Over the past few years, the Cubs have been long on drama, and very, very, short on production. The leader of the pack undoubtedly has been starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano. In the latest, and definitely the most bizarre occurrence, Zamabrano, after being shelled by the Atlanta Braves for 8 runs (5 via home run) in 4.1 innings, was ejected for throwing at the Braves’ Chipper Jones and proceeded to tell team trainers and personnel that he was retiring, before packing his things and leaving the clubhouse.
This is just the latest in a long history of bad behavior from the team’s big right hander. There was the fight with the team’s catcher at the time, Michael Barret, the dugout argument with Derek Lee, and earlier this year him calling his team “minor leaguers”. Ouch. If Zambrano had been able to match his drama with production, the Cubs would surely have the number one pitcher they thought they were getting when they gave him a 5 yr. $91 million contract extension in 2007. Instead Zambrano compiled a few less than stellar years before completely collapsing this year, going 9-7 with a 4.82 ERA. His contract has to be one of the worst in all of baseball, right up there with that of Vernon Wells, Alex Rios, and Zambrano’s teammate Alfonso Soriano.
That’s why if he does follow through on his threat to retire, the Cubs’ front office will be doing back flips. He won’t though. He’s got around 20 million reasons to stick around for the rest of this year and the next. That’ll be just another bad break for the Cubs, the king pin of bad breaks. This though, has to be rock bottom. One of baseball’s crown jewels, the team is now 51-68, and would be in last place in the NL Central if not for the even lousier Houston Astros. Things can only go up from here right? Right?
Since his outburst, the team has placed him on the disqualified list, and he will go 30 days without pay or contact with the team. After that is up, the team could pursue a buyout of Zambrano, or outright release him, but it’s unlikely. To simply eat his contract would be a mistake. At the end of the day Zambrano is still a talented, capable starting pitcher. Those don’t just fall off trees. If the Blue Jays could trade Vernon Wells and get rid of Alex Rios, the Cubs can move Zambrano. Even if they have to cover nearly all his salary for the remainder of his contract to get a piece in return, that’s still an improvement over paying nearly all his salary and getting nothing in return. One way or the other, it’s clear the Cubs-Zambrano marriage has to end.
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