Z time has come

That’s it. It’s over.

Last year we saw Zambrano go from demoted Opening Day starter, to average joe member of the rotation, relegated to the bullpen, off the roster altogether and then back on the team throwing like the effective Zambrano we all know and love.

Effective Zambrano is not coming back this season. Likely, not at all.

Zambrano gave up five home runs to the Atlanta Braves, threw a couple more pitches at Chipper Jones and was ejected from an otherwise uneventful outing. On Bobby Cox night at Turner Field, the Braves were retiring Cox’s number six for the many pennants he helped lead the team to. Never to be out done, Zambrano must have figured, go ahead, retire a number. I’m going to retire altogether.

Zambrano headed to the locker room, cleaned out his things and announced to the Cubs staff that he will be retiring. Blee-blee…blee-blee-blee…that’s all folks.

Zambrano has always had a battle with inner demons. On many nights, he came out the victor and was able to quiet the crazy and pitch the Cubs to a W. On the other nights, Zambrano lost to the demons, lost his control and then lost the game for the Cubs. Worse than contributing a string of not-s0-quality starts? Quitting on your team completely. Walking off the field after being ejected and taking his anger out on Larry ‘Chipper’ Jones, was another start to a horrific outburst by Z. This time, he took it too far. Emotions get hot. Words can be said. Fists may be thrown. It’s not to be tolerated but at least it happens in the heat of the battle. Fighting so hard to help his team, the venom has spilled over a couple of times and led Zambrano to physically attack teammates in the dugout. I believe quitting on them altogether is even worse.

Quitting delivers no fight. It delivers no effort. It only makes you stand out as a loser. As someone who can’t be counted on. As someone who can’t be expected to ride the highs and lows of a season until the story plays itself out come September or October. It’s a long time from April once the fall comes around. The summer is filled with excruciating hot days and a ton of frustration to go along with some wins that make it all worth while. That’s simply the game of baseball. You need to have 25 men altogether willing to keep their hands and feet inside the car and mostly all times and go along for the ride together. Otherwise, you haven’t got a chance.

Zambrano quit on his team and in quitting there is no way for you to give your team a chance. Quade saw that and that is why he berated Zambrano to the media. He didn’t know where he was. He had 24 other guys battling their butts off in Atlanta. Hot, steamy, frustrating to play Atlanta. Atlanta is a good team. The entire National League is chasing Atlanta for the wild card spot. You need everyone in if you’re going to have a chance to go home victorious. The Cubs were lucky to pull out the series victory. Of course, the two games they won? The ones where Zambrano wasn’t pitching, leading the way.

Zambrano, I have always argued, makes the Cubs stronger. Despite the craziness, his talent made this team stronger. Made this team a contender. Sure, their record shows otherwise this year despite Zambrano’s starts. However, now, I believe it is time to say goodbye to Zambrano. He can go anywhere he wants. Good luck finding a team willing to put up with a quitter who is a hot head to boot. Oh, I’m sure he’ll find some contender willing to take a chance on him. Teams have taken chances on worse in the past. However, whomever it is that takes the shot on Zambrano, they need to understand that they are getting garbage. A cramping, hot-headed, unpredictable, lousy teammate, quitting piece of garbage. If you feel a couple of wins might be worth a shot, then go for it. I doubt it will play out favorably.

The Cubs have banned Z from the team completely and he is not being paid for the time. 30 days he has been banned from the team. On the ‘disqualified’ list. Banned. That is a strong word. Disqualified and banned. A couple of words I’m sure no great player wants on their resume. Great players don’t need to worry about it though. They are usually not headcases. And if they are, they usually find a way to avoid the tags of ‘disqualified’ or ‘banned’. I mean, how many great players can you think of that have been disqualified or banned from their team? I can’t think of one.

I can think of a talented player who has extreme mental issues and can’t get a grip on the demons to hang in there and help his team out down the stretch, quitting on them, their fans and the organization after five lousy home runs. I can think of ‘that guy’. Unfortunately, ‘that guy’ was one of ours. Well, is one of ours. For how long though, is yet to be seen.

After 30 days has passed, depending on how this works (can the team trade him if he’s on the DQ list?) when he returns, it needs to be a quick ‘make sure you grab everything out of your locker, Z. The bananas, too.’ type of return. And then back out the door he goes. No therapy. No bullpen assignment. No more games. Proverbial or scheduled.

Zambrano’s time is up. He needs to no longer be a Cub. ASAP.

Go Cubs Go!

New today for Baseball Digest – Christy Mathewson Feature

 

Let’s kick this one off with a quick poll.

No dwelling on it. Answer with whichever choice comes to mind naturally after hearing the question.

Which Fab Five was more impressive: Chris Webber, Jimmy King, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard and Ray Jackson…or…Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Honus Wagner and Christy Mathewson?

(I’ll wait for you to stop laughing and then we can carry on with the rest of the piece).

