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CBSSports.com Senior Writer

After yet another Zambrano meltdown, will Cubs learn lesson?


Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano is on the disqualified list after he left Friday's game in Atlanta. (Getty Images)  
Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano is on the disqualified list after he left Friday's game in Atlanta. (Getty Images)  

The question isn't: What on God's ivy-covered green earth will it take for the Cubs to finally toss Carlos Zambrano into the dumpster?

The question is: Why in the hell is he still around to cause these kinds of problems in the first place?

So the Cubs slapped the Big Z(ero) on the disqualified list Saturday, zapping him with a suspension and 30 days without pay. Yippee. Last year, they put him on the restricted list.

What's next, the Go To Bed Without Dinner list? The Go Stand in the Corner list?

More on Cubs' Carlos Zambrano

The No Postgame Juice Box list?

The Cubs are running out of lists. I mean, it boggles the mind. How much more bureaucratic mumbo jumbo is left before you take a miscreant who is making marquee money and say, enough. Get out. You're poison. There are no lifetime scholarships.

Chicago screwed this one up years ago. The Cubs' error is that they had multiple chances to dump him. Instead, they misread him. Or, they read him right and gambled anyway by handing him a $91.5-million contract extension in August 2007. Take your pick as to which is a worse organizational crime -- ignorance or recklessness.

Know what happened a mere two months before Zambrano put pen to paper on that new deal? He attacked his catcher, Michael Barrett, during a game in the dugout. It was ugly enough that it spilled all the way back to the clubhouse.

At the very least, the Cubs should have pulled the trap door after last summer's outburst, when the Big Z(ero) and Derrek Lee had to be separated in the dugout during a game against the White Sox.

There were then-Cubs manager Lou Piniella, pitching coach Larry Rotchschild and bench coach Alan Trammell trying to run a game one minute, then playing crossing guard the next.

Some pitchers lead the league in ERA. Some lead in strikeouts. The Cubs found one who leads in dugout fisticuffs.

That should have been the final straw. That incident was one of many last summer that helped put Piniella on the early train to the Shady Acres Retirement Home for Utterly Perplexed Baseball Men. Presumably, Piniella muttered to himself the entire way there.

Surely those mutters had long since turned to laughter, maybe even evil cackling, from Piniella's Florida home by Friday night.

To the Braves, it was Bobby Cox Night, a festive evening during which they retired the ol' skipper's No. 6 and inducted him into the team's Hall of Fame. They brought back classy old pitchers like Greg Maddux, John Smoltz and Tom Glavine. Among many other things, know what's notable about those three future Hall of Famers? They've never slugged a teammate in the dugout.

To Zambrano, it was Act Like an Ass Night in Atlanta. He was torched for five home runs, then ejected when he twice buzzed Chipper Jones' tower. The Braves stormed out of the dugout. The Cubs, notably, did not. They may as well have installed a blinking, neon sign over their visiting dugout -- Caution: Selfish, crazy man at work.

So the Big, Crazy Z got what was coming to him, ejected, then went inside, got dressed, removed the nameplate from his locker and stormed out on teammates who long ago tired of his act. But not before, as CBSSports.com's Trent Rosecrans reported Saturday, the affable Alfonso Soriano got in his face and gave him a good scolding in Spanish.

The entire Zambrano saga is so ludicrous, it's beyond the bounds of imagination that we're still sitting here discussing it today. But the fact that we are tells a big part of the story as to why the Cubs have gone from disappointing winners to embarrassing losers over the past five seasons: poor character and bad actors.

The Cubs owe the Big Z(ero) a little more than $5 million for the rest of this year and $18 million for 2013. He was threatening to retire as he walked out into the Atlanta night Friday, which would be a Sears Tower-sized gift to the Cubs because they then would owe him nothing.

Surely, as selfish as Zambrano has been all these years, the Cubs soon will wake from that fantasy and realize he won't surrender $23 million without kicking and screaming. And when that happens, they should embark upon whatever legal maneuvers they can to get out of the contract.

And if they wind up having to pay him $23 million simply to go away, well, that's called an Investment in the Future.

The guy has been through anger-management counseling, field-manager counseling, every type of counseling the Cubs could find. They've practically invented categories of counseling, and nothing has taken. He's quit on teammates, he's quit on managers, he's quit on people paying high ticket prices to watch him.

There are no more excuses, and there damn sure are no more lists.

Forget Zambrano. This now is on the Cubs: If they have even a sliver of pride left after allowing this big termite to eat through the foundation of their organization, the Big Z(ero) will never wear their uniform again. Not for even one more game.


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