Monday, June 6, 2011

Tsk! Tsk!

We took the little one to a playground last night and she finally decided to take a break from doing potentially dangerous things about a half hour into our visit. I took the opportunity presented by the brief respite to check the news through the Chicago Tribune's mobile site, quickly read the story about Carlos Zambrano's comments following another pathetic loss, and realized that this Cubs' team was going to be at least as depressing as the 2006 and 2002 versions of the squad.

And so what? That the Cubs suck is not exactly surprising. I was optimistic about the coming season because of the addition of Matt Garza and a firm belief that Alfonso Soriano would have a turnaround season, but I am also an idiot who always finds reasons to believe that -- despite all evidence to the contrary -- this will be the year.

Or maybe I wasn't so bullish on this year -- the moment that Jim Hendry announced that Mike Quade, not Ryne Sandberg, would be the coach of the Cubs, the possibility of a miracle effectively ended.

Maybe this year would be tolerable if it was Sandberg at the helm. The losses absorbed now could be accepted as valuable lessons endured for a glorious return just over the horizon. Now? I doubt that there a more than a handful of Cubs fans that believe that Quade can do anything with the team; they will be horrible not only this season, but the next, and probably 2013 as well.

And, as an added bonus for all of the Cubbie faithful, Hendry's shunting of a Cubs legend (who paid his dues and did everything asked of him) has created a perfect storm that will usher out three of three franchise's most loved and prolific players -- Kerry Wood, Aramis Ramirez, and Carlos Zambrano.

It was inevitable that Zambrano's comments would be used as a launching point for the lecturing and sanctimonious hectoring that has, with notable exceptions, replaced sports reporting in the city. Cue David Haugh -- who, sticking to his now cemented role as a clown, brands Big Z as an "immature hothead," a "prima donna," and "selfish."

Fortunately, there are exceptions, and it is awesome to see Bob Brenly voice support for Z and, even better, read Bruce Miles' measured thoughts on the same subject. (Indeed, Miles has it exactly right: "You're going to get some of the easy and predictable reactions in the media, like the Cubs should suspend Z.")

I'm starting to take perverse enjoyment in Haugh's writings. They're predictable, they are all holier-than-thou, they are all slated to management, and they're lazy. Here's what he says about Zambrano's tenure with the following:

"It was another symptom of the immaturity that has made Big Z's career a big disappointment given his physical potential."

Disappointment? To whom?

Zambrano has had one of the best pitching careers of any Cubs' starter -- second only to Greg Maddux -- in the thirty plus years I've followed the team.

Let me write that again ... Carlos Zambrano has had the second-best pitching career of any Cubs' player in the last thirty years.

I only caught Rick Reuschel and Fergie Jenkins at the tail end of their careers. But from just a pure numbers standpoint, Big Z holds up with the greatest to take the mound for the team.

This year (likely in his next start), Zambrano will break the 1,500 strike out mark for the Cubbies. That's second all-time, behind only Fergie. Zambrano's won 121 games in 271 starts (8th all-time), that's a 44.6% ratio -- the same as Maddux's (133 wins in 298 starts). Reuschel won 135 times in 343 starts (39.4%) and Fergie had 167 wins in 347 starts (48.1%). A career 1.31 WHIP, a career 3.52 ERA, 7.635 k's per nine innings (6th all-time and second only to Kerry Wood amongst pitchers with at least 1,000 innings pitched in a Cubs jersey).

In case you had not heard, Zambrano is kind of good. He's been kind of good for a decade. Miles is, again, dead on:

And despite his problems of last year (which started with the Cubs shunting him off to the bullpen), the guy's got some cachet around here. He outlasted both Wood and Mark Prior as starting pitchers. He's overcome some of anger-management issues and redefined himself as a guy who can get you out by thinking and finesse and also by the occasional power pitch sometimes.

He's been the Cubs' best pitcher of this day. Ten or so years ago, watching in spring training, I turned to somebody and said, "Wow, this guy's got better pure stuff than either Wood or Prior." And he did.

Rock on Z. Don't let the bastards get you down.

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