No Big Z, No Problem For Cubs

Naturally, Carlos Zambrano comes to mind with the Marlins in town for a three-games series.

Big Z isn’t scheduled to pitch, which is a shame. It would’ve been fun to see him wearing a visitor’s uniform on the Wrigley Field mound, and more interesting to see what kind of reaction he’d get from the home crowd (I imagine a standing ovation?).

But there was never any doubt Zambrano needed to depart Chicago’s North Side when Theo & Jed dealt him to Miami in January.

Carlos had worn out his welcome long before walking out on the team in Atlanta last August, which was rightfully the last straw for the organization.

April 8 post: Sadly, the once promise of a would-be ace steadily declined into a pitcher no longer welcomed or worthy of wearing Cubbie Blue.

Of course, it’s easy to gripe about the trade for Chris Volstad, who’s been horrific, and think how much better-off the Cubs might be with Zambrano in the rotation.

El Toro, however, hasn’t had the season many thought he would given a change of scenery and the guidance of Ozzie Guillen.

Granted, he defeated Washington in his 300th career start last night. But it was his first win since June 3 and snapped a four-game losing streak. His season record is (5-7) with an unimpressive 4.22 ERA.

It’s fairly obvious at age 31 Zambrano isn’t the pitcher he once was, or the pitcher many Cubs fans remember him to be. His fastball isn’t as fast and his endurance not the same, either. All to be expected.

His lack of command, however, remains in tact and serves as the primary source of his disappointing season.

Zambrano’s 57 free passes leads the Marlins. It’s 23 more than Josh Johnson’s 34, second worst on Miami, in the same amount of innings pitched, and 39 more than Mark Buehrle’s team leading 18 walks in 13 more innings pitched than Zambrano.

Jeff Samardzija, for example, leads the Cubs with 37 walks in 17 outings, one fewer start than Zambrano.

That’s not to say Zambrano is no longer a serviceable starter. He’s still capable of winning 10-12 games and eating close to 200.0 innings.

Is it worth $18M per year? Hardly. But with the Cubs forking over the $16.5M to Miami to pay for it, I’d say the Marlins found a pretty good deal–for the time being.

That said, it’s never been strictly about the numbers with Carlos. His knack for childish behavior sealed his fate on a Cubs team ripe with youngsters and in desperate need of a culture change.

January 5 post: The Cubs, unquestionably, needed a change of culture after two consecutive losing seasons, and it doesn’t take a baseball mastermind like Epstein to understand trading Zambrano was not only critical in re-booting the Cubs’ clubhouse chemistry, but a most necessary one at that.

Rebuilding is a slow and methodical process. It takes time and patience. It’s tough enough without the distraction of a fit-throwing veteran ready to burst after every Starlin Castro fielding error or 12-game losing streak.

The fact is, Chicago would be no better-off with Zambrano in 2012 than they were in 2011, or 2010, or 2009 for that matter.

As I’ve always said, I’ve enjoyed watching Carlos Zambrano pitch, as long as it wasn’t for the Cubs.

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