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Northside Archives: The Opening Day That Wasn't

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Opening Day left a lot to be desired from the Cubs. There was a solid outing from Dempster, contrasted with horrendous baserunning and a penchant for swinging at every pitch thrown to our hitters – at least until Byrd watched the last one sail past him to end the game. But let’s move on, there will be a lot of twists and turns in the next 161 games, let’s hope this represents one of the lowest points. It could’ve been a LOT worse! It could’ve included Carlos Zambrano…

April 4, 2005
Making his first Opening Day start for the Cubs, Carlos Zambrano is staked to an early 7-0 lead after the top of the 2nd in Arizona. The start of an Opening Day tradition for Big Z, he managed to get it to a 9-2 game with a runner on and two outs in the bottom of the 5th. Needing just one out to qualify for his first Opening Day win, Zambrano surrendered a double and then walked the next two batters (the second walk with the bases loaded). Dusty Baker had seen enough, and yanked Zambrano before he qualified for the win. For his part, Zambrano blamed home plate umpire Dale Scott who promptly ejected him.

The Cubs went on to win that game 16-6 with Glendon Rusch among others cleaning up Zambrano’s mess.

April 3, 2006
In Cincinnati, the Cubs stake Zambrano to a 5-0 lead before he throws a single pitch. By the time the bottom of the 5th rolled around, Zambrano had squandered nearly all of that lead. Adam Dunn took care of the rest with a solo homer to lead off the fifth. With two outs Austin Kearns belted a double that knocked Zambrano out of the game. Fewer histrionics this time, Zambrano had again squandered a massive lead and failed to even pitch five innings. In fact, Aaron Harang who the Cubs tagged for those early runs managed to stay in the game longer than Carlos. He started the sixth and the Cubs made him pay brutalizing the Reds for seven runs in that inning to turn it into a blowout.

The Cubs went on to win that game 16-7 with Will Ohman among others cleaning up Zambrano’s mess.

April 2, 2007
Again in Cincy to face the Reds, Zambrano is now the one giving up early runs. This game was uneventful in how quickly it was over. Harang, a repeat as the Reds Opening Day starter, easily handled the revamped Cubs lineup allowing only a single unearned run over 7 innings. Big Z had trouble finding the zone and missing bats; but had no trouble giving up runs. Ironically, he made it out of the fifth in this game, pitching 5 innings and surrendering 5 runs on 5 BBs and 6 hits.

The Cubs went on to lose that game 1-5 with no one cleaning up Zambrano’s mess.

March 31, 2008
The Cubs are finally afforded the opportunity to play at home on Opening Day, and new acquisition Kosuke Fukudome wastes no time in making his presence felt. Zambrano, facing off against the Brewers and Ben Sheets, pitched his best Opening Day game ever. He turned over a scoreless tie to Carlos Marmol with two outs in the top of the 7th. Wood took over for Marmol in the ninth and coughed up 3 runs deflating Wrigley Field. But with two on and none out in the bottom of the ninth Kosuke hit the first of 37 home runs in a Cubs uniform. 37!

The Cubs went on to lose that game 3-4 in 10 innings with no Zambrano mess.

April 6, 2009
Zambrano and the Cubs make a trip to Houston as the season opens; Carlos’ last appearance against the Astros had ended as a no-hitter in Milwaukee. Building off of his 2008 Opening Day success, Zambrano out-dueled Roy Oswalt throwing six-plus innings and surrendering a single run. The bullpen hangs on and earns Big Z’s only Opening Day win (likely the only one of his career).

The Cubs went on to win that game 4-2 with Zambrano finally triumphant.

