The Requisite Carlos Zambrano Swan Song

Posted: January 5, 2012 by Mauricio Rubio Jr. in Baseball, Columns, MLB, Through Both Lenses
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

I’ll always remember Carlos Zambrano as the guy who didn’t. He didn’t win 20 games. He didn’t win a Cy Young award, he didn’t help the Cubs win a championship, he didn’t deliver on the promise his career flashed early. He didn’t care about staying in shape, he didn’t become better, overall, Carlos Zambrano didn’t, and in this case it’s an extreme negative.

And now he is ex-Cub Carlos Zambrano.

While a certain part of me was always entertained by his antics, I’m not lamenting his loss. For those that question why the Cubs would eat so much money and only get Chris Volstad in return, you should probably understand that there were no offers for Z. Miami was the logical choice for him, he is finally united with his compatriot, his brother in arms as it were, Ozzie Guillen.

Carlos is a headcase. I’m not sure there are many other ways to put it. He was absolutely crazy and he was an asshole teammate. He had that competitive fire, he was intense, he fielded his position well, he was a good baseball player for awhile, but overall he could never strike the delicate balance between his talent and his passion.

I’ll never know for sure, but I believe that if Carlos is restrained more in his early, developmental years he ends up being a better pitcher. There was always something combustible with Z. He always seemed on the edge of a huge cliff, waiting for the slightest breeze to push him over. It was evident on the mound, with all of the histrionics.

He was enabled by the previous regime to be sure, but ultimately it was up to Zambrano to figure himself out and become a better pitcher. There were flashes like the bittersweet 2003 season where he managed to allow only 9 HR’s in 214 innings, no small feat at Wrigley. He was borderline brilliant through 2007 when the wheels slowly started falling off.

Zambrano has always out-pitched his peripheral stats. He had control issues on the mound, he walked too many batters, if his 2-seamer was off he didn’t have the guile to pitch over it and he was prone to the big inning. He placed too much pressure on himself to become the staff ace. He wanted to hit too many home runs.

At times it seemed like Zambrano cared more about his hitting stats than honing his craft as a pitcher. At times Zambrano lashed out at teammates, like Michael Barrett, Alfonso Soriano and, rather inexplicably, Derrek Lee.

The final straw came against the Atlanta Braves, as a frustrated Zambrano threw behind Chipper Jones for no reason. It was a confusing moment, so much so that I was hardly shocked when he did it again. In the same at bat. On the next pitch.

Most telling was the number of Cubs that took the field to defend Z. Absolutely not one of his teammates came to his defense as the Braves stormed the field after the second pitch to kick Z’s ass.

Zambrano will struggle in the NL East, or he might be brilliant, I have no idea honestly. All I know is that he is no longer the headache of the Chicago Cubs. He’s Ozzie’s problem now.

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