Requiem for a Zombie
My acquaintance with Carlos Zambrano goes back to his teenage days when he would sit near our seats behind the plate charting pitches between starts for the I-Cubs. He wore stiff new jeans and his hair was oiled to a sheen. Over the years he exhibited an almost womanly fussiness about his hairstyle, as unsure apparently about that particular aspect of himself as he was about the whole.
In those days he routinely signed autographs there in the stands for kids, including mine, who had no idea, either of who he was or who he would become. Neither, really, did Carlos.
I was there the night he couldn’t hold a 4-0 lead in Game One of the 2003 NLCS. That stage was too much too soon. He was barely old enough to buy himself a drink in Chicago then. The thinking was that he would grow into maybe the stoutest #3 starter in baseball behind the twin bell cows of Prior and Wood. Instead he ascended to the role of ace through attrition and was paid accordingly though, to my mind, he never earned an ace’s salary.
That’s not to say he wasn’t ever worth the rising prices of admission. I remember a game I attended with my two sons in 2006 when Zambrano was facing the Mets. After reaching first in a scoreless game by beating out an infield hit with nobody on and two out in the bottom of the fifth, he stole second practically standing up. At the last possible instant he fell back into a graceless slide that looked to have broken his ankle. When he got to his feet and dusted himself off we were sure we could see him grinning from hundreds of feet away. It was the only stolen base of his career to date. Juan Pierre grounded out to end the inning but Zambrano eventually beat Tom Glavine that day to run his record to 9-3 for a team that was 35-55 at the time.
Years later my eldest was in the bleachers the day when Zombie, as we liked to call him, got ejected and retaliated by ejecting his ejector and trying to throw the ball clear into the left field seats. I was listening on the radio and as soon as the phone rang I knew who it was.
My feelings about the trade to the Marlins are mixed. I’m glad the Cubs are rid of the tantrums and the declining performance (he hasn’t thrown 200 innings since 2007) but I will miss the buffoon too, I must confess. I will not be surprised if he wins the NL Comeback Player of the Year award in 2012, but I would have been if he won it pitching for the Cubs. The Ozzie y Carlos Show should be lively in Miami. Let’s face it, we and the Cubs have neither seen nor heard the last of the mercurial man-child. He may have lost a step on the base paths along with a few MPH on the fastball, but when he makes his return to Wrigley, if he gets on they better hold him close.
CHILDERS: RHSP Dylan Cease and LHSP Bryan Hudson are probably the top two SP prospects in the organization right now.
LHSP Jose Paulino has electric stuff (91-94 MPH fastball with sinking action and a mid-80's slider), but he also has trouble commanding it.
RHP Jose Albertos (2015 IFA - Mexico - $1.5M bonus) just turned 17, and his fastbball already sits at 95-96. He also throws a curve and a change-up, and is fairly advanced for a kid his age.
AZBOBBOP: Most of 2016 draft picks will get assigned to either Eugene or AZL Cubs, but the Opening Day Eugune roster will probably be almost 100% from the Extended Spring Training squad roster (pending the arrival of draft picks).
I think I can probably tell you which pitchers and players at EXST are in contention for roster slots at Eugene and which are in contention for slots with the AZL Cubs - AS THINGS STAND RIGHT NOW - (listed alphabetically):
* bats or throws left
# bats both
Eloy Jimenez atop the leader board for minor-league home runs in the Cub system, with seven. Tied with Balaguert and Vogelbach, two 24-year-olds. Jimenez won't be 20 until late November. Leads the Midwest League in SLG and OPS. Maybe he'll get promoted to the Myrtle Beach squad that visits Woodbridge, VA, in June or Frederick, MD, in August.
Watched two Pelican games at Frederick the other week. Was most impressed by Stinnett and Happ. Happ may swing harder than Javier Baez, though more compactly. (Also got to see Brockmeyer hit a bomb.)
E-MAN: Jose Paniagua isn't a string-bean, but I wouldn't say he necessarily bulked-up during the 2015-16 off-season either, He led the DSL Cubs in HR and doubles in 2014, and he showed XBH power when he arrived in Mesa last year, leading the AZL Cubs in HR, doubles, and RBI in 2015. It's just that he has taken his HR power to a new level this year.
Paniagua displayed plus-HR power in Cactus League Minor League Spring Training games in March, and that got him a slot on the South Bend Opening Day roster. But he was sent to EXST after only six MWL games.
More on the Cub Way.
Martinez is one of my least favorite pitchers in baseball. I'd love to see a game like yesterday's against him.
Send Soler down!
Awesome thanks AZ
Great report, Phil! This organization has so many hitters to be excited about.
Ben Zobrist is very enjoyable to watch!!!!!!
given that he seems to only be throwing low 90s these days rather than the 93-96mph he used to throw, along with his wildness issues this year, he may end up passing through.
i dunno if something is wrong with him physically or his past shoulder issues has rendered him what he currently is, but he's been throwing a lot of sliders he can't control well and his fastball isn't as sharp. even when his slider wasn't working in a game he was still throwing a lot of them.
Any scuttlebutt on where Neil Ramirez gets traded?
He seems better than some of the relievers on competitive teams. He ought to bring more than the waiver fee.
My guess? Toronto.
PHIL: It seems as if Paniagua has always played 1B with the Cubs. At 6'2 and 180#, what is his frame like? String bean? Have you seen him bulk up? Where do you project him? Thanks.
Phil, what's your thoughts on which position players are going to Eugene and who is staying in AZL?
Ahhh...way to bring me down BB.
Still - a win tomorrow will be an acheivement regardless.
Don't mean to spoil your mood, but with tonight's win the are 3-5 on the trip with one to play.
While I'm bringing the room down -- Richard comes in to pitch the 9th with a 12-1 lead...and can't finish the game. Woof.
For some reason