Preps Talk

Zambrano blames himself for what went wrong, sees future in Miami


Zambrano blames himself for what went wrong, sees future in Miami

If this seemed a little scripted, well, Carlos Zambrano did have a camera crew filming his conditioning work in the outfield, and following him around the batting cage and Cubs dugout.

Zambrano chatting with Ryan Dempster on Tuesday at Wrigley Field became the perfect made-for-TV moment. The Franchise the Showtime reality show going behind the scenes with the Miami Marlins wont have trouble finding storylines.

It was Dempster who had spoken for the entire organization last August in Atlanta, after Zambrano had cleaned out his locker at Turner Field, saying it was time to look in the mirror: Hes made his bed. Hes got to sleep in it.

That was the point of no return. As much as Theo Epstein publicly played up the possibility of Zambrano earning his way back onto the Cubs, there was virtually no chance of that actually happening. The new regime at Clark and Addison kicked in more than 15 million to make the problem go away.

There never was like any bad feeling (toward my teammates), Zambrano said. They treat me with respect professionally, and every time I see them I say hi to them. Theres no hard feelings, believe me, and the problem wasnt with them. The problem was not with the Cubs. The problem was Carlos Zambrano. Thats why Carlos Zambrano is now with the Miami Marlins.

If you have to blame somebody, blame me. Things didnt work out the last two yearsI accept it. I am responsible for my acts.

Is this The New Z?

Well, Zambrano had the media right where he wanted, baking in the heat and guessing whether or not he was going to talk. He spoke in the third person and about Gods plan. (Even during bad times, Cubs people didnt doubt his faith or devotion to his family.)

But it probably doesnt matter whether or not Zambrano has actually changed. With the Marlins, he can blend into the background. He doesnt carry the weight of a 91.5 million contract or a franchise that hasnt won a World Series in 100-plus years. He can play for Ozzie Guillen, his old friend from Venezuela.

Its fun, Zambrano said. He says all kind of things that make me laugh. Hes very relaxed. Hes very enjoyable. He is very professional. Hes straight (with me). I like people that say things to you in front of you. I dont like people that say something to you and stab you in the back.

Even if no one really took it all that seriously, Zambrano had talked about possibly retiring when this contract expires. But at the age of 31, he appears to have a new lease on life. He says he wants to pitch again next season and looks forward to finishing his career in Miami.

Marlins pitcher Mark Buehrle who had watched from across town all those years with the White Sox is a believer.

Carlos is one of the best teammates Ive ever played with, Buehrle said. For all the stuff youve read and seenyou got to have an open mind.

Hes been awesome. Ive had no complaints. Hes been fun in the dugout, on plane rides, in that clubhouse. (He) hasnt had one rant or one time it looks like hes going to blow up. Hes a huge competitor and he wants to win.

So everything that has been reported and been on TV from his years here with the Cubs hes the complete opposite guy, from what Ive seen.

The Cubs once thought of Derrek Lee as the ideal teammate, and Zambrano had to be restrained from him in the U.S. Cellular Field dugout in 2010. That incident pushed Zambrano into anger-management counseling.

Zambrano didnt like talking about it, but admitted the sessions helped. The thing with him was that it came without warning.

In a weird way, the We stinks! rant was Zambranos way of trying to be a leader in the clubhouse.

Heres Zambranos alternate version of history, the way he views himself: I can be a good teammate, but I also can be a guy that some people dont like. Because when I see things that are not right, I come straight to that guy. If I see people who are lazy or people who dont hustle, people doing things they arent supposed to do, I will come to that guy.

Guillen likes bullfighting and has compared himself to a matador. He wants to see more out of Zambrano (5-7, 4.22 ERA), because he remembers a dominant pitcher with the Cubs (125-81, 3.60 ERA).

Off the field, hes been great, Guillen said. Sometimes I want him to go back to being Zambrano. Sometimes. But hes doing what I predicted. Dont forget about what Zambrano did. That guy almost won the Cy Young award here, (went to the) playoffs. He did a lot of good things here, too. He (also) did a lot of bad things, very entertaining things.

