There were surely a healthy amount of fans who filed out early, thinking they'd just witnessed the first career Major League win for starter Randy Wells. And as they shuffled into Murphy's Bleachers, Cubby Bear, Casey Moran's and the usual post-game bars within earshot of the boos, they witnessed on television exactly what Cub fans everywhere will surely remember as the day Kevin Gregg gave up a four-run lead in the ninth. He pitched to five batters, giving up four hits, including two back-to-back home runs.
Randy Wells did his job quite admirably. Angel Guzman did his job. Carlos Marmol even did his -- surprisingly drama-free, at that.
It's convenient at this point to bemoan the loss of Kerry Wood at this point. But he blew his share of saves last season when he came back to take over the team's closer role.
The difference: Kerry Wood was entirely forgivable.
The Cubs still found a way to win Saturday thanks to a game-winning RBI from Alfonso Soriano. As Bob Brenly mentioned in his broadcast after the game, it's unfortunate they had to win it the way they did.
So the question becomes, where do they go from here with the closer role? If you're Lou Piniella, what do you do? Move Marmol to closer despite his inconsistencies? Keep Gregg there and cross your fingers?
During the post-game press conference, Piniella didn't indicate that he's ready to make any change, indicating that the fact Gregg hadn't pitched in a few days may have contributed to his performance.
"He'll be available tomorrow," said Piniella, adding that Gregg's hand seems to be OK after a ball ricocheted into the outfield. "If we get in a close situation he'll be there again."
Cub fans are anything but patient when it comes to players who underperform. It's not long before the calls for change at the closer position become top-of-the-lung yells -- because we all know that Cub fans are even less patient when said underperforming player is so damn unforgivable.
Kyle says: The old saying says that the most popular guy in town is the backup quarterback. He just stands there in a backwards hat relaying signals and looking cool. He's not burdened with the pressure-cooker of playing the most cerebral position on the field and being analyzed to death by angry callers to sports-talk shows.
Conversely, the least popular guy in town is often the closer of the local major league baseball team. He's the guy the masses curse when the gives up a walk-off homer or blows a late-inning lead. He's vested with getting the final and most difficult outs of the game and his performance is always under a microscope -- much like the starting quarterback.
In short, if his team loses a game while he is on the mound, it seems fans are quick to blame the entire loss on him. They appear to have no problem discounting all of the men left on base earlier in the game or a previous error. It's all on the closer it seems.
The irony is that closers are successful when they have short memories. You don't want them out there thinking about a past blown save. But fans seem to have even shorter memories.
Coming into the game, Gregg was 6-for-6 in save opportunities. Six for six. Say what you want about his roller coaster innings or his 6.08 ERA, he hadn't blown a save all season -- pure and simple.
So, why is it that after one bad outing the fans' ire' shoots up faster than a two-seam fastball? It's because the late-inning collapse is so crushing. Hopes are so high and then they are dashed.
This I get.
But, let me suggest that before throwing the baby out with the bath water, Cub fans take a deep breath and enjoy their victory.
Gregg will blow another game. He will. Closers aren't perfect. Even Mariano Riveria failed in his heyday.
A little forgiveness can go a long way.
Just a thought.