Saturday, Jan. 15, 2011
Posted 12:24 AM
By Patrick Mooney
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.