Who doesn't love Carlos Zambrano? I mean, seriously, who doesn't think he should spend his post-pitching days as Ozzie Guillen's pitching coach?
Zambrano's Sunday reminds us that his side career as a communicator and champion of morale still goes strong, no matter how many times he says he intends only to concentrate on his pitching. To that end, we say, "Huzzah!," which is old folks' talk for "Tell it, Daddy!"
Because, well, he told it. After the Cubs lost 3-2 to an Albert Pujols homer in the 10th inning at St. Louis, he told it good.
|Carlos Zambrano was ready to celebrate a victory Sunday before the Cubs' bullpen intervened. (AP)|
And remember, kids, there are plenty of tickets available when the Cubs return home next Monday against Milwaukee.
Zambrano's rebukes are as hilarity-inspiring as they are frequent, which is why every time he pledges to take the cure, it doesn't take for long. He is a natural-born leader, and natural-born leaders are meant to gabble. Especially on the tactics of others.
"The problem wasn't Pujols," Zambrano told reporters after the game. "The problem was [Ryan Theriot's] at-bat [a ninth-inning double off closer Carlos Marmol that scored pinch-runner Tony Cruz and cost Zambrano a win]. We should have known better than this.
"We should know that Ryan Theriot is not a good fastball hitter," Zambrano shouted in the direction of Marmol's locker at Busch Stadium. "We should know that as a team. We should play better here. We stink. That's all I've got to say."
That was enough. I mean, after you've played the "We stink" card, you've done all you can to inspire the troops and guide them to greater glories of, well, stinkdom.
But it seems to have some positive effect. At least to catcher Koyie Hill, who sort of backed Zambrano's latest offering.
"I think he's obviously frustrated," Hill said. "At some point you get tired of just saying, 'You have to play hard and keep playing hard.' Eventually you just say something else."
Sure. Like "We stink."
"I don't think he means that the guys are Triple-A players or dogging it," Hill said. "I don't think he means that at all. But when you put together a string like we have, you might think a Triple-A team would give us a run for our money. It's funny, but there's a big difference between being frustrated and being discouraged, in my opinion."
Now that sounds like a guy who sees Zambrano as the great affirming spirit he clearly is.
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Zambrano has been known for flying off various handles in the past, so this isn't even one of his best. He has been sent home to consider the error of his ways, and clearly his time at home has convinced him that these were not errors. He is sure he speaks the truth as it was spoken since baseball began, and he cannot be deterred.
Frankly this looks like the slogan for the cover of the Cubs' 2012 media guide: "Cubs Baseball: We Stink."
But the Cubs might not be able to hold Zambrano's heartfelt chiding. I mean, you can only go to the well 10 or 12 or 14 times before the message starts to get lost. And most other managers might find his sparkling conversational style a bit off-putting.
But there is still the one place where "We stink" is considered a toast, a throat-clearing for shinier and stickier oaths. The team down the road. Your Chicago White Sox.
Guillen has always been the lone spokesman when the time has come for well-aired fulminations, and he has borne the recriminations better than even Zambrano. But together, when Zambrano's time has come, they can make the White Sox the trash-talking center of the universe.
And they would make trips to the mound look like the charge of a World War I trench. White Sox pitchers in need of guidance will see Zambrano and beg for Guillen, and will see Guillen and beg for a drunken fan with a pointed stick.
And who can't sell tickets to that? Bill Veeck, the man who gave baseball the midget with the 1.000 on-base percentage, would descend from the beyond and approve wholeheartedly. Plus, who would discipline them? Who would dare consider it without a taser?
You might be angry with Zambrano now for calling out Marmol and his 23 other teammates; you might think he gas crossed the Cubs for the last time and needs to be sent on his way. And maybe you're right.
But let that next place be Ozzie's house, please oh please oh please. They would make "We stink" seem like the Kiss-Cam, and a postgame presser after a bad loss seem like a marriage proposal.
Frankly, this must happen. You know it. I know it. The Cubs and White Sox know it. And why is that, you ask?
Because we stink too.
Ray Ratto is a columnist for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area.com