In Miami, the pressure isnt the same, and he doesnt have to live up to the Big Z image. To be honest, hes glad he doesnt have to pitch in this series. Maybe some other time.

Good memories I still love these fans, Zambrano said. The only thing that I wanted to do in Chicago is win. I really apologize to the fans, and to the people here who treated me good. I hope they accept my apologies.

Illinois AP football rankings: Week 8

NBC Sports Chicago

Illinois AP football rankings: Week 8

The Illlinois high school football AP polls are out. Here are the latest rankings of Illinois high school football teams in each class, according to an Associated Press panel of sportswriters:

Class 8A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1. Lincoln-Way East (8) 8-0 80 1
2. Loyola 6-2 66 2
3. Warren 8-0 59 3
4. Homewood-Flossmoor 7-1 54 5
5.  Neuqua Valley 7-1 52 T-6
6. Minooka 8-0 36 8
7.  Niles Notre Dame 7-1 35 4
8. Oswego 8-0 24 9
9. Hinsdale Central 7-1 19 T-6
10. Bolingbrook 6-2 5 10

Others receiving votes: South Elgin 4, Maine South 3, Edwardsville 1, Huntley 1, St. Charles East 1.

Class 7A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1. (Chicago) Mt. Carmel (7) 8-0 79 1
2. Nazareth (1) 8-0 69 2
3. Glenbard West 8-0 67 3
4.  Hersey 8-0 49 4
5.  Phillips 7-1 47 5
6. Batavia 6-2 37 7
7.  Rolling Meadows 8-0 34 6
8. Willowbrook 7-1 27 9
9. Normal Community 7-1 21 10
10. Benet 6-2 4 8

Others receiving votes: Glenbard East 4, DeKalb 1, Maine West 1.

Class 6A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1. Chatham Glenwood (7) 8-0 79 1
2.  Crete-Monee (1) 8-0 71 2
3.  Simeon 6-1 62 3
T-4. Prairie Ridge 7-1 54 6
T-4. Richards 7-1 54 5
6. Antioch 7-1 31 7
7. Providence  6-2 30 8
8. Cary-Grove 6-2 19 4
9. Normal West 6-2 17 NR
10.  Peoria Central 7-1 10 NR

Others receiving votes: Lemont 8, Yorkville 3, Kaneland 2.

Class 5A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1. East St. Louis (9) 8-0 90 1
2. Sterling 8-0 77 2
3.  Hillcrest 7-1 68 T-3
4.  Boylan Catholic 8-0 60 T-3
5.  Montini 6-2 51 5
6.  Sycamore 7-1 43 6
7. St. Rita 5-3 35 8
8. Kankakee 7-1 24 9
9.  Carbondale 7-1 20 10
10.  Dunlap 7-1 12 NR

Others receiving votes: Cahokia 7, Joliet Catholic 6, Marion 2.

Class 4A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1. Rochester (7) 8-0 88 2
2. Coal City (2) 8-0 82 3
3. Richmond-Burton 8-0 58 4
4. St. Francis 7-1 52 10
5. IC Catholic Prep 7-1 51 1
6.  Mt. Zion 8-0 49 6
7.  Stillman Valley 8-0 48 5
8. Columbia 8-0 30 8
9. Illinois Valley Central 8-0 15 NR
10.  Effingham 7-1 7 7

Others receiving votes: Tolono Unity 6, Murphysboro 4, Bishop McNamara 2, Prairie Central 2, Genoa-Kingston 1.

Class 3A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1. Williamsville (7) 8-0 97 2
2. Byron (1) 7-1 87 3
T-3. Wilmington (1) 7-1 69 1
T-3. Beardstown (1) 8-0 69 4
5. Vandalia 8-0 65 5
6. Fairfield 8-0 54 7
7. Princeton 7-1 37 9
8. DuQuoin 8-0 32 NR
9. Breese Mater Dei 7-1 14 NR
10. Pana 7-1 12 8

Others receiving votes: Nashville 9, Mt. Carmel 4, Eureka 1.