The latter group in the poll represents the very first group of major league baseball players to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. In 1936, the five men were the first to receive the game’s greatest honor and set the bar for all to follow.  The last name on the list, Mathewson, was born on this day in 1880.

From Factoryville, Pennsylvania, Mathewson grew up playing multiple sports, earning recognition for his skills in baseball and football while attending Bucknell University. Factoryville celebrates Christy Mathewson Day every year on the Saturday closest to his birthday. Bucknell University’s football stadium is named Christy Mathewson Memorial. However, it was his performance on the baseball field that truly cemented his legacy.

Click here to read the entire article. Go Cubs Go!

Unveiling Santo: The fans’ statue

That’s not a bad idea for a blog. Thing is, I don’t cook.

Cooking is not a passion of mine. Baseball is. And no, I don’t believe Amy Adams should play me in the film adaptation of Prose and Ivy, should there be one. Not that she couldn’t pull it off. I just don’t see it. Have fun suggesting people that should be cast to do so if the time comes in the comments. (why not)

While odd to feature ‘Julie and Julia’ in a post about Santo, still, I like the way Julia Childs not only inspired Adams’ character to do something creative, but also made her feel like everything is going to be alright. She helped steer her further into enjoying and delving into her passion while still making her feel like she wasn’t alone in it all. She was someone she could relate to because they shared the same passion.

I post it because in a way, I believe Ron Santo did the same thing for Cubs fans. In this case, pass10n.

I would suspect that Santo didn’t have a killer bouef bourguignon recipe to share with foodies. He more than likely owned the Cubs cookbook that has been on-sale for charity. However, his gift to Cubs fans wasn’t something you could cook up on a stove or in an oven. Granted, Wrigley Field can hit over 100 degrees on the heat index in the middle of July or August, still, Santo’s gift was his everyman-ness. The fact that Santo seemed to be one of us.

I would also suspect that there are many Cubs fans around ‘Julie’s age who look back on a ballgame that their mother or father took them to. When they share the story with others, perhaps in their best Meg Ryan impression as Adams does here, they get to the part about how they looked upon beautiful Wrigley Field down against the wall along the third base line and it was then that their parent pointed out their all-time favorite ballplayer. However, it wasn’t just any ballplayer. It was Ron Santo. One of the greatest players to wear a Cubs uniform. A man that was loved on and off the field for nearly five decades. It wasn’t just some ballplayer their parent wanted them to see. No. This was RON SANTO.

He cared and wasn’t afraid to share his feelings. He loved the Cubs as the Cubs loved him back. He displayed a passion for the game and the team as a player and then later as a broadcaster. His cheers and groans in the booth came across as a ventriloquist’s act. We as the fans were the ventriloquist and while Santo may have been saying what we wanted to say, if we did say it, it wouldn’t be the same. Often, the sports fans’ voice isn’t heard as if the lips are not moving. Santo gave Cubs fans a voice in the booth and it was a continuation of a special relationship between the two, Santo and the fans.

Watching Santo react after a Cubs win seemed as if a fan had won a contest to suit up for the day and play third base. Certainly many Cubs showed pride and enthusiasm after a Cubs victory throughout the years, but not in an as memorable fashion as Santo. His heel-click, signature celebration displayed the same type of excitement and eutopia-like bliss a fan feels after riding the roller coaster that nine innings of a baseball game can deliver. Any time Santo performed his trademark heel-click, it was if a fan had run onto the field to celebrate with the players and instead of being tackled and arrested, the security guards gave him a uniform and a high-five.

The fan in Santo is what separated him from the rest of the Cubs. Ernie Banks is Mr. Cub, no doubt about it. Ryne Sandberg, Andre Dawson, Billy Williams, Greg Maddux and Fergie Jenkins among others have all found a place in Cubs’ lore and Cubs fans’ hearts. However, arguably, no Cub was more relatable than Santo. Cub fans loved the Cubs. Santo loved the Cubs. Cubs fans loved Santo and the feeling was mutual. He loved the city. He loved playing at Wrigley Field and more than anything he wanted to bring a championship to Chicago and its fans.

The Santo statue is going to be unveiled today at 5:30pm CT. I can’t imagine that they molded it to take any pose other than the heel-clicking Santo celebration. It is the proper thing to do. It is the only thing to do. To build a Santo statue…as soon as that was agreed upon…I’m guessing the next lines of that meeting went something like: “Great. So, the heel-click, yes?” “Yes.” “Done.”

The statue is going to be unveiled next to the Billy Williams statue, over by the Captain Morgan Club. A perfect location if you ask me. Right over by an area known for fans coming together to celebrate or commisorate over their Cubs. Right by the corner where fans often parade off the L on their way to Wrigley. Right by Williams, another Cubs great. Putting Santo among the greats yet also amongst the fans is the perfect placement.