April 5, 2010
If Houston and the Astros remind Zambrano of the good times, Atlanta and the Braves must give him nightmares. Not only would Zambrano’s final appearance as a Cub, short retirement, and final tantrum (as a Cub anyway) come one year later in Atlanta; but the Braves played host to the biggest Opening Day smackdown that Carlos ever received – and that’s saying something. Rookie Jason Heyward (whose MLB licensed apparel was not even available for purchase until after Zambrano had been pulled from this game – for which we can thank crazy MLB licensing rules) made his presence felt in his first MLB at-bat. Zambrano, again staked to a first inning 3-0 lead, gave up 6 in the first capped off by a 3-run bomb from Heyward. After he surrendered two more in the second, Piniella replaced him with Sean Marshall. Amazingly, Zambrano ended the day with the second worst ERA on the staff (54.00) thanks to Jeff Samardzija and the six runs, four earned that he surrendered in just 1/3 of an inning for an ERA of 108.00 – yuck.

The Cubs went on to lose that game 5-16 with Samardzija gleefully rolling around in Zambrano’s mess.

Depressed yet? Dempster turned in a good performance yesterday – far superior to his start in Pittsburgh to open last season. And for all those horrible memories above, the Cubs still made the playoffs in 2007 & 2008. Not that this year’s team will be playing into October – but there are 161 other opportunities starting tomorrow, and none of them will start with Zambrano on the mound for the Cubs. That fact and a performance like Dempster’s is reason enough for optimism.

(Carlos Zambrano can be seen for the first time as a Miami Marlin on Sunday in Cincinnati facing Bronson Arroyo and the Reds!)

  • Seymour Butts

    Appreciate the work…are we going to just assume 2011 did not exist. I’m OK with that, just seeded a bit unfinished.

  • Seymour Butts

    Appreciate the work…are we going to just assume 2011 did not exist. I’m OK with that, just seeded a bit unfinished.

  • Jedi

    Seymour, Dempster started in 2011 – perhaps it didn’t seem like it, but this was more of a “remember when Zambrano started the first game for us” type of post.

    • I just assumed “Ace” Davis got the ball last season…that dude was gangbusters

  • Jedi

    Seymour, Dempster started in 2011 – perhaps it didn’t seem like it, but this was more of a “remember when Zambrano started the first game for us” type of post.

    • I just assumed “Ace” Davis got the ball last season…that dude was gangbusters

  • flyslinger2

    At one point in his career I was a big Z fan.  Now that I’ve had time to reflect I’m wandering what the heck I was thinking.  I think someone spiked my beer and that brief time when I was not entirely coherent is when some act of Z imprinted a favorable memory in my skull.  I have since sobered up.  Quickly. Nice write up.  You wonder why management couldn’t see the same trend. 

    • BLPCB

      I too once had a man crush on Bozo. Back in 2005 and 2006, I was pissed when I couldn’t find a Bozo jersey, and then I remember in 2007 I finally found one, but when he didn’t get a new contract, I didn’t want to get one until it was settled.

  • flyslinger2

    At one point in his career I was a big Z fan.  Now that I’ve had time to reflect I’m wandering what the heck I was thinking.  I think someone spiked my beer and that brief time when I was not entirely coherent is when some act of Z imprinted a favorable memory in my skull.  I have since sobered up.  Quickly. Nice write up.  You wonder why management couldn’t see the same trend. 

    • AC0000000

      I too once had a man crush on Bozo. Back in 2005 and 2006, I was pissed when I couldn’t find a Bozo jersey, and then I remember in 2007 I finally found one, but when he didn’t get a new contract, I didn’t want to get one until it was settled.

  • Eddie Von White

    Nice job, Jedi of bringing up almost a decade of bad memories. Now I can just sit here and shake my head in disgust while at the same time being filled with the warm fuzzies knowing he is gone. 

    That being said, nice write-up.

  • Eddie Von White

    Nice job, Jedi of bringing up almost a decade of bad memories. Now I can just sit here and shake my head in disgust while at the same time being filled with the warm fuzzies knowing he is gone. 

    That being said, nice write-up.

