Updates on Zambrano, Hendry and Morrison, plus Signing Day winners
It's time for tempermental Carlos Zambrano to part company with the Cubs
Logan Morrison was demoted by the Marlins but the reasoning is curious at best
Pirates and Mariners were among the biggest winners from this week's signing day
The Cubs' rather stiff 30-day penalty for embattled pitcher Carlos Zambrano will be contested fiercely by his representatives in a grievance process that began Monday with a filing by the Players Association on his behalf. But there is one thing both sides seem likely to agree on: It is time for a new team for Big Z.
Zambrano says he wants to remain a Cub, which amounts to nothing more than window dressing after he's already smashed the glass clear through. "Of course he's saying that,'' one management person said. "He's got a lot of money at stake.'' (It's $3 million, technically, since that's the loot he'd lose with a 30-day ban, if upheld.)
Comments from Cubs teammates and management following Zambrano's latest blowup strongly indicate that it's time for him to move on. Both Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez spoke about Zambrano's continuing inability to control his emotions, and Marlon Byrd told the Chicago Sun-Times, "Zambrano's going to pitch again. Where, I don't know.''
The Cubs tried hard to trade Zambrano before the July 31 deadline, offering to pay the vast majority of a contract that calls for him to make $18 million next season, a lot more than his tired arm is worth. They hoped the Yankees might bite. But alas, the Yankees' new pitching coach happens to be Larry Rothschild, who held the same role with the Cubs and has seen Zambrano up close.
The pitcher's latest tantrum took place last Friday night in Atlanta. After allowing five home runs, Zambrano aimed two pitches at Cooperstown-bound Chipper Jones, was ejected, and then told teammates he was retiring. Then came the big indiscretion: Zambrano cleaned out the locker while the game was still going on, a move not received kindly by the team. Zambrano had his buddy Tommy Miranda return his belongings back to the cubbyhole a couple hours after he removed them. But by then, the camel's back was broken. Teammates were questioning him for his latest outburst and team management reacted sternly.
"He's obviously remorseful,'' one Zambrano confidant said. "He had no intention of retiring. He's down on himself.''
At the same time, even his supporters understand the history is long and full off issues. They know it's time for a fresh start elsewhere.
"He needs a new environment,'' the supporter said.
There is some question how quickly teams will line up to take on the temperamental fading star, whose 4.82 ERA this year is the highest of his career. While he's never been in real trouble off the field, there have been a number of incidents involving the club and clubhouse over the years which may make teams question whether he is worth it now that he is no longer a top-of-the-rotation starter.
One such incident occurred just last year, when Zambrano went on a tirade in the dugout, was sent home during the game and later suspended by the team and underwent anger management counseling.
One rival GM said Zambrano is a No. 4 starter, and while that is quite a comedown for him, the need would seem to be great enough around baseball for a starting pitcher that someone will take a chance. But is he worth it?
First comes the little matter of the 30-day placement on the disqualified list by the team, which amounts to a $3 million fine. Zambrano's supporters are hoping for a quick grievance because they believe the ban should be a lot shorter than 30 days. But unfortunately for him, the grievance was filed on amateur signing day and the owners' meetings are this week, pushing the conversations back a couple days.
Once they get talking, Zambrano has a case, no matter how bad a boy he's been. The Cubs once withheld one day's pay from Sammy Sosa for leaving a game after 15 minutes. Sosa was still eligible to be put into the game when he left, making it worse. That penalty, levied after the final game of a season and the final one of Sosa's Cubs career, amounted to $87,000, a penalty Sosa's agent Adam Katz called "severe'' at the time.
The question is whether 30 days is the right penalty for leaving early. Zambrano told CSN Chicago he was wrong for doing that, though he wouldn't own up to throwing at Jones, which seemed pretty obvious to both the Braves and Cubs (and everyone else).
In any case, once the issue of the punishment has been resolved, the Cubs need to do what's really necessary here. And that is to swallow hard, take the financial hit, and let Zambrano go.
Longtime Cubs general manager Jim Hendry is said by many people connected to the Cubs to have a good rapport and the respect of relatively new owner Tom Ricketts. And several reports, including one here, suggested Hendry is probably safe because of that.
But, apparently, that is far from a certainty. While Ricketts has spoken positively about Hendry to some other owners, Hendry, in his ninth year at the helm, is said by people familiar with the situation to be "at risk'' of losing his job.
There is no evidence that something has changed or that the Zambrano case is the key to Hendry's tenuous situation. It just may be a simple matter of others misreading nice comments regarding Hendry as proof that he would stay. That doesn't necessarily appear to be the case now.
The Cubs are in their second straight disappointing year. They have had some bad moments, which can't help (before the latest Zambrano blowup, there was also Milton Bradley, and then Carlos Silva, the man Bradley was traded for). There also have been some very bad contracts, including the $136 million for Soriano, who still has more than $50 million to go, and $30 million for Bradley, who had one disappointing year before being traded, and Fukudome, who got $44 million and barely made a ripple before he was traded to the Indians last month. To be fair, it is sometimes hard to know what higher-up signed off on all those deals.
The Hendry ledger is better than most would think, with five winning seasons in nine years and some great moments -- from the near NLCS win in 2003 and baseball's best regular-season record only three years ago. The farm system also is in better shape than it's been, with some homegrown players like Starlin Castro and Darwin Barney already starring.
But the Cubs have been fading since Ricketts acquired the team a couple years ago.
Ricketts is said to be a cautious man, and someone who likes the personable Hendry very much. Some close to him have thought Hendry would stay. But that doesn't appear to be assured now.
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