Lots to cover in today’s blog, starting with the dysfunctional dugout of the Chicago Cubs, where Carlos Zambrano has made a spectacle of himself several times over the years. He’s ranted and raved, smashed a Gatorade machine, thrown gloves, bats and balls, left games prior to their conclusion, and generally been the proverbial ticking time bomb. In the past, his blowups have been mostly amusing.
My personal favorite was the time he attempted to throw the umpire out of the game after being ejected himself for arguing a close call at home plate. The prior low point was the fistfight with former Cubs catcher Michael Barrett.
But Zambrano went way over the line on Friday when he had a complete meltdown following a rough opening inning against the White Sox. Zambrano stormed into the dugout, yelling at no one in particular, and at first glance it appeared to be little more than another in a long line of emotional outbursts by the Z-Man. But within seconds, Zambrano focused his attention on Derrek Lee.
Lee had been unable to flag down a hard ground ball by Juan Pierre leading off the bottom of the first inning, and Zambrano was apparently none too pleased about it. Whether or not Zambrano was directly accusing Lee of loafing remains unclear. But the video evidence shows Lee and Zambrano having to be separated, at which point Zambrano was banished to the clubhouse and removed from the game.
I was virtually certain that the standard mea culpa from Zambrano would be forthcoming, and that this would simply be chalked up as the latest in a long series of wild incidents involving the volatile pitcher.
That is evidently not going to be the case, as an unnamed source close to Zambrano has told the Chicago Sun-Times that Zambrano feels his actions are being “completely misunderstood” and that Lee is to blame for confronting him.
Zambrano is apparently unaware that they have this new contraption called a camera and that there’s actually a video of the entire incident. It’s crystal clear that while Zambrano’s tantrum began with him storming back and forth and screaming at no specific individual, he focused his verbal wrath on Lee in a matter of seconds.
According to the anonymous source, Zambrano was simply trying to “pump the team up” and that Lee “took it personal.” Ya think? Considering that Zambrano was yelling right into Lee’s face, taking it personally doesn’t seem to be an unreasonable reaction.
If Zambrano is trying to spin this into something where he was just trying to rev up the team, his teammates are clearly not buying it. Alfonso Soriano told the Sun-Times “that’s not the way we see it” and added that “if he explains, maybe we can see it the way his friend sees it.”
Another unnamed Cub was less diplomatic, stating that “anybody who believes (Zambrano’s version) must be smoking something.” When queried as to whether the team would accept an apology from Zambrano, Soriano said he didn’t know.
By the way, whatever chance to extinguish the fire while it was still blazing was wiped out on Friday evening when the unrepentant Zambrano decided to go ahead with his dinner plans. He went out with White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. Make no mistake, this is not something that is sitting at all well with Zambrano’s teammates.
It’s not the idea of dining with the “enemy” as that mindset doesn’t exist anymore. But this was a time when Zambrano needed to be reaching out to his own clubhouse family, and instead he lived up to his selfish reputation by refusing to change his plans.
The Cubs have a real problem here. The situation with Zambrano might be beyond repair, especially when factoring in his lengthy history of boorish behavior. When Manny Ramirez went past the point of no return with the Red Sox in the summer of 2008, Boston was able to work a deal, and even though they basically had to pay the Dodgers to take him off their hands, they were also able to land a front line player in a three-team swap that landed them Jason Bay.
The difference is that for all his foibles, Manny could still rake with the best and that production compensated for the baggage that would surely accompany Ramirez wherever he landed. That’s not the case with Zambrano. He’s no more than a marginal starting pitcher these days, and his career path indicates he’s unlikely to ever be more than that down the road. Thus, the Cubs may well be stuck with either finding a way to get some use out of Zambrano or simply releasing him and eating his monstrous contract.
I don’t think there’s any question that the best move for the Cubs is to dump Zambrano and pay the piper to the tune of roughly $45 million. But that would leave GM Jim Hendry in a really vulnerable position as far as his job security is concerned.
Don’t forget, Hendry already put himself on some thin ice last year with the insane signing and subsequent disaster involving Milton Bradley. Cutting Zambrano would be admitting to making another major error in judgment, and that could cost Hendry his job.
The Red Sox won the battle this weekend, but it’s conceivable that they may have also lost the 2010 war in spite of winning two out of three against the Giants. Talk about carnage! Dustin Pedroia had five hits, including three homers, in Thursday’s wild win against the Rockies. On Friday, he fouled a ball off his foot, broke a bone, and he’s gone for the next month. Clay Buchholz, who has been pitching outstanding ball, hurt himself running the bases on Saturday and hyperextended a knee.
Fortunately, this injury doesn’t appear serious and Buchholz may not miss much action. But the Red Sox took another potential big hit on Sunday when Victor Martinez evidently took one too many foul tips off his catching hand, suffering a fracture in the process.
The silver lining in this latest cloud is that the Red Sox have not yet determined whether V-Mart will need a DL stint, so it’s possible that the injury isn’t terribly serious. Nevertheless, with Josh Beckett and Jacoby Ellsbury, along with backups Jeremy Hermida and Mike Lowell on the shelf already, my guess is that Theo Epstein may be looking to deal for depth sooner than later.
Fantasy Grab of the Week: Every Monday, I’ll focus on one player who is currently owned in less than 10% of all Yahoo leagues. Catching lightning in a bottle can win championships, and if you can get there by snaring a player for a small investment, it’s definitely worth a minimal gamble. This week’s grab is Russell Branyan who was dealt back the Seattle Mariners this weekend.
The Cleveland Indians are dumping veteran talent, so Branyan heads right back to the team that he enjoyed a career year with in 2009. Branyan will hit in the middle of the Mariners lineup, so he’ll have a good chance to put up some serious production category numbers again. Ideally, you’ll want to platoon Branyan in leagues where daily lineup changes are allowed, as he’s a BA liability against lefties.
But even in weekly leagues, the HR/RBI potential owned by Branyan makes him a solid addition. Check the free agent pool in your league and buy Branyan if he’s available.
I managed another winning week with my baseball selections, and June turned out to be a very profitable month. I’ve got a guaranteed profit for anyone buying my July baseball package.
Make sure to find out the details by emailing me directly at:firstname.lastname@example.org.