Carlos Zambrano couldn't hold onto a 4-0 lead Tuesday night after a promising and antic-free first four innings of the game. As he let the Brewers take a 5-4 lead with 2 outs in the 5th inning, the emotions rose to surface once again with on-field displays of disgust both at his fielders and seemingly at his pitching coach--Zammy the Clown acted like Larry Rothschild was invisible as he came out to the mound (Rothschild, by the way, hasn't always earned his great rep with the Cubs in my opinion, but his starters have been great for the most part this year and in any case no one deserves the baby-sitting duty of handling Zambrano).
You could tell then and there before Rothschild left the mound that Zambrano was done for the night. The Cubs were not, though, as they went on to win 13-7, showing a rare patience for accepting walks. Geovany Soto also homered, continuing a recent quiet comeback in what has otherwise been a disappointing year for Geo.
With losses by the Cardinals and Rockies, the Cubs are now 8.5 games out of 1st place in the NL Central and 6 games out of the Wild Card, just enough in both cases to keep fans interested in how close the Cubs may get before their time is up. Should we dare to dream that the Cubs can sweep the Cards in St. Louis and get back in the race? (Don't, just don't)
Instead, let's stick with speculating on the fate of Big Z. The Tribune suggests today that Zambrano could be asked to wave his no-trade clause during the off-season as they shop him around. Zambrano has toyed and teased with fans this year that he wanted out of Chicago, and his ongoing cry-baby act (alternating with ill-advised machismo about his hitting) has not exactly further endeared him to anyone.
There are a number of teams that probably would be willing to put up with Zambrano's flashes of kookiness for the smattering of games where he shows off his true talent as a pitcher. I would like to see him traded (along with Milton Bradley, which I think would give the Cubs the happy and tension-free clubhouse they seemed to have in 2008). However, I think when faced with that possibility and having the decision put in his hands, Zambrano will flinch and re-commit himself to the Cubs.
Do I think he'll change? No. There will be more antics next year, but as long as the Cubs put their faith in Ted Lilly as their ace and Ryan Dempster as a reliable No. 2, they can settle for Zambrano going something like 11-10 next year as the No. 3 starter. Who knows--maybe Randy Wells or Rich Harden (or Harden's replacment) becomes the No. 3. Then, the Cubs can take what they can get out of Zambrano, maybe even occasionally using him as a pinch-hitter since it would only be an end-of-rotation starter they're risking. Zambrano would love that, and then when the Cubs get to the postseason, they won't have to risk handing the ball to the head case at the end of the rotation. Zambrano can sit in the dugout and sulk until the Cubs let him finish off a 12-0 laugher in Game 3 of the 2010 World Series against the Yankees, as the Cubs save their more valuable arms for Game 4 and the sweep.