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I was perusing Bruce Levine’s weekly chat, wading through the usual crazy trade suggestions by readers and deft non-answers by Levine, when, out of nowhere, Levine drops this bombshell in response to a question about Carlos Zambrano’s declining performance and dropping velocity:

It’s basically attrition. Cumulative wear and tear over a 14-year pitching career. Although [Zambrano] is listed as age 30, baseball people think he is at least a couple of years older.

WHAT?

I’m an active reader about the Chicago Cubs, regularly taking in more wild theories and rumors than I care to describe, but this is the first time I’ve heard someone explicitly suggest that Carlos Zambrano, who was signed as a teenager under the Jim Hendry scouting regime out of Venezuela, is older than his listed age.

For Levine to cavalierly suggest that “baseball people think” Zambrano – and maybe even the Cubs – have been lying about Zambrano’s age for years is a pretty bold assertion. It certainly merits more than an off-hand remark at the bottom of a weekly chat. If you’re going to say it, man, say it.

Zambrano’s career performance arc has always been on the early side. In other words, he generally seemed to perform better at a younger age than the average pitcher. Zambrano was already one of the best pitchers in the league when he was just 22 and 23. And, while the typical good starting pitcher peaks in his late 20s or early 30s (it’s much younger for positional players, by the way), Z seemed to hit his ceiling in his mid-20s.

Nobody really batted an eye, though. There are bound to be fluctuations among a population of players, and maybe Z was just an early bloomer and decliner. Moreover, the fact that Zambrano had started his professional career so young, and had thrown so many professional innings in his early 20s (Zambrano threw well over 200 innings three straight years before his 25th birthday – thanks, Dusty), everyone just assumed that the performance decline was because of the wear and tear on his arm.

Could it be that, in fact, the decline was just the appropriate reflection of his age? We believe Zambrano to be 30 years old, but what if, as Levine suggests, Z is actually more like 32? Or 33? That could certainly take a couple MPH off of your fastball.

I’m not sure what Levine meant by “baseball people think,” but, given that the Cubs are currently desperate to unload Z at all costs, I’d think finding out his true age – if there is even a question at all – would be of paramount importance to the Cubs and those who report on them.

  • Jim

    That’s like your parents casually telling you you’re actually 24 on your 21st birthday. There’s got to be more to this unfounded tidbit. You’re a lawyer Brett, isn’t there some way to find out his age?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Unfortunately, as of last week, I am no longer a practicing attorney. I’m just some dude with a law degree who used to practice law.

      But even if I were a lawyer, assuming Venezuela’s privacy laws are anything like here in the U.S., I can’t think of a way to get a copy of his birth certificate, or anything official like that.

      • Jim

        You could always call his mom. Go right to the source, you know?

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          She and I haven’t spoken in years.

  • MichiganGoat

    I doubt he has any actual evidence it more of a growing concern/suspicion about foreign born players especially in countries where birth certificates are not registered or mandatory. It does make some sense and adds to “do no sign Pujols” camp.

    • hardtop

      i pitched my tent in that camp

      …its a sweet spot, their outhouses smell like beer.

  • hardtop

    Dude, you shouldn’t post this stuff when we are trying to trade him. It’s one thing to have it on Levine’s comments, nobody pays attention to him anymore, but to put it out there on bleacher nation? you must be daft! This is a place where GM’s across the league turn for critical information about the Cubs and their opponents! Well, it’s just reckless… detrimental to the team! Who are your rooting for anyway man?
    ;)

  • 1060Ivy

    Hmmm, sounds like the Cubs MO. Make certain that rumors regarding any trade candidate are purely negative. Yup, that’s how a team can maximize it’s return.

    Hey, wait a minute. That doesn’t help the Cubs move a player or get additional value for him.

    Maybe someone should let the Cubs know about this.

