Bullpen failures, “sloppy ball” are dooming Chicago Cubs’ season

Shawn Camp makes a face on the mound for the Chicago Cubs.
It must be that 15.43 ERA that’s making Shawn Camp wince.

On Sunday morning, I woke up in Minneapolis and took my kids to the Mall of America. I had originally entertained the idea of taking in a Twins game at Target Field, but Sunday’s weather confirmed every image I ever had about Minnesota: cold, snowy, and the kind of place that drives people to the Mall of America to escape the conditions.

We left in the afternoon for the long drive back to Chicago, and the temperature was right at 32 degrees. As we crossed the Mississippi River into Wisconsin, I drove for a couple of hours in a certified ice storm. When the weather finally started to break, somewhere near Eau Claire, Wisc., we pulled off the road and had dinner. And the parking lot was covered in snow and ice.

After dinner, the temperature started to climb. First it hit 40 degrees, and then 50, and by the time we reached Chicago, about five hours later, the temperature was a robust 65 degrees. Suffice it to say there was no snow or ice to be seen anywhere.

The story of the ice and snow, which seemed to vanish altogether someplace between Eau Claire and Chicago, is a bit how the Chicago Cubs have seemed over the past week or so. With the Chicago Cubs playing what Theo Epstein has labelled “sloppy ball,” their hopes for staying competitive in the National League Central seem to be fading by the day. And soon — barring a dramatic reversal of fortune — the Chicago Cubs’ hopes will be as nonexistent as snow on a 65 degree day.

If it sounds like I’m being overly dramatic, with the season still less than 10 percent completed, consider this: The Chicago Cubs have a scheduled game every day between now and Monday, May 6. That’s 19 consecutive days without a day off. And if you think the Cubs have the bullpen to sustain that, I will respectfully suggest otherwise:

  • Shawn Camp is currently sporting an ERA of 15.43 and a WHIP of 2.79.
  • Kyuji Fujikawa has an ERA over 12 and a WHIP over 2. And he’s supposed to be the closer.
  • Carlos Marmol has an ERA of 7.94 and a WHIP of 2.12, and he lost the closer’s role after the Upton brothers pummeled him in Atlanta.

It would be difficult enough with any one of these relievers coming out of the bullpen over the next few weeks. But the options for the Cubs — especially in the late innings — leave far too much to be desired. It should be a brutal stretch to watch but, as always, I’m willing to be proven wrong.

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