Whatever the final outcome of Carlos Zambrano's arm checkup and comeback trail, the Cubs can't lose down the stretch this year for one reason ...
... Jason Marquis.
Don't laugh. He's certainly not the ace of the staff, but the one thing Marquis is more than anyone in the game -- literally -- is a winner.
You could look it up.
No active player in the game who has played in at least one game for five different seasons has finished in first place every year of his career. And Marquis has done it all eight years of his career with three different teams -- and has a 4 1/2 game lead with 23 to play that suggests he's about to make it nine.
The Elias Sports Bureau confirmed what we already thought on this, and they started to run a program for all-time, before realizing it was going to be a process more lengthy than they wanted to undertake for my purposes here.
But just consider: Every team he's played on in a career about to reach nine years has finished first. How many players in history can say they've never finished out of first in a career at least that long? The bet here is it's fewer than 100, maybe fewer than 20.
And how many players can say they've accomplished that with at least three different teams? Got to be fewer than 10, right?
Certainly, the fact Marquis came up with a perennial division winner in Atlanta was a matter of good fortune. But the Cardinals finished behind the Cubs in 2003, the year before Marquis got there in 2004, and then they finished first three straight years. And then he came to Chicago, and the Cards are out of first again, with the Cubs back on top.
What Marquis provides is solid pitching depth to a staff, and that's a key to winning games over a long schedule, so maybe it's not all a fluke.
``You never know,'' Marquis said with a smile after dismissing himself as a major championship factor on those teams. ``I could be playing for Kansas City in a couple of years, and then we'll know the answer.''
Until then, the facts are the facts.
And so far, they say the Cubs can't lose as long as Marquis is around.