Kap's Corner

Let's Talk About Big Z

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Carlos Zambrano has his share of detractors, but should the Cubs consider trading him this off-season?

Paul Sullivan stirred up Cubs Nation over the last 24 hours when he talked about the possibility of the Cubs trading Carlos Zambrano this winter in an attempt to create more payroll flexibility and to add some young prospects to the club.

Since his article hit the Internet last night after the Cubs 2-0 win over the Milwaukee Brewers, there has been much discussion about whether or not it makes sense to deal the volatile right hander. Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald thinks it would be foolish to deal Zambrano, because he believes Big Z has pitched much better than his record this season indicates.

Zambrano has been heralded as the ace of the Cubs staff for a long time.  And while he is paid like an ace he hasn't pitched like one since inking his 91.5 million dollar extension in August 2007.

But let's not blame him for his salary. He accepted what the market said he was worth and when the Cubs signed him he did what any one of us would have done, he signed the deal. So don't blame him for that.

Now if you want to complain that he is paid like a #1 starter and he isn't a #1 starter, that is an entirely different argument. I have complained that Zambrano doesn't win enough to be an ace. I know that wins are not the best statistic to judge a pitcher on, but the fact that he ranks roughly 30th in baseball in wins since the day he signed his extension is very disconcerting.
He continually finds ways to screw up games in which he seems to be in control, and tonight's game against the Brewers provides a great example. Zambrano is cruising along with two outs in the 5th leading 4-0 with the pitcher coming up, when all of a sudden the wheels fall off.  He gives up a single off the wall to Yovani Gallardo, walks the leadoff man, gives up a double to Corey Hart, a single to Ryan Braun, intentionally walks Prince Fielder, then Ryan Theriot makes an error on a tough play in the hole (which would later be changed to a single), then a single to Mike Cameron. Five runs score before Jason Kendall finally strikes out to end a nightmarish 5th inning and end Zambrano's night at 103 pitches.

Zambrano has often melted down on the mound when things aren't going well for him. Both Lou Piniella and pitching coach Larry Rothschild have tried every approach they can think of to reach Big Z and nothing seems to work. Yes, he has exceptional talent.  But perhaps his immaturity on the mound will prevent him from ever reaching his full potential.

So what would you do if you were in charge of the Cubs baseball operations department?

Before I trade Zambrano I would need to know that I had exhausted EVERY possible solution to remedy his problems, because the worst case scenario would be to trade a guy with his talent and to watch him become a superstar in another uniform. Perhaps he needs to hear a fresh voice with new ideas?

Dave Duncan, the pitching coach of the St. Louis Cardinals is the best teacher of pitching in the game bar none. He is also more than a little bit unhappy with his situation in the Cardinals organization. Rumors are rampant throughout baseball that despite his long friendship and association with Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa, Duncan will look for greener pastures this off season.

If he is indeed available, the Cubs would have to be out of their minds not to take a run at him. Make him an offer that he cannot refuse and ask him to come to the north side of Chicago to see if he can fix Zambrano. And while he's at it, he can hopefully straighten out Carlos Marmol so that the Cubs have a reliable closer with out of this world stuff for the next decade. Add Jeff Samardzija to Duncan's to do list, because he is being paid a ton of money and he also has a no trade clause.  He also has a great arm but needs to learn how to pitch, not just throw.

Year after year the Cardinals find reclamation projects on the scrap heap and Duncan turns them into excellent pitchers. Why not pay him whatever he wants to come to Chicago and fix whatever it is that's wrong with Zambrano?  If the Cubs trade him without knowing for sure what exactly they have, they may live to regret the move. Talents like Carlos Zambrano don't come along every day.

I am not saying that he is untradeable, however. Far from it. If another team wants to overwhelm the Cubs with a monster offer that gives the Cubs an excellent package of talent and takes a huge contract off of the books, I am all for it. They just need to proceed with great caution. There have been numerous complaints that Zambrano is immature and doesn't follow the rules or work as hard as he should to stay in shape. Well, the blame for that should not only fall on Zambrano but the organization as well. Yes, he is responsible for his actions but the Cubs have to do a better job of monitoring their guys. Not only did Zambrano fail to get in the best possible shape, but his catcher, Geovany Soto, came to camp overweight and it affected his entire season. Are you telling me that the Cubs cannot have a strength coach spend the winter checking in on guys every other week to make sure they are working out and are staying in shape?

