Hurricane Carlos struck again this past Friday, blowing through the Cubs dugout and tearing apart the lackluster play of any teammate stepping in its way. While it didn’t cause any physical damage, like the ’07 version did on the small but proud town of Michael Barrett, the mental fallout was severe. It’s whipping winds were bad enough to flare up the tempers of a normally easy going vacation spot known as Derrek Lee; a town where the elder’s go to relax and live out their final years.
Seriously, I laughed. As a true fan this event shouldn’t make me laugh but it did. The sight of a major league pitcher giving up a three run homer to start off the second chapter of a cross-town rivalry, then ripping into each of his teammates and their performance upon entering the dugout after the disastrous inning was comical. Who was he really yelling at?
Welcome to Planet Carlos!
Apparently Carlos was trying to fire up the troops with this tirade. I think his heart was in the right place but his brain already hit the showers. This isn’t the first time this has happened on Planet Carlos. In the past he has shown signs of sharing the same dysfunctional solar system as Milton Bradley, Manny Ramirez, and Barry Bonds.
Big Z’s massive meteorite of passion often collides with his stupidity and immaturity leaving a huge crater. It happened a few years ago and the team gave him the benefit of the doubt. Instead of shipping him out of town they traded the guy who was on the receiving end of his punches.
Up until the last season his temper and emotions on the field were so volatile those watching sat and wondered when Mount Carlos would erupt. Over time it became obvious that the physically durable, yet emotionally fragile Zambrano was his own worst enemy. He would often stalk the mound after an error, shouting expletives into his glove like a man possessed, all the while staring down the guilty culprit. Showing up a teammate after an error is typically frowned upon not to mention lacks professionalism. After a while this became so normal it was his expected response.
Until this recent incident at Cellular Field, Carlos, the human natural disaster, has been somewhat dormant. He even seemed at times jovial and at peace letting some previous bad performances slide off his back. I guess his cup of passion just spilled over at an inopportune time. Will he apologize to his team and if so will it matter?
What is a leader?
Friday’s display was one more example of Zambrano’s inability to grasp the leadership role. It is definitely the leader’s job to ignite a fire under his team when they are struggling but there needs to be a method to the madness. Some people just aren’t cut out for it. Just because you give a player a massive contract and name him your ace doesn’t mean he is a natural leader of men.
Leadership is a common commodity on championship teams. Very few, if any, advance their play to the pinnacle lacking this quality somewhere in the clubhouse. This is true with any sport, company, or organization for that matter.
Friday’s occurrence didn’t shock me. This team has not displayed any real leadership in years and it shows. On a team looking desperately for direction the last thing they needed was to find out that one of there elder statesman, an eight year veteran and an assumed leader, was more of a distraction then anything else.
Leaders lead by example not just words. When they choose to use words timing and delivery are crucial. Carlos failed in all of the above and has been suspended until after the All Star break. Once again, an extremely expensive contract will ride the pine useless for a good chunk of the season, as some are predicting August as a return date. Lou has already gone ahead and noted that Big Z will find a seat in the pen when he returns, that is, if he returns.
Is he finished?
Apparently Zambrano will get some counseling while he is away. I am not sure if I want to watch him toil in Cubbie blue anymore. Even if he comes back healed what’s to say he doesn’t relapse again in the future?
While I hope the best for Carlos, I am not sure it is productive to hold a spot on this team for him any longer. It already appears that he has a long trek back to the starting rotation and he was not much more effective as a reliever as evidenced earlier in the season.
Last season there was talk that Carlos may want to exit baseball after his contract with the Cubs runs out. When Carlos throws his last pitch I wonder how fans and baseball will remember him? Will it be for the no hitter in 2008, the many displays of hard nose power pitching that led this staff for a few seasons, or the two dugout fights and endless temper tantrums on the mound? While the sand in Big Z’s hour glass seems to be running out, one has to wonder, is there enough time and opportunity left for Carlos to make his mark on something other than a teammates face?