The Carlos Zambrano Situation – According To A Cubs Fan

"The Greatest Story Ever Told"

I, the Stew, am a Cubs fan. My favorite player is Mark Grace, think Ron Santo should be in the HOF and drink Old Style at Wrigley even though it tastes like pee-pee. After a few days to process this I think it’s time to talk about it. If we don’t bring it out in the open now then the situation is just going to snowball and Brenly is going to have to end up sitting on the couch.

So…Carlos Zambrano is going to retire. And to be perfectly honest I didn’t see it coming. I’m become increasingly numb to anything Big Z does these days but retiring after his contract is up? Now THAT’S crazy.

Or is it?

Once Zambrano’s contract is up after the 2012 season he’ll have compiled about $113 million in salary. As long as he hasn’t spent it all on counseling and email accounts I’d say he will be pretty set financially once he reaches his proposed retirement date. He has a $19 million club for 2013 that would almost certainly not be picked up by the Chicago Cubs. Interesting side note concerning that 2013 option though:

Option guaranteed if Cy Young (1st or 2nd in 2011 or 2012 top 4) and healthy] at completion of 2012 season

I’ll be the first Cubs fan to say that no one is expecting that to happen, but wouldn’t that be something to see? Watching Zambrano have to decide whether sticking to his word is worth leaving $19 mil on the table? Priceless.

Let’s assume Zambrano sticks to his word and does retire. The next two years have yet to be written but let’s take a look at his career to date. After turning his 2010 season around after the All-Star break it appears Big Z is going to end the year with an ERA under 4.00. That will make it nine years out of nine that he has ended the year with a sub-4.00 ERA (career 3.51). Not too shabby. His WHIP has never been much to write home about but leading the league in BBs two years in a row will do that to you. Watching Cubs games on WGN when Zambrano is pitching is a real test in patience at times; K, BB, BB, BB, K, K. Not the easiest way to skin a cat but no one ever said there was only one way to do it.

But enough about numbers. They’re dumb anyways, right!?!?! What does his impending retirement really mean?

Personally, it means it’s not going to happen. Assuming Zambrano is the age he says he is (Venezuela birth certificates are probably a bit more credible than the Caribbean Islands) he’ll be 31 at the age of his retirement. Retiring at the age of 31? Don’t buy it. But if anyone is crazy enough to exit the game with many potential millions to still be made I guess Zambrano is the guy.

Still…I call bullshit. Pardon me for being skeptical of the entire charade. Players say a lot of things when dealing with a disappointing season and most of them don’t even have to deal with being sent to anger management after a very public dugout tussle. So to say that the 2010 season has been a trying one for Zambrano would be a slight understatement. It’s a long two years until 2012, giving Z ample time to think about all the monies that could be made after age 31.

However, if the 2012 season comes and goes (most likely without a Cubs WS victory) and Zambrano sticks to his word then I’m okay with it. Big Z has provided a lot of good innings for the Cubs since he broke into the Bigs at age 20. The least heralded of the big three which also included Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano has become the most accomplished of the three. Especially when one considers what each has done for the Cubs organization. So if Zambrano wants to retire as a Cub after 11 years of service I can’t blame him. My only regret is that the Cubs couldn’t do more as a team while Big Z was in his prime and placing in the top 5 of Cy Young balloting.

Truly, I think the Cubs will probably be better without Zambrano. Not that I want to see him gone. It’s just that he’s the only real remnant from the Cubs squads that seemed so close to ending the championship drought. You know, Bartman, Alou, Alex Gonzalez and all that wackiness. It’s just time to move on.

Zambrano is like that friend from high school that no one really likes anymore but you still have to ask him to be on your slow-pitch softball team because you all live in the same town. And because he’s the only one who wants to pitch.

Now, what do you guys think? Is Zambrano a man of his word or will he take a steaming pile on retirement like everyone else in sports today?

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