Maybe it wasn’t Milton Bradley (although I definitely think it was) after all. Now the Cubs have sent another renowned hot-head home for the day, suspending Carlos Zambrano indefinitely after he blew up in the dug-out at Derrek Lee, who failed to make a play on Juan Pierre’s ground ball down the line that went for a double. Zambrano went on to allow four runs in the first inning, and he wasn’t happy about it at all.
In defense of Zambrano, Lee might have had a chance at knocking down the ball if he drove for it. In defense of Lee, he was playing in to guard against the bunt by Pierre and may well have had no chance at the ball even if he had laid his body out. Looking at the replay, it didn’t look like the best effort by Lee, but he may have simply mis-timed the last bounce. He’s got three gold gloves to his name, so he deserves the benefit of the doubt.
Zambrano has always been a hot-head, and I think this episode will blow over like the others have in the past, so long as Zambrano apologizes to Lee and the team for losing it. It’s been a tough year for Zambrano, who was demoted to the bullpen after only four starts.
It may have been the best move for the Cubs at the time, but Zambrano had every reason to be unhappy about it, given all the good seasons he’d had coming into 2010. For instance, compare the Cubs’ decision to that of the Giants, who have stuck with Barry Zito in the rotation through thick and thin.
Zambrano was put back in the starting rotation in early June, but he’s been inconsistent in the four starts he’s had since then, which I’m sure Zambrano would attribute to being out of the rotation for five weeks, whether or not that’s the real cause at all.
It’s possible the Cubs could be looking for a way to get out from under the nearly $36 million they owe Zambrano in 2011 and 2012, but so long as Zambrano is willing to apologize once he cools down, I don’t see any way the Cubs could dump him and not be liable for the rest of his contract.
Players on under-performing teams blow up at each other all the time. A player might deserve a short suspension if he’s particularly out of bounds, but the television footage I saw didn’t even show any punches being thrown. Zambrano might deserve a five game suspension, but any more than that would probably result in a successful grievance by the players’ association.
It’s perhaps more likely that the Cubs simply want to nip any blow-ups in the bud. After last year’s Milton Bradley fiasco and Zambrano’s past history, GM Jim Hendry may simply be trying to send a message that the organization won’t put up with any more baloney.
While the Cubs look pretty awful right now at 32-41, they are still only 8.5 games back of the Cardinals with 91 games left to play. The Cubbies have their work cut out for them, but there’s still a chance that if the team can come together and start playing good baseball, they can get back into the NL Central Race.