Hurricane Zambrano

By Joel Ebert

Having two baseball teams in one city can be pretty interesting at times. Only Chicago and New York have cross-town rivals in the Major Leagues, both of which have high levels of scrutiny of the players, coaches, manager and owner coming from the media. Chicago has Ozzie Guillen on the South Side and the Lovable Losers (newly turned winners) on the North Side.

Last week, Guillen took a beating from the press after his tirade, including his boss Ken Williams. Chicago sports writer Jay Mariotti called for Guillen to be fired. They said his latest explosion was the icing on the cake of a man who has said some pretty crazy things over the past few years. A few weeks ago Guillen ranted about Hulk Hogan and complained about the cross-town rival Cubs. But the media attention surely seems to flock around Guillen because you never know what he’s going to say next.

Ozzie’s North Side rivals certainly don’t lack their share of clowns. From the soap opera love affair with the streaky and unsteady leftfielder Alfonso Soriano to Lou Pinella’s ramblings, the Chicago Cubs have their share of enjoyable moments in the media. Perhaps there is no greater clown under the giant tent of the Chicago Cubs than Carlos Zambrano. Known for his emotional outbursts in times of frustration (although he claims he doesn’t know this word) and grand displays of passion in times of exultation, Zambrano is as unpredictable as the hurricane season.

Big Z’s career has been full of outbursts. Last June, Zambrano, and then Cubs catcher Michael Barrett, battled it out in the dugout after a bad inning. This year, Zambrano broke a bat over his knee after striking out, saying he was “ticked off” during a game, which his team was winning. As recently as June 7, Carlos Zambrano added yet another chapter to the book after a five minute implosion, which saw the Cubs lose their lead and the game. Zambrano went into the dugout and took his anger out on a few Gatorade coolers. Big Z raged it as his teammates and coaches avoided his flailing arms and the flying jugs.

I find it funny that reaction to Zambrano’s tirades isn’t the same towards Guillen’s rants. People laugh and are amused by both, but never once has Zambrano’s emotion gotten him in trouble like Guillen’s mouth has. Cubs manager Lou Pinella said that he doesn’t have a problem with Zambrano’s emotional tantrums. He said “if I was in the dugout, I probably would have enjoyed it.”

I’m not so sure Zambrano should be encouraged. He will probably eventually injure himself or someone else, thinking that his outbursts are acceptable. This kind of treatment is sort of like handing a kid who has a propensity to yell “FIRE!” in a megaphone. The Chicago sports media’s lack of criticism of the Zambrano circus only encourages a beast that needs to be reigned in.

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