  • philoe beddoe

    I thought this was common knowledge…I remember when he was listed at 19…and I read where a scout said “he’s been 19 for three years!”….I have stated this before….and I am not being racist, but Dominican and Venezuelan players..it’s like dog years…you gotta add at least 3-4 years….

    remember Juan Cruz…when he showed at spring training that one year and his age had been adjusted from 24 to 27…on of the players said “Happy Birthday…..three times”

    not to mention Tejada having his adjusted….hell, Castro might be in his mid 20’s…I would bet Pujols age is off by a few….if they can go from mid-prospect to a big-time prospect by shaving some years, no brainer…

  • rocky8263

    I can’t believe I actually read this drivel, but if you are serious about G.M.’s (major league G.M.’s not from the quickie mart) reading Bleacher Nation I have a beautiful bridge in New York I can sell you cheap! I worked in the Cub’s front office for the Wrigley’s and Tribune company and can’t imagine Dallas Green looking for advice or a feeling for fan’s reaction from a site like this.

    • http://twitter.com/thomaswconroy TWC

      Rocky, baby… you ever hear of a little thing called sarcasm? No? It usually happens before people start name-dropping.

      Hardtop, can you help him out?

      • CubFan Paul

        he has never heard of sarcasm but he has worked in the Cubs front office?! riiight ..delivering packages to the building as a UPS man doesnt count

      • hardtop

        i laid it on pretty thick too…
        didnt intend to cause confusion

    • Andrew

      We commentors are serious about our sarcasm. (or is commenters – either way, I just don’t want to sound like an idiot)

      • http://twitter.com/thomaswconroy TWC

        Andrew, you sound like an idiot.

        The word you’re looking for is “commenteerificators”. Duh.

        • MichiganGoat

          Now that’s what you call commenteerificatorcasm

          • Andrew

            Oh snap. I guess there will be no more commenting from me. Don’t want to be an idiot. :)

    • hardtop

      yeah man, i was just kidding.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Anyone else see the irony in someone who purports to have worked in the Cubs’ front office saying that front office types don’t read “this drivel”?

      You made my day, rocky.

      • hardtop

        somehow it escaped me… thanks for the thump on the head, that’s awesome
        … and, Rocky, even thought i was fucking around, maybe you should show the fans some respect. we’re not just a bunch of fair weather band wagon-ers. i dont remember seeing any world series trophy’s around dallas greens office? maybe if we had bleacher nation in the 80’s and dallas had paid attention to the fans, we’d have kept eckersley, smith, palmiero, etc. and we wouldnt be waiting for that elusive title…. just sayin.

  • awesome

    people have always said, just add about 3-5 years to every Fgn Latin players age. having said that, I’ve always felt it would be Z’s build that would slow him down. kinda like fielder’s build slowing down his career. just my opinion.

  • auggie1955

    So, he’s 32 or 33 and he still behaves like he’s 12. I’m sure other clubs will find that attractive.

  • Ron

    Original long form birth certificate, I also wanted that for, um, Soriano. Didn’t you say Ace that these type of records are very hard to find in these countries?

    • MichiganGoat

      They are not automatically created and registered in many countries, and they are easily forged and since there is no official record impossible to prove/unprove authenticity.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      The two countries that you have historically heard about age issues are Cuba and the Dominican Republic. The former because, as signees are defectors, it can be hard to get official records. The latter because a cabin industry developed in the late 90s/early 2000s of finding good late-teenage players, forging some documents, calling them 15, and then getting a team to give you a big bonus to sign them. For the most part, it’s no longer an issue in the D.R.

      I’ve not heard of this issue in Venezuela, specifically, but I suppose it could have happened back in the late 90s when Z was signed. I’m just speculating.

  • Cheryl

    If the questio about his age didn’t come out here, it would have come out elsewhere. It won’t make any difference to GM’s unless they decide to convert him to a relieer. If he becomes a relief pitcher he could pitch into his late 30’s. His only problem will be acting his age. But if the cubs can show a pattern of misinformation coming from Zabrano in more than one area would it make a difference in the grievance area?

  • Cheryl

    Sorry should have been question in first line and reliever in second line.

    • EQ

      I like “questio” kinda has a ring to it.

