(Watch Carlos Zambrano give his fighting philosophy here.)
Eight years ago a 22-year-old Carlos Zambrano led the Chicago Cubs to within one game of the World Series and had everyone in Chi-Town believing “Z” could help the city finally rid itself of “the curse.”
In the years since, Zambrano’s overflowing potential on the mound has taken a backseat to his regular temper tantrums and clubhouse hissy fits.
Friday, Zambrano had another blowup — which might have been his last.
After coughing up five home runs to the Atlanta Braves, Zambrano threw consecutive pitches at Chipper Jones, prompting an ejection. After retreating to the clubhouse, the 30-year-old right-hander cleaned out his locker and left, reportedly telling teammates he was retiring. (Watch video of Zambrano’s ejection .)
The abrupt departure — on the same night the Braves honored legendary manager and all-time ejections leader Bobby Cox — is simply the latest chapter in the bizarre career of a pitcher with plenty of promise but little ability to control his emotions.
After Friday’s incident, the Cubs placed Zambrano on the 30-day disqualified list, meaning he cannot take part in any team activity for 30 days and will not be paid during that span.
For general manager Jim Hendry and the rest of the Cubs, it sounds like enough is finally enough.
“His actions last night are totally intolerable,” Hendry said Saturday. “In dealing with the hierarchy at MLB today, this was really the most stringent penalty that our club could enforce without a release.”
Teammate Alfonso Soriano said he spoke to Zambrano before the pitcher left the building. Soriano told his teammate “what he did was wrong,” to which Zambrano replied with “one word that (Soriano) don’t want to say.”
“He's not a bad person,” Soriano said. “I mean, the attitude that he has in the game, that makes everybody, like, tired, because it's not one, it's not two. At least every year he does something the hurts the team. At least once every year. But he's not a bad person. He's got to calm down his emotions in the game.”
Have we seen the last of “Z” in a Cubs uniform? Will he actually retire at 30? Will getting rid of Zambrano be the turning point for the floundering franchise?
Two things are clear: the Cubs are sick of Zambrano and Zambrano is sick of the Cubs. This marriage should have ended long ago.
To quote Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster: “He made his bed. Let him sleep in it.”
Here’s a quick retrospective of Zambrano’s most memorable outbursts:
• 2007 — Zambrano fights with his catcher, Michael Barrett, in the dugout after a rocky fifth inning of an 8-5 loss to the Atlanta Braves. The scuffle continued in the clubhouse where Barrett suffered a cut lip that resulted in a trip to Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
• 2007 — Zambrano strikes out and breaks a bat over his knee.
• 2009 — After being ejected for arguing balls and strikes, Zambrano chucks the game ball into the outfield and then destroys the team’s dugout Gatorade machine.
• 2010 — Zambrano goes berserk in the dugout, standing and screaming in the face of generally-placid first baseman Derrek Lee. The Cubs suspended Zambrano indefinitely and sent him to anger management following the outburst.
• 2011 — Zambrano criticizes closer Carlos Marmol for his pitch selection in a 3-2, 10-inning loss to St. Louis. Speaking to reporters in the clubhouse, Zambrano singled out Marmol’s slider to Ryan Theriot (which resulted in the game-tying double), as the reason for the loss.
“We should know better than this. We play like a Triple-A team. This is embarrassing. Embarrassing for the team and the owners. Embarrassing for the fans. Embarrassed — that's the word for this team.”
• 2011 — Zambrano gives up five dingers to the Braves, cleans out his locker, and says he will retire.