I’ve never been one to call for a managers head, or question a manager openly, unless their first name is Mike, and last name is Quade, that’s not what this is. I’ve played the game, nowhere near the MLB level, and I’ve never been a manager so I cannot relate to what Sveum goes through on a daily basis with one eye on his team, one eye on his future, and one eye on the organizations future, wait, that’s too many eyes, I digress. Sveum has been a popular target on social media, specifically twitter the last week, and really all the season when the Cubs flame out, but rarely receives any credit when he does make the right move and it pays off. Now, I understand that this is usually the case with managers, but it’s worth pointing out that Cubs fans are slowly turning their hate and ire towards Sveum. Last night didn’t help, and it added fuel to the fire of the keeping Shawn Camp decision, more on that later.
I don’t care what word you want to use, disaster, debacle, mismanaged, I think they all apply to last night. After Matt Garza made a successful return to the mound going five scoreless innings giving up one hit while walking three and striking out five he was lifted by Sveum, this was after 82 pitches, and it was the RIGHT move. Sveum screwed up last night, but one of the things he did right was lift Garza, Garza means more to the Cubs healthy with a no decision, then hurt again, and 1-0 on the season. The head scratching came after he lifted Garza. Shawn Camp was warming up in the pen during the fifth inning in case Garza couldn’t get out of some trouble, Garza did get out of the trouble, then Camp sat down. Hector Rondon got up instead and was slated to come in for the sixth, that was the first issue I had. Shawn Camp has been awful this year, Shawn Camp has shown signs of a dead arm this year, you don’t get him up to come in then sit him down, doesn’t work, usually doesn’t. Rondon struggled, which can happen, then Sveum reached a new level of second guessing by bringing in James Russell, arguably the best arm in the pen…. in the sixth. Sure, one could argue that this was a turning point in the game, but what happens after the sixth if Russell gets out of it? Who’s left out of the pen to work the seventh, Camp? The same Camp that just sat down an inning ago? Marmol would probably come in for the seventh, but as you will read Sveum had no intentions of letting Russell get out of the sixth.
Let’s stop there for a second to discuss something else. When Garza’s return to the rotation was announced, last week, Sveum said that Villanueva was going to go to the pen. Okay, given that Garza was on a strict pitch count last night, Sveum had a day or so to figure out what he wanted to do when Garza was lifted, and he was most likely going to be lifted early. So one would think that it would have made perfect sense to bring in Villanueva to not only get through the sixth, but piece together the game and have Villanueva get the ball to the ninth assuming he was effective. But Villanueva was nowhere to be found, and I do understand that he might not have been available, but for argument’s sake I figured I would at least bring it up as another possible option for Sveum in the sixth.
Okay, back to what actually happened last night. So in comes Russell in the sixth inning with the bases loaded and one out to face Pedro Alvarez. I get the lefty/lefty match up thing in a big spot but after Russell walked Alvarez Sveum removed him. The best arm in the pen faced one batter in the sixth and that was it. If you are going to bring Russel in for that situation let him get out of it, or at least attempt to. I don’t care if it’s a righty or lefty at the plate, Russell can get both out, instead he faces one guy, and leaves the game in the same situation as he entered it. Now comes the decision to bring in Shawn Camp with the bases loaded and one out, he gets the first guy, but then is left in to face a lefty in Travis Snider, why? If Russell is being lifted after one hitter because of matchup’s why is Camp being left in the game for an unfavorable matchup? Probably because he was the third pitcher of the inning already. But if this was the most important spot in the game, important enough to use Russell, why wasn’t Fujikawa brought in, or Marmol, both have been better than Camp, and that’s alarming given Marmol’s struggles. Dale completely botched this whole situation as he then was forced to stick with Camp the rest of the inning because no one was left out of the pen if he went to a fourth pitcher in the inning.
So, what could have been done differently? Garza had to come out, no question, I absolutely agree with that move. I’m indifferent on bringing in Rondon in that situation, but I would have went with Marmol, but have a quick hook ready if he can’t find the zone. Ideally, Marmol works the sixth inning, Russell works the seventh, Fujikawa works the eighth, and Gregg closes it out. I don’t see any reason why Rondon HAD to be used, when in the past Sveum has shied away from using him late with a lead, but my biggest complaint is Russell for one hitter, makes no sense. Now, this is the scenario if Villanueva was not available, if he was available then this game was the perfect spot for a former starter easing into the pen. Use him for as long as he is effective then go from there, we’ve already seen our fair share of bullpen disasters, but I think this one could have been avoided with better decision-making from Sveum.
That brings us to the other question, why was Camp still available to be used in the first place? To make room for Garza one pitcher had to be designated for assignment, and that pitcher was Michael Bowden. Bowden was having a solid season on the heels of having a really good finish to 2012, but now the Cubs risk losing him completely, and he’s only 26, why? I can’t really answer that question, and ultimately that decision comes down to the front office. Both Theo and Jed said that all decisions regarding the roster are made with a large input from Dale, so my guess is that he lobbied hard for Camp, and the front office showed faith in their manager and player by keeping Camp around. The Cubs had options here, they could have placed Rondon on the DL with a “middle body” injury to by some time before making a decision, or they could have released Camp who looks done, there is nothing telling me that he is going to bounce back in any way, shape or form. Let’s not forget the only reason the Cubs got him was that he was released by Seattle during spring training the year before. He’s also 37 years old, all of these things just don’t add up in regards to keeping him, so Sveum and the front office have to share the blame on that one, and if I had to guess Camp won’t be on the Cubs by the All-Star break. Been a while since I’ve been able to share my thoughts in this space, felt I needed to after last night, today’s another game, let’s get a win!