Chicago Sun-Times
with sports reporters Chris De Luca and Gordon Wittenmyer

Big Z, Big $$, Little Sense

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Keep him or trade him? Love him or hate him?

Call him your ace or call in a cavalry of physical and psychological therapists?

In other words, what do the Cubs do with Carlos Zambrano?

Much of the question is moot, considering Zambrano has a no-trade clause and is emphatic about his unwillingness to waive it.

But looking ahead, as manager Lou Piniella suggested doing tonight after Big Z's Big Dropoff from that two-hitter in San Francisco to tonight's season-finishing clunker, do you trust the Giant-killing ability or fear the logic-defying inability to handle the woeful Pirates?

Or both?

``Look, everybody expects more out of him, including himself,'' Piniella said. ``Let's chalk it up to a season where he wasn't at his best. He's talked about working hard and having a good season next year. Let's just look ahead and not behind.''

That may be the Cubs' only choice. And it might be good enough. Even with a disappointing 9-7, Zambrano finished with a 3.77 ERA, helping keep the Cubs' top-five pitching staff's team mark down at 3.81.

Most of the pitching staff is expected back, including all of the starting rotation except Rich Harden (9-9, 4.09).

``It's a very disappointing year. The season is over for us, and now we work hard in the off season and come back ready for next year,'' said Zambrano, who has been ``encouraged'' by the organization to do more this winter and who vowed to start his off-season conditioning earlier than usual, in November.

``Obviously,'' he said, ``this is an experience to learn from. Put this year behind me and think about next year. The goal next year is to come healthy and come ready for spring training.''

Where have we heard that before?

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6 Comments

Z. has to be kept by the Cubs. He can simply be Cy Young caliber one day and a bum the next, but overall the Cubs are better as a pitching staff with him on board. Certainly his antics can annoy, but who got a hit and scored last night when the Cub bats once again fell asleep? Lou's comments may be repetitious, but they are still valid.

Carlito Zambrano has the brain of a 13 yr. old and makes more money than most of us all put together ever will in our own life-times. That equates out to this formula....He can't handle accountability and never will. Once again, I blame our wonderful GM for this signing not the player. Isn't Pat Gillick sitting around!?!? At the end of the day I realize as most intelligent Cub fans do that it does not matter whether were 100-62 or finish 82-80 or 62-100 we'll still act like sheep and pay to see sunshine, drink beer, and look at hot women. Congrads Zambrano! Your one of the few players along with Soriano and Bradley that beat the system and are getting paid for past performances! And thank you Jim Hendry and Randy Bush learn how to scout and develop a farm system instead of building professional team of clowns who collect checks and laugh at you and our city.

Ohhhh, how I hope the Cubs keep Z and are forced to keep Bradley.

They are such good theater.

A Cardinals fan.

Long-term contracts have been the kiss of death for Major League Baseball since they first arrived on the scene.

The only smart way for MLB to pay its players, is by performance ONLY. Too many players get guaranteed money over a long stretch of years, and too many of those players end up getting hurt (Mark Prior) or they become woefully ineffective (Alfonso Soriano), or they just get lazy and spend their time eating take-out food and laying around their hotel rooms (Carlos Zambrano).

And those same long-term contracts encourage players to take it easy in the first few years of their deals, and then try really hard in the final year of the contract, so they can attract other sucker teams who might sign them up for another long-term deal.

And those same long-term contracts make it virtually impossible for more talented players to move up to The Show and take a spot on a Big League roster.

So, it's really simple. Get rid of long-term contracts and pay players based on performance.

They can still make $20 million a year, they just have to hit 40 home runs, drive in 120 runs, and hit .330 to do it. And if this is done, suddenly you won't see MLB pitchers skipping their starts due to "bicep tendinitis", or "inflamed hang nails" or "hot weather" (paging Rich Harden). And you'll see more players hustling to first base on ground balls, instead of jogging to first base like D. Lee, et al. (Yeah, yeah - D. Lee had a great year...I could care less, he JOGS to first base whenever he hits an infield grounder. He sets an example by doing this. The subtext is, "Hey, don't try too hard guys - long season ahead.")

Pathetic.

Big Z got the guaranteed loot based on his prior body of work. And now his body needs work (especially his abs). This is MLB's fault, not Carlos Zambrano's.

Pay the freaks based on annual performance and the quality of play will improve, and the fan base will expand again.

I am Bob Smith. And I have spoken.

And so it WON'T be. Wink wink.

"and too many of those players end up getting hurt (Mark Prior)"

Not arguing your point, but Prior didn't get an expensive, long-term contract. He got a large bonus when he was drafted and more than earned every penny of it. He made a little over $12 M total over his last 4 years in Chicago.

Theres nothing wrong with Zambrano, but the Cubs need another high profile starting pitcher to push him. Say, a "co-ace". Not Lilly. Someone high profile. They need to create a situation similar to when the Diamondbacks had the Schilling-Randy Johnson tandem. If they do, I believe Z will be more consistent.

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This page contains a single entry by Gordon Wittenmyer published on September 30, 2009 10:38 PM.

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