  • TSB

    I heard the same thing about Fernando Velenzuela. Witnesses say they saw him playing in the Mexican League years before he was discovered at the age of 21 (sic). How about the Chicago press check up on fans in Venezuela that may have some interesting info on sr. Zambrano.

  • philoe beddoe

    Did Ricketts make any announcements today on anymore future announcements he is going to make?…that being said…pretty cool they spent 11.95 million on the draft….seems like a relatively inexpensive gamble….White Sox spent 2.76…wow…but I read that Selig has promised owners this will be the last year for over-slotting…..he’ll take care of his buddy Jerry, just like he did in 05….

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Everyone who is in the prospecting business says they’re convinced hard slotting won’t happen next year.

      The thing that pisses me off – unlike with player salaries, it’s not like it’s the Yankees and Red Sox dominating amateur signings every year. The Pirates have spent more than any other team in the last four years. The Nats outspent everyone this year. Hard slotting will hurt the little guys just as much as the big guys.

      (or am I being naive?)

      • Toosh

        Neither the big guys can have it both ways. First, the teams that are saying that they’re losing money need to open they’re books. I refuse to believe any team is losing money in this day and age. As for slotting, teams need to decide what percentage of their operating costs they want to devote to the draft and then follow through. Hard slotting will make it harder on all organizations. A lot of players would stay in school and hope to improve their draft position if they knew they would get a certain signing bonus.

      • RoughRiider

        Naiveté thy name is Bret. I bet you think that the Cubs fornt office reads “Bleacher Nation”

        • RoughRiider

          front office !!!!

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Why is “Bleacher Nation” in quotes? Does it not really exist? Do I?

          • gblan014

            Probably not. I guess that would make it the “Cubs front office”.

      • MichiganGoat

        Here’s what I don’t get about hard slotting: It’s small change compared to salary and general operational expenses. The Cubs only spent 12M for 10+ players and it’s a one time investment and I doubt we will spend this much every year, so if hard slotting happens then are we talking about 6M but with diminished talent? Every team can afford 6-12M for the draft, as Brett said the Pirates have spent the most! So this does not help competition in fact it will diminish the talent in the minors- how is that good for baseball? I just don’t see how this benefits baseball or how it helps the small market.

    • hardtop

      “he’ll take care of his buddy Jerry, just like he did in 05….”
      whats this in reference to? i knew that reinsdorf was a selig crony and i knew jerry and bud are probably the two biggest reasons mark cuban doesnt own the cubs right now… but whats with this 05 thing… would love to read some good conspiracy theory considering this astros game is pissing me off.

      • philoe beddoe

        take this for what it’s worth..

        I had a scout tell me that Selig always promised Reinsdorf if they got close he would take care of him…people always forget that AJ play where he ran on strike three and ump allowed it….Sox lose that game they are down 0-2 going back to Anaheim…

        full disclosure… I can’t stand Reinsdorf because of Krause/Bulls and keeping Cuban away..
        probably a load of crap but in my warped mind it takes a little shine of Sox title…

        • Jim

          I agree with you 100%. I don’t forget that play either. It was a bad call and took the wind out of the Angels; They win that game and it’s over for the Sox.

  • philoe beddoe

    that is a good point…honestly I have followed this game for a long time, and never really looked at the money spent on the draft until this year….it will only help teams that don’t want to spend at all….

    money teams do still have an advantage in international signings…

    speaking of the Yankees, most people don’t realize that they had a HUGE advantage before the draft and free agency….you could sign anyone…so Gehrig, Dimaggio, Mantle etc…the Yankees just bought….I just think it is funny that Yankee fans pound their chest about 26 titles or whatever and basically they have always had a tremendous financial advantage…don’t get me wrong, great organization…but since they landed the Babe they have been playing with an advantage….

  • JulioZuleta

    Guys….this is hard for me….but now that I am retired I can come clean…when I was a 16 year old middle of the road prospect in Panama, I decided to have a son and give him the same name…Julio….then as I continued to refine my game, I….at the age of 32…..used my son’s birth certificate and advertized myself as a 16 year old man-child to the American scouts….

