Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Rick Telander Hates Carlos Zambrano Almost As Much As I Hate Rick

The worst part about watching the Cubs get obliterated on Opening Day was the anticipation of the professional media jumping up and down on their new favorite target now that Milton is gone, Carlos Zambrano. 

While I am increasingly worried that Zambrano is just not right, the media seems to take a certain glee in pointing out Zambrano's failures.  They seem to believe that the difference between the talented pitcher that earned the gigantic pay raise with his performance for this team is purely mental.  Yesterday, Rick Telander did his best to organize the villagers with torches and pitchforks:

Being the Opening Day pitcher is supposed to mean something.

Yes.  Generally, it means being the best starting pitcher on the team and as much as you don't want it to be a fact, there is no rational argument that can be made that a healthy Carlos Zambrano isn't one of the top pitchers in baseball, much less the Cubs.

You're the tone setter, the bell cow, the big swinging medallion chosen by the manager as the symbol of the team.

After the "tone setter," I'm not sure what the hell he is talking about.  The bell cow leads because it has a damn bell around its neck, not because it is the best cow in the herd.  The swinging medallion reference just makes me picture Telander in a leisure suit talking about the massive bulge in his tight pants as he looks for hot American foxes.  Aside from the ill feeling in my stomach that resulted, I'm not sure what that has in common with Opening Day.

You mow 'em down, your buds rack 'em up.

[Joke removed as it has been validly pointed out that it is unfair]

But Carlos Zambrano -- who now has started more consecutive Opening Days (six) than any other Cub -- is not a bell cow. He's a rambling, tin-can eating goat who has lost his way.

How exactly is one smelly animal somehow worse than a different smelly animal?  Oh, you're working in a reference to goats.  Cubs.  Goats.  Very original.

And with him, in a symbolic way, has gone the franchise.

So, the team that hasn't won a World Series in 101 years has lost its way as a winning ballclub because of Carlos Zambrano.  Seeing how you support this statement should be almost as much fun as watching the game yesterday.

''Mind-set?'' repeated manager Lou Piniella when asked what Big Z's mind-set might have been before the 16-5 horror-show loss to the Braves at sold-out Turner Field. ''I don't know.''

What the hell did you want him to say?  If someone asked me about your mindset before you wrote this bullshit column, I probably would have said "focused on being an arrogant toolbag," but the truth is I don't know because I'm not a fucking mindreader.

How could he?

By being a mindreader, which apparently, you think is plausible.

Lou's pretty old-school. Probably thinks two plus two equals four.

What does that even mean?

Zambrano is unknowable.

I guess Rick can decipher exactly what went on in the head of Ted Lilly when he got in a fight with his manager or when he got ejected from a game in which he wasn't even pitching, but that Zambrano is one Latino loco!

The 28-year-old from Venezuela speaks to the media in a voice so quiet and even-toned that it is nearly a whisper. 

That is INSANE!  He should be beating up Gatorade coolers and Michael Barrett!

''I will think about Cincinnati now,'' he said at his locker after he finished with a 54.00 ERA. Big Z said it the way one would if one were preparing to think about, oh, doilies.

Seriously, what do you want him to do?  If he froths at the mouth, he's an insane lunatic who doesn't deserve the money he earned.  If he brushes it off like it was ONE FREAKING START out of about thirty to come this year, he's a lackadaisical prima donna who doesn't deserve the money he earned.  If he reacts like a disappointed professional who is ready to not dwell on the past and work on improving in the future, you bitch about doilies.

He had been handed a three-run lead on new center fielder Marlon Byrd's home run, and then he took the mound and blew up.

He actually walked a man and induced a bunch of weakly hit balls that probably should have been fielded by major league players, but instead the balls went unfielded by the Lil' Louisiana Lads and our pudgy right-fielder that is being played in center.  The first really hard hit ball of the inning is the one that is tattooed on everyone's memory, but by my count, Zambrano had already induced what should have been four outs before Heyward launched it into orbit.

We should not judge a person's character by how he performs as an athlete, but if you're paid $17.8million a year to be the star and you've got a 95 mph Jedi sword in your holster and you've thrown a no-hitter and you always tell us how good you feel and you aren't even fat this year, then, Lord-a-mighty, how can you walk the first man you face and then give up four hits, a home run and another walk in the first inning on Opening Day?

It would be like if a professional columnist who has been writing for a living for over thirty years and who will gladly point out that he has written a book and for Sports Illustrated and that Sports Illustrated rated that book as one of the top 25 of all-time and had his smug face on television in the company of actual good journalists would write a horrible, self-righteous, run-on sentence.

No one knows.

As much as no one knows why anyone pays you a salary for this crap.

Yet the Cubs have latched themselves to this yo-yo -- meant in the sense that the classic spinning toy goes up and down and all around and even walks across the floor like a baby -- and the team itself cannot be counted on because of that.

More "crazy" metaphors combined with an immaturity simile.  It is amazing how these same attributes are considered to be good for a clubhouse when the crazy man is also white.  Ryan Dempster has been the picture of consistency for the Cubs over the years?  He didn't also just sign a gigantic contract that carries a ton of expectations with it that have largely been unmet?  People say that Cubs fans are racist.  If they are, it is because they are taking words like these from hacks like Telander to heart. (Photo from The Heckler)

It was a huge decision to sign Zambrano to a long-term contract in 2007. General manager Jim Hendry did it, and he was looking at the fact that Big Z had been an All-Star at 23, the youngest in Cubs history, and Hendry had prayed Zambrano would become the ace who could dial the code and lead the Cubs out of their century-old panic room.

