CHICAGO - JUNE 25: Starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano #38 of the Chicago Cubs (L) yells at manager Lou Pinella #41 (center) and bench coach Alan Trammell #3 after giving up four runs in the 1st inning to the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field on June 25, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Let's get the specifics out of the way first: the Cubs lost 6-0 to the White Sox this afternoon, the Sox' 10th straight win and a fine performance by Jake Peavy.
But that's not what any of us wants to talk about, right?
I was thinking all the way home about exactly how to approach Carlos Zambrano's tantrum -- and that's what it was, stomping around the dugout like a four-year-old who had his baseball taken away -- apparently because he didn't feel Derrek Lee either tried hard enough to stop Juan Pierre's ground ball double down the line leading off the game, or didn't argue that it was foul (it looked fair to me, and I was sitting directly down the RF line in the outfield; just saw the replay and that also confirmed it was a fair ball). I decided to wait until after I saw the full rebroadcast of the first inning and Z's meltdown, too, until I posted.
There's a lot to digest here. Z not only went off on D-Lee, who is one of the classiest and nicest guys to ever wear a Cubs uniform; according to this tweet from Carrie, he yelled obscenities at TV camerapeople in the parking lot after Lou sent him home:
#Cubs Carlos Zambrano has reportedly left US Cellular but not without shouting obscenities at Chicago TV camera crews
For those who think this adds "fire" to this team, let me respectfully say: you're 100% incorrect. Baseball is an everyday sport and needs levelheadedness and teamwork and getting along and quiet leadership -- exactly the kind that D-Lee shows, and that Z never has. It's the "lack of fire" thinking that got the Cubs into trouble last year in signing Milton Bradley, and yes, I'll mention his name now because I think that's relevant. That wasn't, and Z's outbursts aren't, the kind of "fire" the Chicago Cubs needed, then, now or ever. Bob Brenly mentioned this on the telecast as a good thing -- I like Bob, but he's wrong about this one. This kind of "fire" doesn't help anyone.
Z has been suspended by Cubs GM Jim Hendry; this quote from Hendry in a tweet from Carrie is telling:
Carlos Zambrano has been suspended indefinitely by the #Cubs. Says GM Jim Hendry: "We'll play with 24 before we tolerate that behavior"
Indeed. When Bradley had troubles this year with the Mariners, the team put him on the restricted list, paid him and got him help. Z clearly needs that help; if the Cubs think they can get it for him, perhaps that's the route they should take, although my guess is that if the Cubs can find any takers for the $36 million left on his contract after this year (his vesting option for 2013 will likely never vest), they should investigate any and all options. It may be they'll have to take someone else's bad deal in return, as they did with Carlos Silva -- or it may be that Tom Ricketts will have to swallow hard and just jettison Z and all his baggage. Z hasn't been a dominant pitcher since 2007, although he showed flashes of it in 2008. It may be that there are simply too many miles on his arm; he barely touched 90 MPH in the first inning -- an inning in which he let his teammates down. After Pierre's double, it was clear that he was angry and basically served up meatballs to the Sox, culminating in Carlos Quentin's three-run homer.
Is that the kind of "fire" you want? Not me. I think Carlos Zambrano has played his final game in a Cubs uniform.
There's one more thing that really bothered me this afternoon. Not long before the end of the game, Dennis Culloton, who is a spokesman for Tom Ricketts for non-baseball affairs, sent out this tweet:
This wouldn't happen at the Friendly Confines.
Excuse me? Excuse me? One of your boss's highest-paid employees throws a tantrum and shows up his manager and teammates in front of a sellout crowd at your in-city rival's ballpark and you blame the ballpark?
Culloton later sent out this 'explanatory' tweet after being called on it by Paul Sullivan:
that was a joke Sully. Where's my gatorade? RT @PWSullivan: Ricketts' spokesman blames the Cell for Z outburst
A joke? A "joke"? Not a very funny joke, Dennis, when your boss's team is falling apart at the seams. "Humor" like that isn't funny under the best of circumstances, and I think Tom Ricketts needs to take charge of this situation right away -- like rightfreakingnow -- because the franchise that has had the attention of most baseball fans in Chicago since at least 1998, is in danger of losing fans. Tweets like this, obviously, are only a small fraction of the problem, but the Cubs and new ownership have to realize that things are spinning out of control in many different ways.
Tom Ricketts and Jim Hendry, the ball is squarely in your court. Jim Hendry has been a players' GM and has often gone way beyond where most managers of workers would go with bad behavior. He finally stood up to Bradley's bad act last September. It's time for him to stand up to Z. Thanks for the no-hitter, Z, and a few years of fine pitching which are way in the rear-view mirror. But it is time for you to play baseball elsewhere.