I look forward to hearing what is written on the statue base. It will be a bittersweet moment for the Santo family, I’m sure, as Ronnie won’t be around to enjoy it with them. The great part about the Santo statue though is that in a way, from now on, he will always will be there, on our side, like one great big good fairy, to quote our surprise casting in Adams, here. A permanent fixture outside of Wrigley, putting the heel-clicking exclamation mark on a Cubs’ win and serving as a reminder that Cubs fans aren’t alone in this after a loss. Great times have existed and while they may be few and far between, the team will continue to reach for that ultimate gift back to the fans. A championship.

It may not happen this year or next or the year after that. However, it will be a great reminder that it hasn’t been for a lack of trying or caring. The players may display some sloppiness and laziness here and there throughout the season and we may receive some bums here and there who truly don’t care. However, Santo is one that did. He cared very much and the feeling from the fans was mutual. It may take some time (even if it’s more than we’d like), but we’re all in this together and everything is going to be okay.

What Santo means to this organization is something that deserves a statue outside of Wrigley, especially seeing how much the organization meant to Santo.

Banks, Williams, Harry and now Santo. And in a way, it will honor the passion and love for the team that the fans hold as well.

Congratulations, Ron. You deserve this honor and I look forward to seeing it soon. Go Cubs Go!

UPDATED: 8/10/11 7:15pm CT: The statue has been unveiled and it really is impressive. Not the heel-clicking pose I expected, but still. A beaut’. Congratulations to Ron and the entire Santo family. Nice job, Cubs. Well done.

photo credit: @CubsInsider

New today for Baseball Digest – Deion Sanders Feature

Few athletes have had an impact on the MLB, NFL and our overall cultural landscape the way Deion ‘Prime Time’ Sanders did. While never a Cub, his story is an interesting one for baseball fans in general. If you have a minute, take a look!

Excerpt:

If we were to truly honor Deion Sanders, the right way, this article would have been written not in the morning, but in prime time.

If we were to truly honor Deion Sanders, the right way, this article would include a link at the bottom of the page leading to its continuation at NFL.com.

If we were to truly honor Deion Sanders, the right way, this article would include not only a link to a previous Baseball Digest print edition mention of Sanders’ career, it would include a video making it stand out among the rest, done in Flash.

Read the entire article by clicking here!

Go Cubs Go!

Prose and Ivy Tweet of the Day

Go Cubs Go!

This kid is awesome.

I’m guessing this kid hates the trade deadline, too. If he reacts like this when his favorite player hands him a baseball, imagine how he’d react to hearing the player was traded.

Fukudome to the Indians. Hopefully there aren’t any little Cubs fans who love Fukudome as much as this kid loves Josh Beckett.

Fukudome wasn’t the answer for the Cubs. Helped us capture a division crown in ’08 and that was about it. A hard worker and a class act but statistically, he didn’t quite live up to the sales pitch. I wish you well in Cleveland, Fukudome. Another former Cub I’ll keep an eye in his post-Cubs career.

Go Cubs Go!

New today for Baseball Digest – Bump Wills Feature

There are many people in the world who share July 27th as the date they were born.

I’m not so sure any of them have as cool of a name as former Cub, Bump Wills. I wrote this article for today’s Baseball Digest. Happy birthday there, Bump. Check out the excerpt and then click the link to see the entire write-up.

Alex Rodriguez. Leo Durocher. Joe Tinker.

A future Hall of Famer, a current Hall of Famer and one of the greatest players to wear a Chicago Cubs uniform of all-time.

What do they all have in common? They were all born on today’s date, July 27. What else do they have in common? I decided not to focus today’s feature on any of them.

Those three names are well known. We know about A-Rod and how he quickly reached the 500 mark, and then not long after that, the 600 plateau in home run calculations. We know about the BALCO findings, and that he finally admitted to using substances in the early part of the new millenium. We know that he came up with Seattle, signed the largest contract in MLB with the Texas Rangers at 10 years/$252 million and then topped that with a 10 years/$272 million contract when he joined the New York Yankees. We know about his willingness to play third base because Jeter was already the captain and resident of the shortstop position with the Yankees and of course, we know about the ‘Cameron and the popcorn’ incident. (I like calling it an incident. Makes it seem like a big deal while of course, it was not).

Durocher? We know that he was voted into the Hall of Fame in 1994 by the veterans committee, won at least 500 games with three different teams, is listed tenth all-time in victories by a manager and finally put an end to the horrible ‘College of Coaches‘ idea that existed with P.K. Wrigley’s Chicago Cubs.

Speaking of the Chicago Cubs, baseball historians and poetry fans alike are well-versed in the likes of Joe Tinker. The man that leads off in the ‘Tinker to Evers to Chance’ poem helped lead the Chicago Cubs through their greatest decade and their last world championship in the early 1900′s.

The three of them have been celebrated time and time again. I have decided they’ve had their birthday cake and eaten, too. (In the case of Rodriguez, it may have even been fed to him by Cameron Diaz, Kate Hudson or some other Hollywood startlet). To truly celebrate a birthday in this space and recognize a player few know anything about and some know very little, we need to highlight the career of the deserving, yet relatively unknown.

I present to you: Elliot Taylor ‘Bump’ Wills.

Go Cubs Go!