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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sometimes The Best Decision Is To Say Goodbye...The Chicago Cubs and Carlos Zambrano

“Pressure pushing down on me
Pressing down on you no man ask for
Under pressure – that burns a building down
Splits a family in two
Puts people on the streets" 
David Bowie - Queen

Pressure can take on several forms. In management, the pressure of making the right decision when your back is up against a wall and the rest of the organization is watching how you respond. In sports, the pressure of performing in front of a stadium filled with fans cheering and jeering your every move - the outcome of the game hanging on every play, action, and reaction. On Friday, August 12 in Atlanta, the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Atlanta Braves took on a whole different meaning for the Cubs organization, it’s fans, and one player in particular. What should have been a night celebrating an Atlanta Braves icon, (it was Bobby Cox Night as the Braves retired his #6), turned out to be a “performance” that could impact the future of the Cubs organization.

Can it be the pressure of performing at such a high level? The embarrassment of not performing at your standard? Or simply a matter of selfishness and childish behavior that drives Carlos Zambrano, Chicago Cubs starting pitcher, into a one man wrecking crew. Throwing at opposing hitters, charging his teammates in the dugout, or having a shouting match with the home plate umpire - whatever the reason, “The Big Z” has got to go – his career with the Chicago Cubs is over.

Zambrano’s tirades are well documented. June 2010 – Cellular Field – Cub versus White Sox. Zambrano goes after 1st Baseman Derek Lee in the dugout after giving up four runs to the White Sox in the first inning. May 2009 – Wrigley Field - Cubs versus the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Zambrano is thrown out of the game by home plate umpire Mark Carlson after arguing a tag play at the plate. Zambrano proceeds to shove Carlson, and then pointed in Carlson’s face giving him the ejection sign. As he walked off the field, Zambrano threw the ball into left field, tossed his glove, and took a bat to the Gatorade bucket. June 2007 - Wrigley Field – Cubs versus the Atlanta Braves.  Zambrano gives up five runs to the Braves in the 5th inning, and gets into altercation with his catcher, Michael Barrett. The shoving match started in the dugout, and finished in the clubhouse. Is it me, or is there a pattern to Zambrano's madness. He gets pounded, gives up a bunch of runs, doesn't get his way, and then loses control of his emotions. And I thought that behavior was just reserved for children!!! Why the Cubs didn’t get rid of him after his third outburst involving Derek Lee is beyond me. (I know, I know…Zambrano was in the middle of a 5 year - $91.5 million contract extension signed in August 2007!)

After his latest stunt against the Atlanta Braves that saw him give up FIVE home runs, and then proceeded to throw at Chipper Jones twice during his at bat in the 5th inning, this has to be the end of the line for Zambrano with the Chicago Cubs. What makes matter’s worse, Zambrano cleans out his locker, alerts the clubhouse personnel that he is retiring and leaves the stadium. (Carlos did return to the locker room late Friday night, and restocked his locker) All the while, the 24 other players that call themselves the Chicago Cubs are left to finish the game. A game that Zambrano started and abruptly quit. Say what you want…Zambrano wears his emotions on his sleeve…Zambrano is a very passionate person…Zambrano just wants to win…Zambrano is an intense competitor…Zambrano has anger issues…the bottom line is The Big Z quit on his team and I can’t thing of anything worse than quitting on your team in the middle of a game. And that is exactly what happened!

How can this guy come back and look his teammates in the eye and say “I’m Sorry” (again). More importantly, how can the Chicago Cubs allow this guy to come back to the field and wear a Cubs jersey again. I realize sports is a business, and Zambrano’s contract ($23.5 million left through 2012) would be a lot for any team, let alone a team that is having financial challenges, to eat, but what’s worse for a business is putting up with a selfish individual who is a quitter. What message does it send your team when you allow this behavior to exist in your clubhouse?

Now the pressure is on the Chicago Cubs management (GM Jim Hendry) to make the right decision, and make a move that could change the culture of the organization. While the wins and losses are played out on the field, the attitude of the team is built in the front office by the General Manager and his coaching staff. The decision is easy…the pressure to make the right decision isn’t so…

It’s time for the Cubs to rid themselves of The Big Z…Roll Video...

Footnote To Zambrano: New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia also gave up five home runs to Tampa Bay Rays on Friday Night. No one was thrown at during the game and nobody retired!

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