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Haha. Nice.

  • Kyle

    What if the Cubs did find proof that he provided false information about his age when signing his ridiculous contract. Do you think that might be enough to let the Cubs void the remainder of his contract?

    I’m still one of the few that absolutely loves watching Zambrano as a cub, still one of my favorites. Casey Coleman (among others on this team) simply makes me hate baseball. But 18 million is 18 million.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I don’t see an angle here. He was signed 14/15 years ago, and, since then, he and the Cubs have signed numerous contracts. The most recent was his 2007 extension, and, from the blase way that Levine says it, the Cubs would have known by then. I suppose it’s possible that it’s just a well-circulated rumor at this point, but the Cubs never “believed” it – and now they have a reason to do some digging. But, even if they now somehow discover he’s older than he said, nullifying a contract based on something like that is not easy.

  • http://Bleachernation Bric

    Hey Brett, is there a way can you do me a solid and look up postings from me from about 18 months ago?

    I remember posting a response that questioned his age at the time. The fact that he looks easily in his mid thirties, has 6 kids, body’s breaking down (as is his mind), etc. was why I said don’t count on this guy for much longer ’cause he aint 29. I was called out by just about everybody as a racist. I specifically a woman responding ( Ithink it was Cheryl) who pointed out that no Venezuelans had ever been accused of doctoring papers, he was a 16 year old phenom when he was signed, blah, blah, blah.

    The only reason I ask is not to tell you I told you so, but because I respect this web site as basically the only place to post honest comments without being subjected to drinking the party kool-aid first. This site, to me, is the only place we Cub fans can express views in the real world and not in the fantasyland “Go Cubbies! We’re gonna win 58 in a row!” B.S. and get called a rascist if we post a comment that any moron not a Cub fan could see from a mile away.

    • Cheryl

      Bric, I never said anything about his age before my comment today. In fact I just started on this blog recently. Must have been somebody else. But my point was that there may be a pattern of misrepresentation on his part that is more tied into the last year or two. Brett is right. The age thing is too far in the past.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Bric – I can only search the comments using a (crappy) word search, and I’m not having any luck (there are 20,000 comments). I believe you.

      When I said I haven’t read the Zambrano-is-older theory before, I meant as a story or suggestion in the media based on rumors that were circulating among people in the know, rather than speculation based on how he looks, his decline, and where he’s from. I’m sure the suggestion has been made many times before on message boards and other blogs.

      • TWC

        Only 20k comments? I thought that we were over 30k at this point. Seriously, no?

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Yeah, only 20k – “comments” didn’t become a popular staple until mid-2010. Before then, posts were lucky to have one ore two comments on them.

          Now I can’t keep up with you people…

  • http://Bleachernation Bric

    Sincere thanks for clearing it up and sorry for calling you out, I just remember it was woman’s name. In any case,again, Ace, please don’t say this is the first you’ve heard of it because I know I said it before the start of last year in relation to a Pujols article (who’s also probably about 5 years older than he claims). I promise you this is ony a big newsflash to the kool-aid drinking nation. Braves fans, Dodgers fans, Yankee fans and anybody else with a grain of common sense right now are all saying “Gee… Z’s older than 30? Imagine that…”

  • http://Bleachernation Bric

    BTW: please don’t start calling me racist again because of the assertion I made between Pujols and Z because they’re both Latin American. Anybody that saw the 60 minutes episode a couple of months ago will know that Scott Pelley asked Pujols flat out if he lied about his age. So please send your negative responses to Scott Pelley, care of 60 Minutes, NBC.

    • http://twitter.com/thomaswconroy TWC

      Whatever, racist.

      Actually, I really don’t get why anyone would claim racism is behind the assertion that there is a documented (and rumored) history of ballplayers from a pair of countries falsifying their ages. That’s not racism, that’s fact. Would it make a difference to people if those guys were Canadian?

      • hardtop

        dempster’s 41!

        those lying canadians!

        • Jim

          He’s 41 in Canadian years, but with the conversion it still works out to 34 and change.

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