Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010
Updated 12:22 AM
By Patrick Mooney
MILWAUKEE Combined the Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers began Friday 32.5 games out of first place. They are evaluating players for 2011, and weighing whether or not to bring their managers back next season.
If by the middle of September you are looking for a new angle to this I-94 rivalry, there it was at the back of the Miller Park press box. On a table filled with game notes and statistics packets, you saw a press release with this headline: A NEW BOOK CERTAIN TO BE A BEST SELLER!
It hyped a book by Cubs general manager Jim Hendry entitled: How to Finish Near Last Place with the Highest Payroll in the League. It outlined chapters like: Why I signed Milton Bradley! and Why I signed players to long-term contracts with limited trade options!
It was a juvenile hoax that ripped Hendry who did not travel with the team to Milwaukee and came across as more bizarre than funny. As in, how does something like this happen in a media workroom where three guards are stationed at the main entrance?
Hendry is tied to Carlos Zambrano, who has a no-trade clause in his 91.5 million contract and knows that he is paid to perform like one of the best pitchers in the National League.
Dominant again he almost threw a complete-game shutout on Friday night Zambrano doesnt want to hear about where he could be dealt this winter.
Im happy here, he said after a 4-0 victory over the Brewers. I love this team and I want to stay here the rest of my contract. No more trade talk.
Thats a far less nuanced answer than Zambrano gave when he came off the restricted list and said he would have to listen if the Cubs no longer wanted him around. Since rejoining the rotation on Aug. 9, the 29-year-old right-hander is 5-0 with a 1.60 ERA in seven starts.
Mike Quade has been given no details on the anger-management sessions Hendry negotiated for his volatile pitcher after he got in Derrek Lees face in the U.S. Cellular Field dugout. But the manager sees a much calmer Zambrano, who allowed only three hits and struck nine in 8 23 innings against the Brewers (65-75).
I know winning is good therapy, Quade said. Not only are you allowed to get better, but youre allowed to mature. Thats none of my business to be perfectly honest (but) whatever hes doing, I really hope he keeps doing it.
A Cubs spokesman declined to comment on the stack of false Hendry documents that was removed from the press box. Brewers vice president of communications Tyler Barnes said his department issues hundreds of credentials to individuals across the country.
Its impossible to know where this came from, Barnes said. Its an unfortunate incident. Its a lousy attempt at a practical joke, and were certainly sorry.
While speaking on or off the record, Hendry has a phrase he likes to use: Thats the world we live in. That goes for all the trade rumors and speculation that inevitably surround his job. You can safely file fake press release under that category.
Hendry has been up-front this 61-80 season hasnt lived up to anyones expectations. But he is the first general manager in franchise history to see the Cubs reach the postseason three times during his tenure (2003, 2007 and 2008).
And Hendry has earned the confidence of new ownership chairman Tom Ricketts is waiting on his short list of manager candidates and thats the only perception that matters.
Zambrano feels like hes done everything his bosses have asked. He didnt get upset when Starlin Castro committed an error with two outs in the ninth inning and Quade summoned closer Carlos Marmol for the final out. He thinks he can repair relationships with the rest of the organization.
People make mistakes, not only players, but people in the front office, Zambrano said. Were human. The most important thing here is that we learn the lesson and keep calm. You cant put your head down and think about what happened (on June 25).
You have to keep your head up and work like a winner. Theres nothing you can do about it just keep pitching, just keep doing your job and everybody will (say good things) about you.
Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.