Why would the Marlins put themselves in a position to deal with a disgruntled 30-year-old who had a knack for throwing Gatorade jugs around the dugout? A player who seemingly had his worst season as a pro and finished with a career-high ERA just a season ago, no less.
Theo Epstein and the Chicago Cubs were willing to pay $15 million of the $18 million owed to Zambrano in 2012 just to have him off their roster.
Through his first six starts of the season, Zambrano has compiled a 1-2 record with a team-leading 1.98 ERA. He also threw his 10th career complete game and got his first win in almost a year on Monday night, striking out nine Astros in the Marlins' 4-0 win.
His win-loss record isn't quite telling enough. He's witnessed three games in which he set himself up for a win, only to be blown by the new struggling Marlins closer Heath Bell.
Some would argue that, in recent years, Bell's blown saves would have led to locker room turmoil by Zambrano. These days, there's a calmer "Big Z," who credits his renewed faith in keeping his positive attitude.
In an article in the Miami Herald, Zambrano was quoted in saying:
I feel like I’m a new Carlos Zambrano, because the old Carlos Zambrano would be throwing a chair and screaming at his teammate. But God has changed my life. I’m happy that we won today. That’s the most important thing.
He goes on by saying that things had gotten out of control towards the end of his days with the Cubs. His career in Chicago ended with him being suspended for the remainder of last season by his own team, when, after a game, he cleared out his locker and threatened retirement.
But with a new, fresh start and a new manager supporting him, Zambrano has been able to turn it all around.
In another article in the Miami Herald, Ozzie Guillen said:
I think sometimes change is good for people. One thing I told everyone when we were going to sign him was, ‘I don’t know how many wins we’re going to get, but we’re going to get a good Carlos because he knows I’m not going to put up with that crap.'
As long as Zambrano is able to keep this positive mindset, the Marlins may have just found themselves a real candidate for the MLB Comeback Player of the Year Award.