Archive for January, 2012

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.

For the dons, for the crazy producers, the polish gym teachers, for those stuck in the 90’s, for those who hate, for those who love, for the fans, for the supporters, for those that think we’re stupid, for those that read, for those that listen, for those that believe in curses, for those that believe in next year, for those that attend a different mass on Sundays (but only during the winter), for those that prefer ice to hardwood, for those that love squeaking sneakers and metallic clangs, for those that still believe in Chicago tough, for you and everyone you know, happy new year.

People are fickle creatures sometimes. It is of no surprise that the Chicago Bulls looked disjointed coming out of the gates to open the 2011-2012 season. There are several factors for this. The most important one to remember is that the Bulls require practice time to hone the defensive fundamentals that are key to the Tommy Thibs defense. The opening victory was highlighted by a great defensive play that led to a Rose hook shot in the lane that was oddly reminiscent of Magic hitting the same shot over the Celtics many years ago.

Perhaps what people should also remember about that 88-87 win over the Lakers is that the defense looked sluggish at times. Kobe was allowed to get his shot and on the whole the Bulls weren’t rotating properly nor were they playing the brand of suffocating defense we’ve grown accustomed too.

It was clear that the Bulls were struggling to find their defense in the 99-91 loss to the Golden State Warriors. They were trailing double digits for some of that game as Steph Curry and Monta Ellis had their way with Rose/Hamilton/Watson. For some reason small/quick guards seem to give Rose fits. The defense wouldn’t start to find it’s way until the Bulls traveled to Sacramento to play the Kings. Even that performance was subpar by Bulls standards, but some of the keys to great defense were starting to show up more frequently.

The Chris Paul vs. Derrick Rose debate has been raging for quite some time. Derricks ascendancy to the MVP throne gave rise to a popular notion outside of Chicago that Rose is the better player playing point guard, but that Paul was a better traditional Point Guard.

This notion is silly. Chris Paul is a fine player, in his time he was one of the best 3 players in the league. He is the classic point guard and his defense is extremely underrated. Ever since knee surgery, however, he hasn’t been the same. Nor should we expect him to be. Paul’s time as an elite player are gone. He is an elite point guard, but he is no longer one of the 5 best players in the league. He’s the second best player on his own team. We don’t need to pay homage to him anymore. His legacy should be set. Paul can no longer explode to the basket, and he knows this. He is a master at the dribble penetrate move, he can move in traffic remarkably well and has great court vision. He is no longer better than Derrick Rose. It was clear in the final minutes of the Bulls-Clippers match up that Rose has surpassed Paul.

The Bulls ripped off a game ending run that choked the life out of Lob City. Paul was ineffective for much of that run as Rose exploded to put the game away in the closing minutes. The Bulls won 114-101. Rose doesn’t have Paul’s court vision and his defense is maybe a notch below, but he has everything else. Rose is quicker, he has an equal ball handle, he shoots better, he drives to the lane better, he has a higher vertical, he is bigger, faster, stronger and better than Chris Paul is. This isn’t meant to take away from Paul, rather it’s to give credit to Rose.

What we are watching with Derrick Rose is generational. We Bulls fans are spoiled in this sense, we’re getting it again, on a different level and scale. The story has yet to be finished, but it looks like a great one.

The Grizzlies didn’t bother to show up for the Bulls homecoming game, and the defense was finally there for the Bulls. Chicago has a lot to look forward to during the regular season, but the playoffs are what counts. The Bulls are gearing up for their run, and if the recent pattern holds up, it can be a very deep and fruitful run.