Let's not forget that Ryan Dempster said a few years ago that he let himself go and was out of shape. He then came to spring training the next year in unbelievable shape and he has stayed that way ever since. No one blasted him like Zambrano has been ripped for getting out of shape. Why? Because Ryan is a leader in the clubhouse, unlike Zambrano who is not.

So, with the offseason rapidly approaching, and the Cubs brain trust assured of returning by new owner Tom Ricketts, it is imperative that they do all they can to correct the mistakes that plagued the 2009 Cubs. If part of correcting what ails the Cubs is trading Carlos Zambrano, then I hope they know what they are trading away. No, I am not his biggest fan.  But before you trade a big time talent you better be able to look in the mirror and know that you did all you could to get the most out of him. I'm not sure the Cubs have done that. I know that Dave Duncan would.

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17 Comments

Ryno said:

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Z should start taking Yoga classes.

Anytime he faces any kind of adversity he overthrows the ball. It's no secret why: he tenses up, grips the ball tighter, and to overcompensate for the tighter grip he throws the freaking ball like he's angry. The 2-seamer doesn't move, he loses command, he makes poor on-field decisions... My theory is he just needs to find a way to relax and return to his "happy place" between pitches.

IrishYeti said:

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Absolutely not. First and foremost, it would piss off all the media types that don't like him. That I enjoy. Second, he's a great pitcher, but people don't seem to realize that. The case for Zambrano was already made about a month ago when Kap had his rant about Zambrano which was proven false.

Best part about Miles' article:
As I said, Z can be a knucklehead, or at least do knuckleheaded things. But perception again is a funny animal. For example, what if it was Z and not Ryan Dempster who hopped over the fence and broke his toe? Can you imagine the outcry? But it was Demp and it was funny and everybody had a good laugh. And remember, too, when Dempster came into camp in tip-top shape a couple years ago after admitting he had let himself go the previous year? Did anybody say he was “cheating his teammates” as they did when Zambrano talked about being “lazy” about his abs work?

On the field, what if it was Z and not Ted Lilly who had bowled over Yadier Molina last year? That’s a play where a pitcher risks big-time injury. When Ted did it, it was a “hard-nosed play.” If Z did it, it’s a major “OMG” moment on the Internet. Teddy Ballgame also has legged out a triple and tried for a stolen base when the “light was red as hell,” according to the manager. If Z lays down a bunt or takes batting practice a little too hard, he’s being “dumb” and “selfish” in a lot of people’s eyes.

Now, I like and get along with all of these pitchers, including Z. But let’s be a little bit fair and consistent when we tell them how they ought to be acting.

This is dead on.

Also, as far as Zambrano's meltdowns, remember a game in the 08 NLDS where his IFers crapped their pants on him? He remained composed and had a great 6 or 7 inning outing even though his team completely sucked around him. If I were in his shoes, I would have ripped DeRosa's Nobel Peace prize winner stubbled head off. But that's just me

IrishYeti said:

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The two paragraphs after the italics should have also been in italics...

*dan bradley said:

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I dunno... You only bring up one game where he's managed to keep his composure (actually, i think he did in the playoffs for both of the previous years, which might be a strength).

I'd be willing to keep Z for another year and let Duncan have a go at him, as long as you sign an ace, because, while he's a good pitcher, he's not an "ace" in the true definition of the word. He's not lockdown - he's not a leader - at best he's an emotional barometer for the team. So the 1-5 should be [an ace], Zambrano, Lilly, Dempster, Wells.. or something similar.

Just keep in mind how long we wasted on Prior and Wood as "aces," and that Z might be just as irreparably injured in the head. Hah.

IrishYeti said:

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I wish the Cubs had an ace (in the true definition of the word) in the rotation. If they had an ace, they would have won the division this year. It's not like they did it last year or the year before without one.

This whole "ZAMBRANO AINT AN ACE BECUZ HE'S NOT A REAL LEADER. HE GETS TO EMOTIONAL!" shtick is played out and just dumb. Are you basing his "lockdowniness" off of his wins?

