Pitcher Carlos Zambrano of the Chicago Cubs looks to first base during the game against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field on August 12, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)
As some of you know, I was up fairly late Friday night, but wanted to leave this be until morning, to see if I felt any different about it. But I don't, and the truth is that I don't really even know what to say about Carlos Zambrano any more.
When he's had his past meltdowns, I've said his behavior was "indefensible" and the Cubs should trade him immediately (June 2007), that his antics were "childish" and he needed to "grow up" (May 2009) and that he "had to go" after an "epic meltdown" (June 2010).
Now, it's just sad. Sad that a pitcher with the talent that Big Z has can't harness that and focus on the job he has to do, sad that he'd run out on his team, sad that his obvious passion for winning has resulted in him taking actions detrimental to both himself and his teammates.
"He didn't have it tonight," manager Mike Quade said. "I'm really disappointed. His locker is empty. I don't know where he's at. He walked out on 24 guys that are battling their (butts) off for him. I don't know where he's gone or what he's doing. I heard he has retired, or talking about retiring.
"I can't have a guy walking out on 24 guys, that's for damn sure."
General manager Jim Hendry was with the Double-A team in Knoxville. When contacted for comment he said: "We will respect his wishes and honor them and move forward."
I've always enjoyed watching Zambrano pitch -- pitch, that is, not the histrionics. Seeing the no-hitter he threw against the Astros in Milwaukee was a highlight of my lifetime as a Cubs fan -- on that night, he put every bit of talent and energy he had together and had his best game as a Cub, and, except for Kerry Wood's 20K game, likely the best game a Cub has thrown that I've seen in person.
Regardless of whether Z was serious about "retiring" or just blowing off steam, you just don't walk out on your teammates. I imagine another team suspension is in order, but does that really matter at this point? The Cubs were rumored to have tried to trade Z before the July 31 deadline, eating a significant portion of his deal, but found no takers. Will they find any team willing to deal for him now? Doubtful.
This season has been nothing short of an utter disaster. Having something like this happen just adds to the sad litany of what it has meant to be a Cubs player, employee, or fan in 2011. We've had a few decent things to cheer about, but mostly it's just been a really rough ride, and as of now there don't appear to be any changes coming. There need to be, because does the Ricketts family really want to keep going down this road? It doesn't appear to be leading anywhere positive. It really can't continue this way if they want to build a real winning organization.
About Friday night's game, you already know. Z tied a team record with the five home runs allowed; the other three pitchers who have, um, "accomplished" this are Warren Hacker (1954), Steve Stone (1974) and Ismael Valdez (2000). (Amazing but true footnote: the Cubs actually won the game where Valdez allowed the five homers, June 11, 2000 against the White Sox.)
In the meantime, we'll wait for word on Big Z from management today, or if not today, soon. Whatever eventually happens, the overwhelming emotion for me is sadness.