Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Baseball can be absurd, as evidenced by thought of Zambrano in Yankee pinstripes

For all I know, this speculation could be complete bullpoop. I certainly hope it is, even though a part of me thinks that the athletic career of pitcher Carlos Zambrano would be rejuvenated by playing for any team except the Chicago Cubs.

But now popping up out of the rumor mill is speculation that the New York Yankees are feeling the pangs of desperation so intense to make a big ballplayer acquisition that they will now consider talking to the Cubs to see what it would take to get Zambrano into those famed pinstripes that usually bring to mind pitchers such as Whitey Ford, Lefty Gomez or Ron Guidry (whom a part of me thinks belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame with the other two).

WHAT IS FEEDING this speculation is truly desperation. The Yankees had hoped their major off-season acquisition would be pitcher Cliff Lee of the Texas Rangers, who made them look ridiculous when the two teams faced each other in the playoffs this season (only to turn around and look ridiculous when he had to pitch against the San Francisco Giants in the World Series).

The Yankees were willing to give Lee a contract somewhere in the area of $150 million, in exchange for seven years of his athletic services. But it seems that fan at New Yankee Stadium who spit on Lee’s wife during the playoffs made quite the impression.

Lee this week chose a five-year deal for $50 million less to pitch for the Philadelphia Phillies. Which leaves the Yankees with a whole lot of nothing, except for a fan base that is thoroughly disgusted that their team didn’t even make it to the World Series in 2010.

Which is why the Yankees are now looking at “Plan B,” other options whom they could acquire and claim they achieved their true goal all along. One of those Plans B, according to certain reports, is trying to work out a trade with the Cubs.

THEY ARGUE THAT the Yankees would like to pick off a potential star or two from the minor league system maintained by the Cubs in exchange for their one-time star pitcher whose erratic temperament has caused him so much disdain.

A part of me thinks that Cubs fans would be eager to dump Zambrano for a player to be named later (although beware, because those of us who remember the career of one-time catcher Harry Chiti know he is famous for being traded for himself). Why would any team want to pick up a Cubs' mistake? Isn't signing Mark Prior to a minor league contract enough of a Cubs taint?

Seriously, could it be that Zambrano is headed for professional baseball’s grandest stage, to a team that is desperate to win and will eagerly blame him if they don’t?

Now as anyone who has read my commentary already knows, I’m not a Cubs fan. I tend to prefer the American League in general. So my gut reaction is to be the guy screaming, “No, No, No!!!!!” at the top of his lungs to the possibility of a deal sending Zambrano to New York.

FOR ONE THING, I fear the “ex-Cub factor” (even though I realize the 1960 Pittsburgh Pirates and the 2001 Arizona Diamondbacks managed to overcome it) and would not want any traces of Cub-ness working its way to the Bronx.

For another, we have seen a guy who is a hothead in the comforting atmosphere of Wrigley Field, where for many years the fans thought his temper was a sign that he was a colorful character. At Yankee Stadium, a hothead who doesn’t win is just a loser – which is usually a Bronx target for all the derision they can produce.

Although part of what goes into the possibility of this becoming a deal is the fact that Yankees manager Joe Girardi is an ex-Cub himself (although not so much of one that he seriously thought of leaving the Yankees when the Cubs manager job opened up this year).

There’s also the chance that new Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild (who worked for so many years with the Cubs, and with Zambrano) could be the guy who works with him.

COULD IT BE that a new uniform is all that it would take to restore Zambrano to the levels he achieved when Cubs fans seriously argued a few years ago he was the best pitcher in baseball (even though anyone with sense knew he wasn’t even the best pitcher in Chicago – that was Mark Buehrle)?

It could be a gamble. There are those who argue that Zambrano has a contract running through 2012. If he turns out to stink, there isn’t any long-term tie. Let him go next year. Besides, life is about taking chances, and sometimes those outrageous moves wind up working out.

Perhaps that is why I’m not a baseball general manager. I’m not aggressive enough. I see all the ways in which this would blow up in the face of the Yankees. And I’m not one of those fans who feels the need to root against New York at all costs (that sentiment seems so juvenile). I’d hate to think that missing out on one World Series (they won it in 2009) would suddenly make the Yankees stupid.

So I hope that the Yankees’ search for a “Plan B” to losing out on Lee does not include talks with the Cubs. A part of me thinks that for all the arrogance fans of that non-winning ballclub express at times, they deserve to have to endure Zambrano for another two seasons.


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