Last night's game was informative
I will gloss over the fact that we came back and won a big game last night. Yes, a big game, because even if/when we don't make the postseason this year, every instance where your team rebounds from adversity and ultimately succeeds is a fine thing. Your young guys (Soto, Fontenot) get another valuable lesson on how to win ball games. Your veterans (Lee, Ramirez) get the chance to show the young guys how it is done. Your ugly guys (Bradley) don't have to deal with the pesky media for an evening.
Good, nearly all the way around.
Uh, not so fast, big Z.
In case you didn't notice, last night's game was a neat little slice of Zambrano's career with us. Dominant for 4 2/3rds, he gives up a hit to the pitcher, and goes apeshit crazy. He starts stomping around, muttering, pounding pitches into the dirt, swearing at his (less talented) teammates like Bobby Scales for not attempting an ill-advised throw towards home plate, ala Alfonso Soriano. Kurt mentioned all this in his recap, but don't you think he kind of, you know, glossed over it?
Uh, guys? THIS is precisely the problem with the guy! He was staked with a four run lead, and all he had to do is pour in strikes. He did just that, and in the case of Yovanni Gallardo, who isn't a bad athlete, he got a base hit. Big whoopty damn do. A pitcher on first base with two out. In the whole wide spectrum of problems to have, Gallardo on first with two outs is way down there.
But not to Big Macho Z...no WAY the opposing pitcher shows HIM up!! (Never mind he himself takes pride in all the times he hits opposing pitchers) So sure, Theriot should have made a play on the one ball, and if Scales had an actual throwing arm, he might have had a chance to throw out Fresh Market Prince at home. But there is NO excuse, zero, none, for the way he reacts to these situations. Think of all the Quality pitchers you know of, do any of them react the way Zambrano does to adversity?
When all was said and done, not only did he give up the lead, but left the game down 5-4. It was a happy coincidence that his team sucked it up and came back, but this game in a glance shows you why he has not won 20, nor will he ever, until he can drastically change his ways.
How many times in life have you been with your wife, girlfriend, kids, whatever, and had some rude prick pull one on you? Take your parking spot, cut in front of you in line, spill his beer on your shoulder, start french kissing his honey right there in church? Don't you just want to SMACK 'em? But you don't! You know why? It isn't in the best interests of the people around you.
Same thing with Zambrano. Yes, it is slightly embarrassing to give up a hit to the opposing pitcher. Yes, it is frustrating for The Riot to trip over his shoelaces on a sharply hit ball to his right. He wants to scream, yell, jump up and down, spike the ball into the grass. But what does all that HELP? What does it accomplish? Nothing, absolutely nothing - in fact, by getting all torqued up, then you, yourself, can't perform your give task, that of consistently and repeatedly throwing a ball into a small glove from far away, a task that takes skill, concentration, muscle memory and a certain amount of relaxation. When he tenses up, his concentration and relaxation go away, thus his skills and muscle memories (release point, delivery, grip, pacing) go out the window.
Then he's walking off the mound, having given up the lead and five runs to a bunch of clowns. He left with us behind, and thank God we came back last night, but this IS the problem with him. Yes, he has great talent, and great passion for the game. We love him for both. But the YMCA's are full of guys with ability who could not control their emotions. He rarely loses games because his physical stuff just isn't there. Most games he loses, it's because he loses his mental edge, and whether Kurt thinks I hate the guy or not, I don't, but because he loses his self-control, he will never be our go-to guy.
It's like the guy who was tested with the genius IQ who is now 45 years old and has been stuck at the same job level the past 15 years, because he wears his heart on his sleeve, and his higher-ups have passed him over time after time for promotions because his occassional emotional outbursts do not exactly engender confidence. They won't put him in charge of anything, because he's a "loose cannon" who might say or do the wrong thing.
At the same time, you don't fire him, because what he does do for you, between phone arguments with his ex-wife and the entire weeks staring at his computer screen because his heart is pounding, is often quality work. Plus, you know you'll never find anyone better who will work for the same money. Um, I think I'll stop this particular analogy, now.
But that is why I wouldn't just unconditionally give up on Zambrano, as the local media is lining up to do. He has value, both as a player and as an entertainer. I would just never, ever depend on him to be my Staff Ace.