Saturday, July 31, 2010

Zambrano is Back. Now What?

Bobby Howry is gone and probably should be as he was released to make room for everyone's favorite pinata, Carlos Zambrano. And so, with his anger management class now behind him and more than a month and a half in exile, the Big Z is back in the Cubs' fold. So what happens now?

The Cubs are sending him back to the bullpen. Which makes sense considering he would be entering in essence his third Spring Training of the season. Does it make any difference at this point in the season? No, not for the Cubs. But it does call into question the future of the erstwhile ace and what the Cubs intend to do with him from here.

Let's backtrack a bit. The Fan can't excuse Zambrano's behavior back on June 10th. He acted like an ass and Derrek Lee was right to call him out for it. But was the event so terrible that the pitcher required a month and a half suspension? Not for this Fan. Yeah, a fine and a couple days off maybe. What if it had been Ted Lilly who had the meltdown? What if it had been Dempster? Yeah, Zambrano has a history of immature behavior. But his error on June 10th wasn't a lack of effort or a lack of desire. It was an act of frustration. The anger management class was probably spot on as needed for the guy. But the punishment didn't seem to fit the crime.

The real crime has been the way Zambrano has been treated this season by the Cubs. He got off to a bad start and he gave up a lot more hits than usual for his career path. He gave up a few more homers than in seasons past. But if you look beyond those glaring stats, his K/9 was higher than his career average. His walks per nine were right on his career average (though too high for this Fan's liking). The Fan thinks that either Hendry or Piniella made the decision to humble the guy and took him out of the rotation and buried him in the bullpen. If Zambrano was just left alone to pitch every fifth day, he would have delivered what he has always delivered, 200+ innings with some adventure and a lot of outs.

The way this writer sees it, there is no way Zambrano can resume his career as a Cub as things stand now. If Hendry were to finally get fired and a new regime were brought in, perhaps they would tell the big guy to forget about this year and be ready to take the ball every fifth day next year. But Hendry isn't going anywhere, which makes about as much sense as the Texas ownership situation. So Zambrano is just a pile of crap right now and flies are buzzing all around it.

The Cubs should just trade the guy. Try to get another Carlos Silva somewhere. Hey, maybe Bannister of the Royals would suddenly win his first nine games with the Cubs. Why not? Because all they are getting from Zambrano right now is a hesitant bullpen guy who should have been a starter that is making $18 million a year.

That paycheck is nearly the same amount as the Yankees are paying Mark Teixeira and that is a good comparison. Teixeira couldn't have been more brutal the first three months of the season. He was terrible. But the Yankees kept throwing him out there every day because he has a history of success. And eventually, Teixeira came around. Zambrano did not get that luxury. It was almost as if Hendry and Piniella had buyer's remorse for spending that much on Zambrano and were willing to spank him as soon as he started losing.

Many of you will say it's not a fair comparison because Teixeira is a calm professional while Zambrano has a few cards missing from his deck. But first of all, how do you know that Teixeira is not a jerk? Who knows. But Zambrano is an emotional roller coaster and it all happens in living color on television during his starts.

Carlos Zambrano probably needed a class or two on how to handle his emotions. But the Cubs seriously manhandled his season way before June 10th. Without being an expert on law, the Fan would come close to thinking that Zambrano has a case for misuse with his union. But the only thing that would happen there would be for some arbitrator to rule that Zambrano is a free agent. Why would he throw away $18 million to do that? That brings up another point. Why are we as fans so eager to blame a player for making large sums of money? It's a free market system and when a team pays that kind of money, blame the team if the player doesn't produce. If anyone offered you that kind of guaranteed money, wouldn't you take it?

This Fan will give Zambrano about 40% of the blame for being an emotional freak. But give the Cubs 60% of the blame for this entire season and how they've manhandled Zambrano from the very beginning.


bobook said...

If this post were on the field, you'd be tagged out for being way off base. Your bias against Piniella skews your normally logical writing.

Josh Borenstein said...

It's an ugly situation, and all parties could have handled it better. Zambrano should have never been signed to such a hefty contract, nor should he have been relegated to bullpen duty so early in the season.

William said...

heh, bobook! A backhanded compliment after a head slapping. Really more biased against Jim Hendry than Piniella, but you probably aren't far off. Piniella should have quit after the Tampa years. Appreciate the comment though.