Mike Quade must hate this. The guy from a Chicago suburb who worked his way up the Cubs’ chain finally gets a shot at his dream job, and his best starter is an idiot.
A modified version of The Full Zambrano was on display in the retch-inducing 7-3 loss to the God-awful Astros on Tuesday. You got eight innings of one-run, seven-hit, seven-strikeout, no-walks pitching and you got the idiot taking two shots at snapping a bat over his leg.
But the story playing out is Zambrano going all Thor on his thigh.
The last thing the Cubs need is their best starter going on the the 15-day stupidity list. Half the roster is already hurt, and the Cubs already stink, sinking to the third-worst record in the league. Now they’re betting the season on the likes of Rodrigo Lopez, which is Spanish for Doug Davis, and Tony Campana, who can’t go on most of the rides at Six Flags without an adult.
So, it is too much to ask Zambrano to drive the mental speed limit?
Apparently so, and he doesn’t care that his manager doesn’t much like it.
“If he don’t like it, he don’t like it,’’ Zambrano said. “What can I do?’’
Well, you can not do it, that’s what. See? Told you, Quade has the village idiot in his dugout.
But here’s the bigger problem: Quade is pandering to it so much as to cede authority over anyone who hasn’t been brought up from Iowa in the last two years. I wrote about it last year when Quade took over as interim manager of the kids only, it seemed. He wasn’t about to sit down Aramis Ramirez for playing third base like it was a co-ed softball league, but Quade was going to give it to Starlin Castro but good.
Earlier this month, Cubs players clowned Quade in Cincinnati. It was embarrassing. The Cubs stunk on the field, Qaude called a meeting to let them have it, and then they stunk worse the next game. How do you like us now, Mr. Smart Guy Manager?
And now, Quade’s pattern of appearing to serve as General Manager Jim Hendry’s valet continues.
“I saw what was coming and I decided I was not going to pay attention,’’ Quade said. “Just look elsewhere, in case.’’
Fine leadership there. Can you feel the respect growing?
“I don’t like that,’’ Quade said. “He doesn’t like that. I’m glad he’s OK. . . . I get his frustration, but do something else. I cringe because he can hurt himself. Guys snap all the time, but that’s a dangerous one.’’
If Quade doesn’t like it, then tell Zambrano to stop it, or maybe Quade’s orders don’t matter. And obviously Zambrano does like it because he did it and then said of Quade, “If he don’t like it, he don’t like it.’’ So, Quade’s orders apparently continue not to matter.
I don’t know if the perception that Quade’s just the designated driver here is the truth, but perception can be just as indicting as the reality of empty seats at Wrigley Field.
Even though this Zambrano incident seems a blip compared to previous Gatorade machine murders, it represents something perhaps more insidious. This type of verbal surrender seems an appropriate hood ornament for the Cubs’ season where nobody’s taking charge or responsibility.
There’s an ill-conceived roster of unprepared or incapable players who started the season badly and have continued with ill-equipped place-holders from Iowa, Atlanta and, I believe, a shallow grave.
There’s Hendry’s cobbling together a baseball organization with the consistency and flexibility to fail with and without big-money players in uniform, accomplishing the unthinkable of losing two in a row at home to the worst team in the National League.
And there’s organization-wide ineptitude that is clear to everyone except Tom Ricketts, who appears satisfied with his handful of magic beans.