(the same meatheads who yell at Z for being too emotional are probably the same idiots who yell at Lovie for not being emotional enough.)

Bad Kermit said:

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You do realize that Dave Duncan isn't actually on the Cubs' staff, right?

JobbaJibba said:

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Drive that Bandwagon off a cliff and leave the rest of us alone. Sheesh...seriously? The idiocy of Cubdom is sickening...albeit not surprising.

JobbaJibba said:

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Christ almighty Kap...I'm thrilled you're not the Cubs owner or GM. I would like to know where you'll get a replacement for Zambrano.

David Kaplan said:

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Jobba: Where did I say in the above post that I would definitely trade Zambrano? Here is what I wrote:
"If part of correcting what ails the Cubs is trading Carlos Zambrano, then I hope they know what they are trading away. No, I am not his biggest fan. But before you trade a big time talent you better be able to look in the mirror and know that you did all you could to get the most out of him. I'm not sure the Cubs have done that. I know that Dave Duncan would."

You have to read what I wrote before you go off on it.

JobbaJibba said:

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Oh...I'm so sorry Kap! Just after your 30 other friggin' posts about trading Z, I just figured you were beating a dead horse. Sorry, that I misunderstood you here. See, after 30 other posts demanding the Cubs release or trade Z, I figured this was just #31. Apologies on my end. It's not like you have had a hardon for ridding the Cubs of Zambrano and Bradley...

cc002600 said:

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Irish Yeti,
Are you for real ?

Did you ever stop and think that guys like Lilly and Dempster get cut a little slack becuase they are team guys and have class ? Do you think Milton Bradley deserves more criticism when he does something stupid ? OF COURSE HE DOES. HE HAS A TRACK RECORD OF BEING AN IDIOT. Hello ?

Have you not been watching the last 5 years ? Zambrano is an immature nutjob that continually shows up his teammates, is self-absorbed, and is lazy.

And OH BY WAY, he's making $18M and has a grantotal of 8 wins this year. For all you math wizzes, that's $2.25M per win. Please.


Trade his worthless overpaid arse, if you can. He's a cancer. He's not a team player.

I suppose you like Bradley too.
Wow.

Kap, you are right on.

IrishYeti said:

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I am for real. Like totally, dude. I love Zambrano. I also love Bradley. Did you not read Kaplan? Even he knows that wins aren't the ultimate judge of how good a pitcher is. Read Bruce Miles' post, too. He explains it decently. If you're still stuck in a world where RBIs, Batting Average, Wins, and Saves are the ultimate stats, then there is no hope for you.

Milton is awesome

oog of ulams said:

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This is stupid. Ted Lilly has fought his manager. He has thrown his glove down. He has argued with an umpire in a game he wasn't even in.

It's not supposed to matter. Believe it or not, they're all HUMANS who get emotional when they are competitive. The FANS who complain about these guys for not being "leaders" or "team players" are the fickle, selfish, self-entitled ones. They aren't there with the players. They don't know the players. Their definitions change every time a player meets those so they can continue to dump on them.

You have no pride in your team; you just want to whine and boo. Good luck with life.

Funny that wins are oh-so-crucial for Zambrano, despite his many no-decisions and his stellar ERA in them, but good, low-paid, white Randy Wells' win-loss record isn't a good indicator of how well he's pitched.

Are there even goalposts anymore? Or have they been moved out of this universe?

oog of ulams said:

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Wait, you're the commenter who thinks the Cubs need Ryne Sandberg to manage them, aren't you? The guy who's been ejected like 291089310230 times in the minors? I guess it's okay if he's the manager? Or does the same behavior mean different things depending on how you already feel about the person.

tom said:

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Good idea.Maybe Duncan can straighten these guys out.Rothschild sure can't.Instead of having all these no trade clauses put in contracts why not put a clause about staying in shape in these contracts and if they do, enforce it where it hurts with a good chunk of that paycheck.They want the Big Contract ,Make them pay Big also for not staying in shape

stew said:

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bottom line is carlos needs to get off his butt and get in shape.
making that kind of money makes you lazy!

stew said:

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while i am at it whats lous job? i thought the manager was suppose to get thing ready in spring training.

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