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Big Apple sweep (cont.)

Posted: Tuesday September 4, 2007 10:55AM; Updated: Tuesday September 4, 2007 11:39AM
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Zambrano should pipe down, pitch better

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Carlos Zambrano has been awful since signing his $91.5 million, five-year contract extension, and after getting rocked again in an 11-3 defeat to the surging Dodgers on Labor Day, he tore into the fans who booed him.

According to the Chicago Tribune, on his way off the mound Zambrano responded to the booing by pointing to his head and saying, "I hear you.'' Afterward he said: "I don't accept that the fans were booing at me. I can't understand that. You know, I thought these were the greatest fans in baseball. But they showed me today that they just care about them, and that's not fair, because when you're struggling, you want to feel the support of the fans.

"No, I don't accept it. I just pointed to my head, and I will remember that because I don't want any bad outings. I know the great moments of my career will come."

The Cubs, still in first place despite Zambrano's putrid pitching, certainly hope so after locking him up. However, Zambrano's ERA is 8.29 over his past six starts.

We've heard of a guy going south after signing a big contract. But usually his downward turn isn't quite this immediate, and quite this stark. Some scouts agree with broadcaster Steve Stone, who has suggested that one problem is Zambrano dropping down against left-handers.

In any case, he deserves the boos.

Around the Majors

• After watching Mariners shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt on Monday, I have to assume Derek Jeter's three-year Gold Glove reign is over. I assumed it, anyway, but now I'm pretty sure there's at least one worthy successor to Jeter, who has slipped some this year. John McDonald of the Blue Jays would also be a deserving candidate.

• The Mariners have had four streaks of six or more losses. So with that in mind, it's quite an achievement that they're only one game behind the Yankees in the wild-card derby.

• Good move by the Dodgers to go with talented youngsters Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier over Luis Gonzalez, who'll be gone after the year.

• One player I mistakenly omitted from the AL Rookie of the Year chase is Brian Bannister (12-7, 3.16). Great pickup by Royals GM Dayton Moore.

• Bannister was a loss for the Mets. But Mets GM Omar Minaya has more than made up for it by getting three other starters -- John Maine, Oliver Perez and El Duque -- on the cheap. And now the Mets have Pedro Martinez back, too. Four days after things were looking dicey for the Mets, they are in enviable shape.

• Before they retook command of the NL East, the Mets lost four straight in Philly. The one that really hurt was the game that ended on an interference call. But umpire C.B. Bucknor made the right call, ringing up Marlon Anderson for interference when he pushed Phillies second baseman Tadahito Iguchi while trying to disrupt a double play. It was the right call even though Iguchi wouldn't have been able to turn the double play. So C.B.'s nickname, Consistently Bad, might have to be changed.

• Of all the surprises this year, Carlos Pena takes the cake. A Yankees minor-leaguer most of 2006, he hit his Devil Rays record 35th home run on Monday, off the back catwalk at The Trop no less.

• Where have you gone, J.D. Drew?

Boston Globe baseball writer Nick Cafardo on Sunday suggested a Drew-for-Pat Burrell offseason swap, and that isn't such a bad idea. Drew was much better in the NL (Cafardo points out he's got a .600-plus slugging percentage in interleague games even this year, when he's otherwise disappeared), and Boston is one of two teams that Burrell has said in the past he'd accept a trade to, with the Yankees being the other.

• Lots of great races still going on, but it'll be a surprise if the AL division winners aren't Boston, Cleveland and L.A. of Anaheim. (Just for beating the great Johan Santana five times, I think the Indians have earned their way in.)

• For those who complain about bad interleague matchups, I recommend watching three straight days of that seminal Marlins-Nats matchup. That ought to act as a cure-all for such thinking.

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