Class 2A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1. Fieldcrest (6) 8-0 95 1
2. Clifton Central (3) 8-0 92 2
3. Maroa-Forsyth 7-1 78 3
4. Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley (1) 7-1 73 4
5.  St. Teresa 7-1 62 5
6.  Knoxville 8-0 50 6
7. Newman Central Catholic 7-1 38 7
8. Bismarck-Henning 7-1 32 8
9. Auburn 6-2 20 9
10. Flora 6-2 7 NR

Others receiving votes: Chester 3.

Class 1A

No. Team W-L Pts Prv
1. Lena-Winslow (9) 8-0 90 1
2.  Moweaqua Central A&M 8-0 79 2
3. Annawan-Wethersfield 8-0 68 3
4.  Morrison 8-0 55 4
5.  Aquin 8-0 53 7
6. Hope Academy 7-1 45 8
7. Camp Point Central 7-1 31 9
8. Forreston 6-2 20 6
9. Athens 6-2 15 10
10. Carrollton 7-1 14 NR

Others receiving votes: Greenfield-Northwestern 9, Kirkland Hiawatha 5, Tuscola 4, Ottawa Marquette 3, Arcola 2, Argenta-Oreana 2.

A peek behind the curtain at what makes Joe Espada such an intriguing managerial candidate for Cubs

A peek behind the curtain at what makes Joe Espada such an intriguing managerial candidate for Cubs

As the Cubs managerial search continues, the Astros are vying for their second World Series championship in a three-year span.

Coincidentally, the man leading Houston once envisioned himself doing the same thing on the North Side of Chicago. It’s strange how baseball works sometimes. 

A.J. Hinch — who interviewed for the Cubs managerial job in 2013 — was disappointed when Theo Epstein and Co. chose Rick Renteria to take the reins of the club instead, especially given his managerial experience. But then again, Hinch recognizes he still could have been pushed out a year later for Joe Maddon the same way Renteria was. So, maybe things did work out best for everyone.

Between that history and Hinch's time with Jed Hoyer in San Diego, it explains why Hinch knows a thing or two about what the Cubs brass is looking for in their next manager and the process they are taking to find the right guy to steer the ship.

That guy might end up being Hinch’s current bench coach Joe Espada, who had a second interview with Epstein's front office this week.

“Joe and I were Triple-A roommates back in Oakland,” Hinch said. “I tried to hire him in Arizona as a first- or third-base coach when I became manager in Arizona and he immediately got promoted to the Marlins coaching staff. So when he was with the Yankees and we eliminated them in the ALCS in 2017, Cora was just about to be named the manager of Red Sox. I immediately asked for permission to speak to Joe and he was my choice; he was my hand-picked guy [to take over as Astros bench coach] immediately.”

And it appears, Espada will soon become someone else’s “hand-picked guy” to manage.

Will that be with the Cubs?

“He’s a well-rounded baseball man,” Hinch said. “He’s been in a few places and so he’s seen and done virtually everything to prepare himself to manage. From coaching in Miami to being with the Yankees on successful teams, to being a bench coach here. He’s been around decision-making, he’s been around high end winning and he’s intellectually curious.” 

Besides his coaching resume, Espada is thought to bring other innate characteristics to the table that would appeal to any organization. The Cubs liked what they saw and heard enough to bring him in for a second interview, which was no surprise to Hinch.

“He’s organized, diligent, he’s very fair to people, he’s a good family man.” Hinch said. “All attributes that help you build something in the clubhouse that ultimately leads to winning. The only thing untested in him is managing. And any time you talk about someone without managerial experience, I think you’re just going to have to learn on the job, period. There’s been plenty of examples of guys that have done it and Joe is really good. The potential could be very quick for him. A lot of teams have asked about him.” 

Naturally, the same could be said for David Ross, a candidate Hinch also spoke highly about.

“I think he’d be really good," the Astros manager said of Ross. "If he’s all in, I’ll love it because I think he could learn quickly. He’s got immediate credibility. I think the player buy-in is there and it would be interesting to build a staff around him.”

The intrigue will continue to grow in what now seems to be a two-horse race, but with the World Series getting underway the Cubs will likely wait for an off day or the conclusion of the Fall Classic to make an announcement. And even though their team isn’t playing, Cubs fans can still keep an eye on Espada as well as former Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez as the Astros and Nationals take center stage in the baseball world.