Is this the last chance for Carlos Zambrano?

In an off-season in which newspaper headlines have run amok with Cubs roster moves and predictions for the 2011 season, one of particular interest was that which featured Carlos Zambrano’s excitement for the new season. Everyone’s favorite ticking time bomb was eager to dismiss last season’s escapades and focus on the 2011 season at the annual Cubs convention.

Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano points skyward following the end of the third inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium in St. Louis on August 14, 2010. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

Naturally, every Cubs fan from the streets of Chicago to the far reaches of the globe is wondering what Zambrano will show up. Will it be the bat-breaking, fire-breathing, volatile beast of man that landed him in anger management, or will it be the emotionally intact pitcher we all saw in his 8-0 finish to the 2010 season? It certainly would help the team immensely if it were the latter, but if Big Z continues to display the immaturity that has haunted his career, it is time for the organization to part ways with him.

The detrimental impacts of his antics last season completely tore apart the team’s chemistry and manager Lou Pinella’s sense of control over the players. With Mike Quade now running the show, Zambrano has a golden opportunity to keep his slate clean and stay the course.

However, if Big Z decides he needs to start kicking and screaming all over again, it would be wise for Quade to establish himself as top dog and put Z down hard—bench him, kick him out, suspend him, whatever it takes. With close to $60 million left on his contract, Zambrano is nigh untradeable—unless the Yankees come knocking—and what team would want to pick up a player who would sabotage every wood bat in the dugout? If Carlos goes sour, the Cubs’ only option should be to cut him loose.

Being in the market of Chicago, and with Ricketts’ ownership, the Cubs can afford to take the financial hit that would result from cutting Zambrano. In this case, the ends of having team togetherness and unity justify the means of eating around $60 million. Quade and pitching coach Mark Riggins have a solid rotation without Zambrano, and can turn to promising youngsters like Andrew Cashner or Jeff Samardzija in an attempt to fill the void.

Zambrano is no longer the ace of this staff. If he decides not to be what a major league baseball player should be, then the organization would be right to cut the rope holding his dragging weight.

Around the Web

  • Pingback: Will Jeff Samardzija be a Cub? | Ivy Report

  • Michael Gambill

    I think your comments are way off base and tremendously presumptious. Your comment “he is no longer the ace of the staff” is especially off base. His last eleven starts of 2010 surely stamped himself of still having ace stuff. Also I have never read any comments by current or former Cubs alluding to an inkling of Zambrano being a negative in the clubhouse. Cutting him loose should be the last thing the Cubs consider. Neeither Cashner nor Samardzia have ever proven they can pitch nearly as well as Carlos. In my mind, he is not only a fan favorite and electrifying personality, but a dominant pitcher and integral part of the Cubs’ goals in 2011.

    • Brett

      How is Z the ace of the staff Michael? Come on. 10 starts with nothing to play for doesn’t mean anything anymore. The Cubs needed that to happen in the first half of the year, but Z folded. Again. he hasn’t put up “ace” like numbers in several years. His stuff has gotten worse. His command is still….shaky. I’ll happily admit I’m wrong if Z can actually turn back into an ace, but until that happens- there’s no sense playing the name game here. Until that happens, Carlos Zambrano is NOT the ace of the Cubs. Good article.

    • ryan.shaffrey

      Michael – I agree with you that Zambrano’s 8-0 finish was very impressive and that he still has ace-caliber stuff. However, I will stand by my comment that he is no longer the ace of this staff. Big Z lost that title when he was moved to the bullpen last year after a horrendous start. An ace of a staff needs to be the horse that a team can always rely on to go get the job done. Zambrano, being the “personality” he is, spent a significant part of the season in anger management and not on the mound, which is where it became a clubhouse issue. Of course you’re not going to have teammates calling Zambrano out publicly (thank goodness Milton Bradley has moved on to greener pastures), but you could bet your bottom dollar his immature demonstrations didn’t sit well with coaches, players, and fans alike. Sure, everyone likes to point and laugh at him breaking a wood bat over his knee or getting in the face of a teammate, but in the grand scheme of things I can guarantee you the majority of Cubs fans would rather see a mature, composed Zambrano who simply does his job and leaves the antics to someone else. A second point I agree with you on is that he is going to be an integral part of the Cubs’ success this year. You know as well as I how important it is for the Cubs to have the same performance from him that they received in the latter part of the year. However, if he chooses to continue to display the same antics and immaturity he has throughout his career, he becomes more of a hindrance to the team than an asset.

  • http://www.givejonadollar.com givejonadollar

    That is a pretty sobering scenario……..cutting him loose for nothing. Let’s hope he can put it together.

  • Pingback: If it’s not one Carlos it’s another; Cubs have confrontation in dugout | Ivy Report