Cubs

Zambrano isn't here to talk about the past

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Zambrano isn't here to talk about the past

Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011
Posted 12:24 AM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Carlos Zambrano has studied film of the pitcher he used to be, when he made All-Star teams and earned that 91.5 million contract. He says he has a good idea of what he needs to do to be that player again.

There are mechanical adjustments to maintain and ways to offset his declining velocity as he approaches his 30th birthday. But the rest of it, the psychoanalysis and public introspection on command, well, Zambrano doesnt have much use for that.

Like when a television reporter asks about his personal ups and downs last season.

Lets talk about this year, Zambrano said, turning his head to the next question. Im ready for this season and Im excited for this season.

In a sense, this entire organization cant distance itself from 2010 fast enough. Forbes had the Cubs as the industrys least-efficient team last season, shelling out around 145 million to win 75 games, and spending not a single moment above .500. That undercut the Ricketts family and their market-based approach.

As the Cubs Convention opened Friday at the Hilton Chicago, chairman Tom Ricketts said organizations wins championships. There were boos for team president Crane Kenney and general manager Jim Hendry. There was a fan wearing a Ryne Sandberg jersey, but no Ryne Sandberg.

WATCH: Jim Hendry appreciative, optimistic

The video looking back on 2010 featured a touching tribute to the late Ron Santo. With the lights dimmed inside a packed hotel ballroom, Lou Piniella didnt appear once on the big screen.

Manager Mike Quade received a warm reception from the crowd when he walked out on the balcony, but the loudest cheers were saved for Kerry Wood. Between Wood, Carlos Pena and Matt Garza, the Cubs will have a new clubhouse dynamic, and its hard to argue they didnt need that.

Jim Hendry got the entire package. He got great teammates, guys that can play and know how to win, outfielder Marlon Byrd said. Everybody knows how competitive it is over there (in the American League East). They know about the pressure and they know what it takes to get over the hump.

Most of all they have survival instincts. Wood reinvented himself as a reliever after his body nearly broke down. Pena was released by two different teams in 2006. Garza is already on his third team and he hasnt turned 28 yet.

The question is whether Zambrano, who has grown his hair out into tight curls, has found something lasting and can build off his last 11 starts (8-0, 1.41 ERA).

Hendry helped negotiate the settlement that put Zambrano in anger-management counseling last summer. The general manager called Zambranos mistakes easily correctable.

Before you laugh at that quote, you should know that Zambrano does have a pretty good sense of humor. He is devoted to his family and his charities. And he has so much natural ability.

I dont see why theres any reason that he cant continue and be that successful, Hendry said. Hes no different than anybody else. He certainly has learned from some of his mistakes, like we all should in life. I feel in my chats with him (during) the offseason that he seems to have a good handle.

Sometimes you walk that fine line when guys thrive on emotion sometimes (they) have a few bad situations because of (that). But I find him to be in a real good place.

For now Zambrano said hes cool with whoever Quade decides to start on Opening Day, and reaffirmed how much he wants to stay in Chicago (no matter how many rumors ignore his no-trade clause and put him on the Yankees).

So its going to be Zambrano and Garza, two intense pitchers getting after it, and that will be something to look forward to, whether or not everything goes as the Cubs hope.

Hes a grown man. He has to calm himself down and I have to calm myself, Zambrano said. But that same emotion, the same passion for the game nobody will take that away from (us).

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

The most underrated storyline of the Cubs offseason

The most underrated storyline of the Cubs offseason

There are plenty of intriguing Cubs storylines to monitor this offseason from their potential pursuit of the big free agents to any other changes that may come to the coaching staff or roster after a disappointing finish to the 2018 campaign.

But there's one question simmering under the radar in Cubs circles when it comes to this winter: How will the team solve the shortstop conundrum?

Just a few years ago, the Cubs had "too many" shortstops. Now, there are several different factors at play here that makes it a convoluted mess.

First: What will the Cubs do with Addison Russell? The embattled shortstop is in the midst of a suspension for domestic violence that will keep him off an MLB diamond for at least the first month of 2019.

Has Russell already played his last game with the Cubs? Will they trade him or send him packing in any other fashion this winter?

Theo Epstein mentioned several times he felt the organization needs to show support to the victim in the matter (Russell's ex-wife, Melisa) but also support for Russell. Does that mean they would keep him a part of the team at least through the early part of 2019?

Either way, Russell's days in Chicago are numbered and his play on the field took another big step back in 2018 as he fought through a hand injury and experienced a major dip in power. With his performance on the field and the off-field issues, it will be hard to justify a contract worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 million in his second year of arbitration (prorated, with a month's worth of pay taken out for the suspension).

Even if Russell is on the roster in 2019, Javy Baez is unquestionably the shortstop for at least the first month while Russell is on suspension. 

But what about beyond Baez if the Cubs want to give him a breather or disaster strikes and he's forced to miss time with an injury?

At the moment, there's nothing but question marks on the current Cubs shortstop depth chart throughout the entire organization and they're certainly going to need other options at the most important defensive position (outside of pitcher/catcher). 

There's David Bote, who subbed in for Baez at short once in September when Baez needed a break and Russell was on the disabled list. But while Bote's defense at third base and second base has opened eyes around the Cubs, he has only played 45 games at short across seven minor-league seasons, including 15 games in 2018. There's also the offensive question marks with the rookie, who hit just .176 with a .559 OPS and 40 strikeouts in 108 at-bats after that epic ultimate grand slam on Aug. 12.

The Cubs' other current shortstop options include Mike Freeman (a 31-year-old career minor-leaguer), Ben Zobrist (who will be 38 in 2019 and has played all of 13 innings at shortstop since 2014), Ryan Court (a 30-year-old career minor leaguer) and Chesny Young (a 26-year-old minor-leaguer who has posted a .616 OPS in 201 Triple-A games).

Maybe Joe Maddon would actually deploy Kris Bryant at shortstop in case of emergency like a Baez injury ("necessity is the mother of invention," as Maddon loves to say), but that seems a lot more like a fun talking point than a legit option at this current juncture.

So even if Russell sticks around, there's no way the Cubs can go into the first month of the season with just Baez and Bote as the only shortstop options on a team that with World Series or bust expectations.

The Cubs will need to acquire some shortstop depth this winter in some capacity, whether it's adding to the Triple-A Iowa roster or getting a veteran who can also back up other positions. Right now, the free agent pool of potential shortstops is pretty slim beyond Manny Machado.

Epstein always says he and his front office look to try to mitigate risk and analyze where things could go wrong to sink the Cubs' season and through that lense, shortstop is suddenly right up there behind adding more bullpen help this winter.

Podcast: In light of recent hitting coach turmoil, who’s to blame for Cubs offensive struggles?

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USA TODAY

Podcast: In light of recent hitting coach turmoil, who’s to blame for Cubs offensive struggles?

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, David Kaplan, Kelly Crull, Luke Stuckmeyer and Tony Andracki discuss the comments Chili Davis made after being fired as Cubs hitting coach, ask if the Cubs struggles on offense were Davis' fault or the players and what Anthony Iapoce will be walking into as he tries to gets the team back on track a the plate.

 

Listen to the entire podcast here, or in the embedded player below: