2010 Player Preview: Carlos Zambrano
It's hard to believe that the Ageless Carlos Zambrano is still chugging away in a Cubs uniform. After all these years, as the decades have rolled by, Carlos has remained a Cub. Sure, there's a lot of gray in his beard now, and the wrinkles are evident on his sand-paper-like skin, but we can certainly count on the Old Moose to step up once more and deliver unto the Cubs a season of glory. True, the years finally caught up with him a bit in 2009, as he had a career-low 9 wins and pitched in only 169.1 innings, but that creaky, arthritic arm of his surely has a few more innings left in it.
...holy shit, he's still only 28?!
I imagine that every team probably has that player who the fans both love and are flabbergasted by. I'm talking about that guy who has demonstrated flashes of insane brilliance, and been rewarded financially, only for him to never overcome his greater demons and become the star that his fans were hoping to see. That's probably Carlos Zambrano in a nut-shell.
He's already won 105 games as a Cub. That's nearly 30 more than Kerry Wood's total, although I'm sure Cub fans have a softer spot for the Former Kid K than they do for the Big Z. He's led the league in wins, struck out 200-or-more batters twice, delivered 5 years of 200+ innings of work (despite most of those seasons coming under the shadow of Dusty Baker's abusive reign), had an ERA as low as 2.75, and pitched a no-hitter with a proverbial nail sticking out of his arm.
He's also suffered from a series of nagging arm cramps, problems with his weight, he coined the disease "internet elbow," he loses his mind annually, taunts the umpires, insists on batting from both sides of the plate, curses loudly in Spanish whenever he does something awesome, has voiced displeasure at Chicago, has threatened to retire, and generally speaking is the most interesting guy in the room at any given time, often for all the wrong reasons.
And he's only 28.
So, what comes next in the story of the Big Moose? Does he finally harness his emotions and win 20? Does his arm finally give out, resulting in that inevitable surgery we all know he'll eventually need? Or will we see another season of brilliant moments, agonizing outings, and outrageous actions?
My guess is on the third option there. Carlos probably isn't the classical ace that people like Rob covet. He probably will never dominate like Fernando did. He'll probably never win a Cy Young Award. Realistically speaking, he's probably a bit overpaid for the performance he'll give the Cubs. But on any given day, in any given situation, I would put Carlos Zambrano up against any ace on any other team in baseball. Guys like CC Sabathia or Johan Santana may win more games over the long-haul, but I'll take the 7 innings Carlos will deliver under pressure over anybody else in the game.
And he's only 28.