but was saved much ire and hatred from Cubs fans by Derrek Lee and Aaron Heilman.
Unfortunately, Heilman was not as good the next night, blowing the slim 1-0 lead provided by a resurgent Ryan Dempster. Jake Fox did his best to be the hero, but then Gregg gave up back-to-back homeruns in the bottom of the 9th to lose the game and the series.
I was getting my information largely from Twitter as I enjoyed my fresh gulf shrimp dinner while overlooking the Gulf of Mexico, so when I saw what had happened, I was comforted almost immediately by my foofy frozen fruity drink sitting before me.
Judging from the tweets I read later, Kevin Gregg should probably hire someone with secret service experience to make sure he lives long enough to pitch again. Hiring a couple of food tasters probably wouldn't be the worst idea in the world either.
I'm not quite as worked up about it. Gregg isn't a lockdown closer and we all knew that. The reason I have a hard time being pissed at Hendry about that is that there weren't that many options in the offseason to address the closer question.
Anybody who lobbied for Marmol in the closer role has to admit that Marmol has taken a giant step backwards this year and would have been absolutely disastrous as a closer. The Kerry Wood backers have no argument because Wood has been worse than Gregg and more expensive in Cleveland.
The other option was Trevor Hoffman. Using hindsight, it appears signing a 41-year old would have been the prudent thing to do, but at the time, it would have been a case of Hendry putting on the Gaetti-glasses and wishing he was signing the Trevor Hoffman of five years ago. It would have been the lightning-in-a-bottle approach that has sickened many a Cubs fan in the years prior.
As for me, I still don't hate Kevin Gregg. I'm not going to pretend that my confidence soars when he enters a game, but I'm not overcome with feelings of dread either. Maybe it's because I know that a closer's position is tentative at best in most cases.
I'm willing to bet that Cubs fans everywhere would have rejoiced if Hendry had managed to trade for Brad Lidge or Bobby Jenks in the offseason. Both closers have World Series experience, both have been considered elite in their careers as recently as last season, and both are currently on the outs with their teams for not living up to expectations.
Before his run-in with his former team, Kevin Gregg had sported an .875 save percentage this season, which is about league average and would have ranked him almost dead in the middle of the closer save percentages. Thats pretty much what we should have expected out of Kevin Gregg. Anybody expecting a 90+% save percentage out of him is delusional. I, personally, think it's delusional to expect 90+% out of any closer, given the numerous factors that can contribute to a blown save that aren't always entirely the pitcher's fault.
Gregg had saved 10 straight games going back to his last blown save on my birthday. He had been forced into a few multi-inning saves and into games he should not have had to enter at all but for the inability of the other members of the bullpen to close out a game with a large lead. I think he is more capable in the role than I thought he would be, and would gladly rather see him than someone like Marmol who seemingly teeters on the brink of disaster in the best of his outings this year.
This is not to say that giving up back-to-back homeruns to lose a game in the ninth is acceptable. I'm sure Kevin Gregg will be the first to tell you it is not. However, the signs and bracelets and t-shirts that say It's Gonna Happen might as well be referring to the fact that saves are going to get blown. The measure of a team and the measure of the closer is how they react to these disappointments.
Gregg's confidence has undoubtedly been dealt a serious blow. The team has to be a little bummed about losing two of three very winnable ball games in Florida. They continue on tonight in Cincinnati and face a team they manhandled fairly well at home. We'll see how they come out in this series
I fully expect to see Gregg in his closer role as usual, and I have no problem with that whatsoever. Blown leads happen. Its over. Move on.