Spring Training 2011 Mega Preview: Carlos Zambrano


I assure you it is only by accident that I have written three articles about a Cubs player named Carlos.  Pity Carlos Pena, who is like an Oreo frosting of sanity smooshed between two chocolate cookies of loco el crazio that is Carlos "too fat to fail" Pena and Carlos "ME GRITAN COSAS LOCAS EN ESPAÑOL" Zambrano.  

Speaking of the Crazed Rambler...

Y'know what?  Screw it.  I'm a Carlos Zambrano fan.  And unlike every other guy who's been caught in the media's spotlight over the past few years, I believe that Carlos is just crazy enough to avoid being driven out of this town for having the gumption to occasionally say and do ballsy - if not stupid - things.  

Should Zambrano have lost his mind on the mound as often as he has?  No.  It is not the sign of a mature, top-notch pitcher for that to have happened.  
Should Zambrano have bitch slapped Michael Barrett after a bad inning?  Absolutely not - but he probably wouldn't have needed to, had Michael's mom turned him over on her knee once in a while.  Dude was clearly a douche.
Should Zambrano have bull-headedly avoided the pitching advice of Larry Rothschild, resulting in arm problems, DL time, and worse?  Probably not, but have you seen Larry's hair?  Look, we've all had dads - or known teachers/uncles/whatever - who looked like Larry, and unless their instruction was "throw stones while you mock me," did any of us take them seriously, ever?
Should he have gone after Derrek Lee?
Think on that last one for a second.  The obvious answer is no!  It is never, ever appropriate to go after a teammate during a game.  It is an act which lacks leadership, which displays immaturity, and worse - it is a key indicator of a team gone awry.  
But have you ever been in that place before?  Y'know, the one where you knew you were right, and everybody else was wrong, but nobody took you seriously and finally you exploded?  Okay, maybe you're not a narcissist, and you've never been obsessed about winning while playing for the Cubs.
Carlos Zambrano, for good or for worse, is obsessed with winning.  He's the guy who gave Charlie Sheen the idea.  And anything that impedes his goal of victory, be it a pesky opposing offense, a blind umpire or even a defensively bungling teammate is going to result in the visitation of Zambrano's wrath.
...or at least, that's how it used to be.  Carlos is changed now.  No, really.
More important in my mind, though, is whether or not he's actually healthy.  A healthy Carlos keeps his walk and homerun totals down, strikes out about as many batters as innings pitched, see his ERA touch the 2's once in a while, and poses the ability to challenge the league in total wins.  An unhealthy Carlos walks a ton and gives up too many homeruns, he sees his strikeout totals dip, and he struggles to win even 10 games a season.
2009 Carlos was not healthy, and as a result insanity ensued in 2010.  That was the year in which we saw the Cubs use an 18 million dollar middle reliever for a while.  But maybe the lesson sunk home with the Big Moose - he had his best ERA since 2005 and seemed to get it all together.
This year, Carlos claims to be "cured."  He no longer suffers from bouts with intense rage, he says.  His arm doesn't resemble Swiss cheese.  But whether or not he succeeds is yet to be seen - but if he does, then the Cubs stand a legitimate chance, as they will have three pitchers who are capable of winning 15 or more games.  
Maybe some of you think it's a big if.  But not me.  I'm a Carlos Zambrano fan for a reason, and that reason is this: he's just crazy enough to pull it off.


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  • When did Z ignore Rothschild's advice?

  • Over the past couple of seasons, Carlos repeatedly screwed his mechanics and refused to change them until the media began asking questions. He'd throw too much with his upper body rather than with his legs and, as a result, his velocity dropped into the high 80's and he eventually caused inflammation to his shoulder.

    Maybe Larry hadn't noticed, but since Carlos was able to "suddenly fix it" on a couple of occasions, I'm guessing that he had been instructed on what to do but ignored it.

  • I'm with you. I love the Big Z - for the same reasons. He's crazy enough to pull it off.

    Besides, I think a lot of his ups and downs and outbursts can be tied to his competitive nature - he's quite passionate. Perhaps this is the season some of his maturity catches up to him.

  • Perhaps the only positive result from placing Z in the bullpen last year: he threw fewer innings. That could help his strength this season.

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