Carlos Zambrano is going to be a part of the 2011 Chicago Cubs, for better or worse, and the most fans can do is hope that he pitches like he did in the final month and a half of the 2010 season. At least a portion of that time, Zambrano was pitching for interim manager Mike Quade, who is now the full-time manager. For his part, Quade hopes that late-season Zambrano shows up again next year, too, but says he’s ready to handle anything that the temperamental pitcher throws at him.
“I know Z’s emotional fieriness when he’s pitching,” Quade said. “Look, Z is at the top of the charts. I get that. How much can you handle? How much is appropriate? Are you willing to cut a guy some slack? How much slack? These are all things that talking to guys and communicating with the guy — whether it’s Z or anyone else — on a regular basis, will help allow me to handle him. However I need to, and how much I’m willing to take.”
The relationship between Zambrano and Quade is still in the honeymoon phase, as it once was with earlier managers Dusty Baker and Lou Piniella. But this time it could work, as long as Zambrano tries.
“I literally check my ego at the door,” Quade said. “Now, if you stomp off the mound and you’re upset, I get it. That’s OK. If I have to go out to second base and pick up the baseball because you flipped it over there, well, it’s probably not going to go quite as smoothly.
“There were a couple of moments where he was fired up or disappointed or upset, and I get that. That’s OK. But he’s also a veteran guy and an important part of this club. That status usually gives you a little leeway.
“It doesn’t give you carte blanche. It ain’t Club Med for the veterans, by any means.” chicagotribune.com.
This is, of course, the right attitude to have, particularly on a team where the confluence of overpaid, aging vets and talented, ready youngsters is likely to cause some discomfort when it comes to playing time. It sounds like Quade is prepared to do what’s best for the team, not for any divas that should show up throughout the season. So, at a minimum, Quade’s saying all the right things.
As for Zambrano, specifically, we can all just continue to hope that he’s truly a changed man (and pitcher) following his mid-season meltdown/anger management last year. He’s going to be Z – that means outbursts on the mound, shouting at the sky, and erratic moments. But maybe, if we’re lucky, that stuff will be tempered, and won’t interfere with his, you know, baseball performance.