Carlos Zambrano is about to retire. Or maybe he's already retired? Who knows? Not Mike Quade, that's for sure.
After Thursday's game, in which Zambrano gave up 5 dingers to Chipper Jones and the Atlanta Braves, Big Z got ejected, left the dugout, proceeded to his locker, packed his things, and then departed into the long, painfully twisting thorn-vine called Cubs History.
On his way out, he apparently muttered something to the effect of, "See you cats later; I'm going back to Latin America with my millions to be with my adopted children" — ironically, something I've always wanted to say, but never had the occasion.
Anyway, word has reached the media, some way or another, that Zambrano mentioned he would retire as he exited the locker room. If this indeed happens, it will be yet another sour ending in a Cubs history full of them.
Through most his career, Zambrano was widely considered the Cubs ace. He indeed had some high quality seasons at a young age — as a 22-year-old member of the 2003 Cubs, Zambrano hurled 214 innings of 3.11 ERA, 3.47 FIP baseball. That's pretty good.
However, Zambrano's reputation overshot his talent level, and a lucky 2004 (featuring his only sub-3.00 ERA) helped propel him into a possibly undeserved "ace" status. In reality, Zambrano has been a workhorse, an above average pitcher, a reliable starter, but never an ace.
For instance, Carlos Zambrano has never accumilated more then 5 WAR (wins above replacement). His best season was 2003, where he had 4.9 wins. Consider C.C. Sabathia, who is a legitimate ace. He has pitched 6 straight seasons of 5+ WAR ball, the high point being his epic 7.6 WAR 2008 season.
Then there's Cliff Lee, who has really only been an ace for a few years now. He turned it on late in his career, but 4 straight seasons of 5+ WAR.
But, because of the backwardness of the Chicago fan base and the media and the ownership, we thought Zambrano was an ace on the merit of accruing 15+ meaningless old-school wins. The result was a huge extension he could never live up to (even when he did earn it) and a fan base and media and ownership ever-disappointed in him.
It would make me go crazy too.
Good luck Zambrano, wherever your next stage of life takes you — whether it's some resort along a shimmering Venezuela coast or a slot in the Red Sox starting rotation, I hope the time treats you better than we did.
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