I haven't always been the world's biggest Carlos Zambrano supporter. Sure, like many Cubs fans, I always thought Zambrano had the ability to be the true ace of the Cubs' pitching staff if only he'd find a way to corral his emotions.
I've always thought Zambrano should just "shut up and pitch."
After Carlos' implosion at U.S. Cellular Field last June, Zambrano was ordered to undergo anger management counseling. It was probably the most bizarre bit of discipline ever forced upon a Chicago Cubs player.
Since his stint on a shrink's sofa, Zambrano has returned to the form many Cubs fans believed would bring Carlos a legendary career in Chicago. Zambrano has been more of a competitor and less of a side show since that mid-season breakdown of 2010.
After being the victim of a second straight bullpen implosion in a game which he had started (and pitched rather well), Zambrano was seemingly back to his old ways and referred to his team as "minor-leaguers" in a postgame press conference.
This time, however, Zambrano may be right.
Already, many members of the media are calling for Zambrano's head. In one particular take, Tribune reporter David Haugh thinks Cubs' GM Jim Hendry should suspend Zambrano until another team is willing to take a chance on him, and he is, of course, willing to waive his no-trade clause.
In this bit of insight from CBSsports.com, the solution seems to be shipping Zambrano to the south side of Chicago, where he and Ozzie Guillen can be crazy together—baseball's Thelma and Louise, if you will.
As for myself, I simply can't do much other than commend Zambrano for, quite honestly, telling it like it is.
The simple fact of the matter is that we've all said it—you've said it, I've said it and anyone with an interest in the Cubs has said it at one time or another. We've all expressed, in one way or another, just how bad the Cubs have been for the better part of three years now.
Just last week, I was having a conversation about the Cubs with my good friend Mike. Like we usually do, we dissected the inabilities of our favorite Chicago sports teams. Being that the Blackhawks had choked in their defense of the Stanley Cup, and the Bulls had already been informed just how far from an NBA championship they are, we decided to give our takes on the Cubs.
"What do you think about the Cubs?" I asked.
Now, usually a response to such an open-ended question will yield a variety of reasons as to why the team is performing well, or more commonly, performing poorly.
"[I] don't watch 'em," Mike responded. "[I] haven't in two years."
Before I could even respond, Mike added one other point to the conversation that couldn't be any more perfect given the current circumstances surrounding the Cubs.
"Why would I watch 'em? They're like a frickin' minor league team."
Given the state of the Cubs this season, Mike was spot-on in his analysis. The Cubs have had numerous issues with baseball fundamentals and because of injuries have had to dip into their minor league system to fill the gaps.
So, why then, should Carlos Zambrano's take be looked upon as such a travesty?
Granted, it may seem on the surface that Zambrano's rant had a selfish motive—it was a game he was in line to win—but what's Zambrano supposed to say? Nearly the exact same event had taken place last week against the Houston Astros, in a game Zambrano masterfully worked only to have Carlos Marmol get tagged for six runs in the bottom of the ninth.
It's also not like this past Zambrano start was the only quality start he's had this season. Truthfully, Zambrano has been phenomenal since having his head examined.
If Cubs fans are frustrated, then why can't players show frustration?
What if Carlos Pena would have called his club a "triple-A team?" Or what if Marlon Byrd would have harshly expressed his frustration in the team? Probably not too much would be made of such ordeals, but because it's Zambrano who's doing the talking, the remarks are suddenly unacceptable.
The truth is, Cubs fans and media loathe this Cubs team. They come across as careless, lazy and uninspiring. Long-term contracts of under-performing players hinder any future progress for the Cubs, and injuries seem to hinder everything else.
As fans, we are simply tired of seeing the "same old Cubs." We are tired of fundamental blunders, half-hearted jogs to first base and mistake pitches being hammered onto Waveland Avenue by opposing players. And if that wasn't enough, we're also tired of having runners on third base only to see the next two hitters strikeout or hit a pop-up on the infield.
Zambrano, at least in 2011, has been the opposite of everything wrong with the Cubs.
This time, I commend Carlos for trying to light a spark in his severely slumping team. The Cubs have indeed played like a triple-A ball club. Maybe now that somebody within the organization has accurately identified them they can start working on the daunting task of improvement.
After over a hundred years of mostly losing, you'd think political correctness would be the least of the Cubs' concerns.
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