Carlos Zambrano: the best ANYONE has
I can still remember when Carlos Zambrano made his first appearance in a game for the Cubs. It was in late August of 2001, in the second game of a double header against the Brewers. Carlos was the youngest player in the majors - he'd been 20 for just two and a half months, or so.
Unfortunately, he got rocked. In fact, the line for his rookie year read like this: 6 games pitched, one started, for 7.2 innings pitched. 11 hits given up, 13 earned runs, 8 walks, only 4 strike outs. But he somehow still managed to look good. Or, at least, promising. It was the movement on his pitches that impressed me the most. I just sort of had the feeling that once he learned how to pitch, then he'd be a good one.
He's proven me right, in time. And, whether they remember it or not, he's also proven a lot of people wrong, from his former pitching coach to many of the fans who follow the game. Back when Zambrano made his first appearance, people were commenting on how he looked about 8 years older than his listed age, how he physically resembled Jamie Navarro (and thus, was expected to pitch similarly), how he was overrated and would probably not amount to much of anything.
Instead, Carlos has become a fan favorite. After winning 13 in 2003, with a respectable 3.11 ERA, some were still unsure about whether or not Carlos was the Real Deal. It could've been a fluke year. Then, Carlos became the best pitcher on the team in 2004, winning 16, losing 8, and finishing 5th on the Cy Young vote. He even received a couple of votes for MVP.
This year, Carlos will still only be 24 after June 1st. Even if Mark Prior and Kerry Wood get and stay healthy, they might be hard-pressed to keep up with Zambrano. This can only be good news for Cubs fans, and gives me reason to be optimistic. But whether he's the best pitcher on the team or not, he just might be the most exciting to watch, and I'm looking forward to watching him pitch. Just as I had when he made his debut on August 20th, 2001, as a fresh-faced 20-year-old.