The Cubs and their fans lost a ball game today. Carlos Zambrano lost a grandmother. I’d say Carlos suffered the greater loss.
Most of us get to do our grieving in private. Carlos had to do his on the mound in front of a live audience of 40,000 +. And many more than that in TV and radioland.
We all knew something was wrong.
It was a beautiful day for a ballgame, for a ballgame, today.
Carlos Zambrano was on the mound, throwing to Henry Blanco. Schumaker led off with a double to left. Ludwick blooped a single to right. Pujols ripped an RBI single to left. Felipe Lopez walked to load the bases. Troy Glaus flew out to short center for the 1st out. Adam Kennedy pounded a grand slam homer to left. Just like that the Redbirds led 5-0. What’s wrong with this picture?
Somehow Carlos got shortstop Aaron Miles to ground out to Derrek Lee with Z himself covering 1st for the 2nd out. And somehow Z got Cards’ pitcher Adam Wainwright to look at a third strike to end the top of the 1st inning. We all knew something was wrong.
Catcher Jason Larue led off the 2nd inning with a ground rule double into the left center vines. Skip Schumaker flied out to left for the 1st out. The runner held at second. Z walked Ludwick. Ball 4 was outside by a mile. Everybody knew something was wrong.
Pujols grounded out 4-3, advancing the runners to 2nd & 3rd. A wild pitch got by Blanco, advancing the runners. Score is 6-0. Lopez singled to right, scoring Ludwick. Score is now 7-0. Troy Glaus walked with 2 outs. Lou pulled Zambrano.
That nightmare scenario actually happened. It didn’t make any sense at the time. Now it makes all the sense in the world. You can’t fool Mother Nature.
Although Carlos Zambrano was off the field, the echoes of his grief reverberated around Wrigley Field for the rest of the afternoon. We all knew something was wrong.
Both teams went through the motions in the third inning. But it wasn’t gonna happen. It couldn’t happen.
By the 4th inning Lou was auditioning pitchers. And both teams kept valiantly trying to fool Mother Nature. Make believe nothing is wrong. Play it off.
In the 5th inning Lou brought in The Understudys. Blanco & Fontenot were the only Cub starters remaining. Tony LaRussa followed suit shortly thereafter.
For the rest of the nine innings, the score was pretty much beside the point. As Lou said in the post game interview: “It looked like a Spring Training game”.
I do have one question about the rest of the game though. According to MY scorecard, Ryan Ludwick, batting in his #2 spot, grounded out 4-3 to end the top of the 6th inning. And to start the top of the 7th, Brian Barton, batting in Ludwick’s #2 hole, went down swinging. Where I come from that’s called “Batting Out Of Order”. Let me put it another way. A batter, batting in the 2nd slot of the batting order, cannot make the final out of one inning (the 6th) and then lead off the next inning (the 7th). Not even if you substitute a different player in that spot. I think that’s a no no.
Of course, by the 6th and 7th innings I was reeling almost as much as Carlos was. So maybe I missed something. I would like an explanation, though.
OK, I’ve explained how the outcome of this game had pretty much become meaningless due to factors beyond anyone’s control. I believe that’s referred to as being “overtaken by events”.
Here’s the important thing, however.
Lou is planning to start Z again in 5 days come hell or high water. Just like nothing happened. “Get over it!”
But just like a runner can’t run a marathon on a broken leg, Carlos won’t be pitching any more no hitters on a broken heart. You can yell all you want. Carlos can give it his best shot, and no doubt he will. He sure did today. But he’s not a robot. I’m glad he’s human.
I know where Lou’s coming from, too. And maybe in 5 days Z will be able to come back stronger than ever. I’m confident that eventually he will. I just don’t know when that will be. He’s been carrying this team for some time. Now we are gonna have to carry him for a while.
Karla Bonoff wrote a song called “Goodbye My Friend”. I’m listening right now to a version recorded by Keali’i Reichel to honor HIS departed grandmother. The words start off like this:
“Oh we never know where life will take us
I guess it’s just a ride on the wheel
And we never know when death will shake us
And we wonder how it will feel
So goodbye my friend
I know I’ll never see you again
But the times together through all the years
Will take away these tears
It’s O.K. now
Goodbye my friend.”
and it ends like this:
“But I’m O.K. now
Goodbye my friend
You can go now
Goodbye my friend”
Hang in there, Carlos.