Perfect time for Cubs to waive bye-bye to Carlos Zambrano
by Phil Rogers On Baseball June 29, 2009
As Lou Piniella was saying on Friday, enough's enough.
Get Carlos Zambrano out of here, even if the Cubs have to give him away. He's not the guy you want as the ace of a curse-busting team, and at this point, it's wishful thinking that he'll ever mature into that guy.
Proving that I did not attend Kellogg, Wharton or even the Acme School of Business, I offer this proposition for Jim Hendry: First thing Monday morning, put Zambrano on waivers. If anyone claims him and the $62.75 million left on his contract, which runs through 2012, immediately trade him for whatever is being offered, from a bag of balls to a 32-year-old minor-leaguer.
Because Hendry gave Zambrano a full no-trade clause in a 2007 contract extension, Zambrano can choose: Either go where he's being dealt, waving goodbye to Wrigley Field, or block the trade and deal with the knowledge that you're playing for a team that believes it can live without you.
What a show Zambrano put on Sunday at U.S. Cellular Field.
Given the Cubs' sorry display of the previous two days, when Piniella called Milton Bradley "a piece of [bleep]" and then got upset that the confidentiality of the clubhouse had been breached, allegedly by an unknown White Sox employee, the setting called for professionalism.
Unfortunately for the North Side drama queens, their ace once again reported for work wearing size 30 shoes and a red rubber ball on his nose. Zambrano pitched badly and lost his cool for about the zillionth time, venting his frustrations on Sox hitters en route to a 6-0 loss.
Zambrano clearly drilled Dewayne Wise in the butt on the first pitch after he had sniffed out a suicide squeeze attempt but threw wildly past Geovany Soto, allowing rookie Chris Getz to steal home. Home plate umpire Brian Runge should have ejected Zambrano, as it looked to me like the second time he had intentionally drilled a Sox hitter.
He also ricocheted a pitch off Scott Podsednik's rear end in the third inning. The motivation here wasn't nearly as clear, but Sox players believe he was angry about either Podsednik's four-hit game Saturday or, more likely, his unorthodox dance toward the front of the batter's box during a pitcher's delivery.
Sox manager Ozzie Guillen played Zambrano like a Stradivarius after Podsednik was hit.
He let Zambrano throw repeatedly to first, holding Podsednik close, and never gave him the steal sign. He hoped a distracted Zambrano would hang a pitch to Alexei Ramirez or Jermaine Dye, and that's exactly what Zambrano did, with Ramirez drilling a two-run homer on a 1-2 pitch.
Zambrano then unraveled like, well, like he often does.
The sequence that allowed the Sox to add on to a 3-0 lead in the sixth was classic. Zambrano's instincts were good enough to anticipate a suicide squeeze with Getz on third and Wise, the No. 9 hitter , batting. He just couldn't execute. Soto had no chance to catch a fastball that sailed over the right-handed batter's box. Fuming, Zambrano hit Wise with the next pitch.
"It was a cutter that cut too much," he claimed later.
He offered an even stronger defense when asked if Podsednik was also hit with a cut fastball. "Yeah, cutter," said Zambrano, who allowed five runs in 5 1/3 innings. "The ball cut a lot. I don't want to put Podsednik on base. I'm not crazy. Nobody wants to have Podsednik on base."
Zambrano had warmed up for the predictably high-energy start with a war of words with Sox pitching coach Don Cooper, who had been critical of Zambrano's on-field meltdown on May 27. He tried to make a joke of Cooper's 1-6 big-league record and bragged about his no-hitter.
Then, as usual, he went out and did not deliver.
There are many reasons that a Cubs' team with more than $140 million invested in payroll is in fourth place in the National League Central, and one of them is a front-runner, not a difference-maker.
The Cubs are 0-5 in Zambrano's starts in the playoffs, being outscored 31-15. We'll dismiss the 2003 NL Championship Series as old news and blame Piniella for lifting him when he was in a 1-1 game against Brandon Webb in the 2007 playoff opener, but his pitching had as much to do with the ugly Game 2 loss to Los Angeles last year as did the four infield errors.
Hendry had a chance to let Zambrano walk as a free agent after 2007, the season in which he beat up catcher Michael Barrett during a game at Wrigley, but injuries to Mark Prior and Kerry Wood gave Zambrano a hammer.
Too bad the one he now swings makes funny noises, like the one Moe favored when whacking Larry and Curly.