Mike Quade is slowly making his mark with the Chicago Cubs. While it didn’t seem huge, and in the grand scheme of things might just be a small ripple in the 2011 season, the Cubs new head coach planted his first stake in the ground bouncing Carlos Zambrano from the opening day starter roll in favor of Ryan Dempster. Zambrano held the spot for the past six seasons.
It is said the prideful Zambrano took it in stride. One can be sure behind closed doors it lit a small fire under his ass. However, who knows what the result of that fire will be. Will we see the controlled fireballer who tossed a no-hitter late in 2008, or the mess that took place on opening day last year in Atlanta and spilled out into the rest of the seasons first half? Will it be the 8-0 Zambrano of 2010’s second half or the one that makes us wonder about his sanity?
There are many players on this 2011 Cubs team that are teetering on the precipice. Will this be their last big contract or is there some spark left in the tank? Zambrano is one of those players. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that if he has another disaster ridden season that he will command top of the rotation attention in the future. Many of you are saying, “take it easy on the guy, he went 8-0 to end the season last year” , I say so what……do it when it matters. Do it when the pressure is on and the games mean something, not when we are at the bottom of the table. Why would I say that? Because this is when Big Z has imploded in the past. When the stakes are high his emotions rise as does his pitch count. I am not saying he is without success in these situations too, he has had some, but it seems like it has been a while. This season may provide some answers as to what Carlos’ future may hold.
I love the fact that Quade gave Dempster the official “staff ace” tag. I like how he did the deed right out of the gate. No messing around, just get to it. I actually like the way he did it, and the fact that it took a nanosecond of spring training to do it, more then the decision itself. I have to believe the choice was based on character and leadership more then anything else. Not too mention a good bit of consistency. Dempster has been the rock in the rotation for the past few years. He does things the right way and he makes for a good ambassador. Without being a stuffy jerk or a jackass gallivanting around town at all hours, he still manages to have his fun and take care of business. He is known as the locker room prankster or clown but also leads the team on runs through the foothills of Mesa . Nice balance if you ask me…..sounds a lot like a leader.
Understand this, I am a fan of both of these pitchers. Dempster is that shot of tequila when you need to even things out and Zambrano is a can of Red Bull that pumps energy into the game. They can both shine in their own ways. Dempster to start the season is no saving grace but the concept does perk my ears. Quade is trying some new things, some will work and some will not. Let’s hope this little experiment gets the team off on the right foot.