Carlos Zambrano won his 100th career game for the Chicago Cubs last night, but when asked if he could follow in recent 300 game winner Randy Johnson’s footsteps, he blanched. And gave a really surprising reason.
“Three hundred? Me?” Zambrano said. “No, I’ll be out of here in five years.”
How does he know?
“After this contract, I’m done,” said Zambrano, who is signed through 2012 with a vesting option for 2013. “I’m serious. I don’t want to play. I want to help this team, I want to do everything possible to win with this team, but after five years or four years, or whatever I have left on my contract, I just don’t want to play.” cubs.com.
“I want to stay home and see my daughters grow up and hang out with my family more,” he said. “Do you know how many Mother’s Days I spend with my mother? Do you know how many things I’ve lost in my life?
“It’s good to be here, it’s good to play baseball — don’t get me wrong,” Zambrano said. “But five years, four years, whatever I have left in my contract, I will retire. That’s it.”
And he wasn’t kidding.
Selfishly, I think how can he be saying this. I want Carlos to play forever (well, at least until he’s no longer effective), and he’s still got so many productive years ahead of him.
And it’s very easy to chalk this up to Carlos being Carlos, saying another crazy thing. Maybe he doesn’t mean it, but even if he does, he’ll back off of it soon enough.
But when you really dig behind the comment – it’s actually one of the most mature things a big league ballplayer has ever said.
Naturally, most of us don’t have the luxury of being able to retire in our early 30s, but Zambrano’s suggestion that he would like to do so to spend more time with his family and enjoy more of what life has to offer is actually, well, kind of inspiring. For a guy who too often strikes us as a spoiled child, this statement was surprisingly insightful.
Playing professional baseball is a special job, to be sure, but it is, at its core to these guys, still just a job. He’s saying he’s willing to leave fame, fortune (a WHOLE lot more fortune) on the table so that he can live a more rounded, complete, and fulfilling life.
We could all probably learn a little something from Carlos’ prioritization there.