Isn’t it too early to talk about Carlos Zambrano’s Legacy? Normally a player has to be retired for us to eulogize his career. We may no longer see him in a Cubs uniform, but I am not sure we have seen the last of him in the big leagues.
Maybe Zambrano was meant to have this wild career. He flipped between the bullpen and rotation during his short minor league career, and during his first full big league season. He would notoriously have stretches of dominance, only to fall apart and look awful for equally long periods. He would often have a tale of two games. Virtually unhittable for 4-5 innings, and then couldn’t get anyone out. Of course, there were many great performances as well. Who can forget the no-hitter in Milwaukee versus a homeless Astros team during Hurricane Ike? There also might not be a better modern day hitting pitcher (career .241 batting average with 23 home runs) this side of Mike Hampton in the history of baseball. Zambrano was the rare hurler that made his presence known on the mound and at the plate.
There have been blowups with teammates, managers, umpires, and the front office. During his starts he would not just battle the opposing team, but just about everything around him, including himself. His emotions and temperament is what probably will ultimately give him the label of “good, not great, but could have been better” when his career is finally done. He can be summed up by his actions the last week. He gets bombed in Atlanta, emotionally walks away from the team, the Cubs put him on the disqualified list, and then today he talks about how he wants to stay with the team. Is that not a perfect example of schizophrenia?
Perhaps a change of scenery will help Zambrano. If the Cubs released him would you be surprised if the Yankees, Red Sox, or Phillies took a shot? It’s a low-risk/high reward situation any team could walk away from with financial impunity. A focused Zambrano could provide top of the rotation performance for scrap heap money. He might be an incredible bullpen arm down the stretch this year. What better value can you ask for?
I think the legacy of Carlos Zambrano is still in the process of being written. I don’t think it will include many more stories from his Chicago days. The Cubs and Zambrano have become a marriage that needs to end because of irreconcilable differences. It’s what’s best for both sides going forward. That doesn’t mean 29 other teams can’t give a Zambrano union a whirl. I also think Carlos Zambrano wouldn’t mind that either.