  • BLPCB

    Best opening day of that bunch was 2008 (even though we lost). I remember that day well: Class till 10, hour break, got to see the Ernie Banks statue dedication, then I had class until 2, I was going to ditch my 1PM class, but there was heavy rain, so I figured there would be a delay. Watching the game, 6th inning the fire alarm went off in my dorm, and I was out for 30 minutes. When I got back, Bozo had been pulled, and I was like why? Found out he would pound coffee and Red Bull like Forrest Gump drinking 15 Dr. Pepper’s at the White House. When Fukudome went yard to tie the game, I went nuts. I woke up my neighbor, who was taking a nap.

    2005 was a good one too: Where are your glasses?

    Still got to work on that sign. I think making fun of Bozo and Ozzie will be enough, but if I can make a joke at Buerhle too, that would be even better.

    Got my sign for Bulls-Heat:
    Gas: $50
    Hotel: $40
    Tickets to the game: $80
    Seeing LeBron never win a ring: Priceless

  • AC0000000

    Best opening day of that bunch was 2008 (even though we lost). I remember that day well: Class till 10, hour break, got to see the Ernie Banks statue dedication, then I had class until 2, I was going to ditch my 1PM class, but there was heavy rain, so I figured there would be a delay. Watching the game, 6th inning the fire alarm went off in my dorm, and I was out for 30 minutes. When I got back, Bozo had been pulled, and I was like why? Found out he would pound coffee and Red Bull like Forrest Gump drinking 15 Dr. Pepper’s at the White House. When Fukudome went yard to tie the game, I went nuts. I woke up my neighbor, who was taking a nap.

    2005 was a good one too: Where are your glasses?

    Still got to work on that sign. I think making fun of Bozo and Ozzie will be enough, but if I can make a joke at Buerhle too, that would be even better.

    Got my sign for Bulls-Heat:
    Gas: $50
    Hotel: $40
    Tickets to the game: $80
    Seeing LeBron never win a ring: Priceless

  • Tom_C

    one of my fave opening days is when Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes deposited not one, not 2 but THREE dingers in the stands…but never hit after that and went to Japan…

    • BLPCB

      He came close to setting the Japanese record. I think he didn’t get it because Sadaharu Oh ordered the 4-finger salute every time he came up the last series off the year.

    • Gymjok

      Tuffy’s opening day was a good memory for me as well.
      Another good one was the walk off home run in the bottom of the 9th-or maybe it was in extra innings- by pinch hitter Willie Smith (not sure if that was his first name).
      I’m guessing that was in the late 60’s or early 70’s. 

  • Tom_C

    one of my fave opening days is when Karl “Tuffy” Rhodes deposited not one, not 2 but THREE dingers in the stands…but never hit after that and went to Japan…

    • Gymjok

      Tuffy’s opening day was a good memory for me as well.
      Another good one was the walk off home run in the bottom of the 9th-or maybe it was in extra innings- by pinch hitter Willie Smith (not sure if that was his first name).
      I’m guessing that was in the late 60’s or early 70’s. 

  • BLPCB

    What is this rule about MLB merchandise that prevented Heyward’s stuff from being sold?

    • Jedi

      CAPS – MLB doesn’t allow the sale of licensed player apparel until after they’ve appeared in an MLB game.  So you can’t buy officially licensed MLB stuff until the 5th inning of the player’s first game (once the game is official, then the stuff can be sold).  It’s archaic and foolish – the Nationals could be raking in cash on Bryce Harper gear right now…but in order to do that, he needs to appear in a game for them first.

      • BLPCB

        What a dumb rule.

  • AC0000000

    What is this rule about MLB merchandise that prevented Heyward’s stuff from being sold?

    • Jedi

      CAPS – MLB doesn’t allow the sale of licensed player apparel until after they’ve appeared in an MLB game.  So you can’t buy officially licensed MLB stuff until the 5th inning of the player’s first game (once the game is official, then the stuff can be sold).  It’s archaic and foolish – the Nationals could be raking in cash on Bryce Harper gear right now…but in order to do that, he needs to appear in a game for them first.

      • AC0000000

        What a dumb rule.