Monday, May 16, 2005

zambrano's arm and dusty's head

reports of elbow "tightness" and a pending mri for cub ace carlos zambrano after leaving early from friday's tilt utterly infuriated me this weekend to the point where i decided to calm down until today before writing anything.

zambrano is fifth in the league in pitches thrown with 844 in eight starts -- itself signal enough of strain. but one has only to look back to may 8 and his 136-pitch outing to see where a spot of injury trouble might come from.

let me say this much in measured tone: dusty baker is an idiot. in case no one has alleged it, i allege it now. he is a moron, lucky enough to fall into a line of work where an affable moron can be employed and even revered. it may not be his fault that this cub team is painfully weak in the bullpen. but it is nothing less than high stupidity to confront that fact, even in the desperation of a losing streak, by recklessly endangering the only young starting pitcher you haven't already destroyed with past reckless management and overuse.

it could easily be argued -- and has been -- that wood and prior still haven't recovered from baker's regrettable decision-making in 2003, in which they were two of the three most abused pitchers in the game. (indeed, it can be speculated that wood may never recover.) now, in 2005, zambrano ranks second behind only the indefatigable rubber-arm of livan hernandez as the most abused pitcher in baseball, as measured by baseball prospectus, following a 2004 in which he was the third-most abused such pitcher. you can bet that prior and wood -- had they been able to stay healthy enough despite baker's 2003 indiscretion -- would have ranked there with him.

god help this cub squad and dusty baker if zambrano is discovered to have sustained damage in that golden arm. he is arguably their only reliably great pitcher at the moment, one of the two or three players this team can least do without. if he is put under the knife, cub nation will have baker's insane dugout antics to blame -- and blame him they should, with his job as forfeit. as is, it increasingly appears that dusty's primary legacy in chicago will be to have irretrievably wrecked one of the great young rotations the game has seen in the last twenty years, and with it the cubs' hopes of long-overdue success.

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