Yes, it was a huge decision.  Not sure what you are getting at here.  Are you saying you would have let the then 26-year old walk away with his 82-55 record, 3.41 ERA and 1.28 WHIP?  Because that is insane.  Carlos wasn't making outrageous contract demands for his production and he always has said the right things about wanting to stay a Cub.  Any other choice in that decision process could only be justified through the glasses of hindsight and revisionist history.
But Zambrano, who has been an All-Star three times and in the Cubs organization 13 years, teases, then yanks it away.

If anything has been yanked, it has been Zambrano's arm.  The man threw over 200 innings for five consecutive years from 2003 to 2007.  Even the last two years when the almost inevitable decline in his durability has taken a hit, he has put up a total of almost 350 innings.  But, yeah, the problem is probably his head.

He has won only 23 games the last two years, and the Cy Young talk has vanished.

Since you value wins so much, I'll just point out that in Carlos' win percentage until 2007 was .599.  Including the Opening Day loss, his win percentage is .622 since.  It was .639 before Opening Day.  Wow.  Talk about a precipitous drop in production.

And how do you deal with the other things he does? The punch thrown, the water dispenser battered, the glove hurled into the dugout, the emotional and physical control lost -- they all pop from nowhere.

Earlier in this same column, you criticized him for being "quiet and even-toned!"  What the fuck do you want from him?

Zambrano had an astounding second inning against the Braves, even by his standards. After hitting leadoff batter Martin Prado, he covered first base on Chipper Jones' grounder and then launched a rainbow to third that soared over Aramis Ramirez's head and nearly into the stands. To tie it up with a bow, Zambrano offered a homer to Brian McCann before Piniella mercifully yanked him.

There is no getting around that Zambrano had a bad day.  I still contend that a large part of his bad day would have been extremely manageable if the Lollipop Guild weren't his middle infield defense, but exaggerating these two innings out of the 1,552 innings he has pitched in his career as a microcosm of his entire career?  Aren't you supposed to be the veteran writer who can add some perspective to a situation while the emotional fans are all jumping off cliffs?

Opening Day pitcher?

I guess you would have preferred Ryan Dempster who has never walked everyone in the ballpark in a tone-setting situation before.
''It happened,'' Zambrano said. ''I gave up eight runs. Like I said, I will concentrate for the next start.''
Concentrating for this one would have been nice.

Nice cheap shot. You know what?  I can do that too.  Fuck you.

No, it's not like one game means much.

But you are about to explain why it should mean so much to your half-witted argument.

But the 16 runs are the most the Cubs have given up to anybody on Opening Day, going back to 1884.

I guess it is also Carlos' fault that the Cubs would be better off with Devin Hester in the bullpen over Jeff Samardzija?

''Somewhat of an embarrassing loss,'' Piniella said.

Not as embarassing as this column.

Oh, Zambrano had help. Reliever Jeff Samardzija's 108.00 ERA is in the mix, as is gazillion-dollar left fielder Alfonso Soriano's .000 batting average.

I guess Theriot's .000 in the leadoff spot doesn't warrant a mention, or his leprechaun brother booting routine groundballs.

But this was Big Z's day -- in front of new owner and stunned fan Tom Ricketts.

How stunned could he possibly be?  He has watched this team before, right?  I mean, we were all told what a big fan he was.

Seemed a little like Closing Day, it did.

I'm hoping this means you have given up on the 2010 season and won't be writing anything more about them.  By the way Jay Marriotti called, he wants his assholic vitriol back.


Jen McG said...

I just want to say i enjoy your rants about cubs media..... too funny

berselius said...

Pure Win, Tim

thejoshbaker said...

a little reminiscent of fjm. I like it.

Anonymous said...

It's clear from this article that you've never met or spent any amount of time with Rick Telander, Carlos Zambrano or Ryan Dempster. You're working with about 1/100th of the information you would need to make the statements you have.

I agree that Telander's comments about Zambrano's quiet, even response to his poor performance were off-base. Zambrano is working on controlling his temper, which is a good thing. I even share your dread in seeing the over-blown reactions to one bad start. I'm worried about Zambrano, but I don't think one game seals the the deal for the season.

But whether you agree with Telander's reaction to Opening Day or not, to try to extrapolate from his column some sort of racist agenda is not only inaccurate, it's also borderline slander.

Dempster is not the "white Zambrano." Not even close. Your attempt to compare Zambrano's immaturity with Dempster's sense of humor is way off. Many know the side of Dempster that does a great Harry Caray impression, few know that he's one of the most intelligent, good guys in the sport. He's introspective, respectful and he's always available in the clubhouse.

Anonymous said...

Zambrano, who can at times be very funny, can also be extremely difficult and standoffish with the press. Unlike Dempster, who is willing to be honest about his performances, whether good or bad, Zambrano's moodiness and temper affect his ability to do what's, frankly, a large part of the job--address the media.

Contrary to what you wrote, no one has ever said that Dempster being "crazy" is good for the clubhouse. That's because no one has ever called Dempster "crazy." His temperament is almost the polar opposite of Z's--something you would know if you had access. You'd need to have been in the clubhouse to comment on how the guys act in the clubhouse.

Secondly, you claim Telander isn't picking on Dempster even though he also signed a big contract and hasn't met expectations. Big Z's $18 mil a year is TWICE Dempster's $9 mil and Dempster has been a better pitcher as of late. That argument doesn't fly, sorry.

And Telander's decision to point out Soriano's .000 BA is because Soriano, like Zambrano, is enjoying a FAT contract that he's not playing nearly well enough to deserve. Sure he could throw Soto or Theriot under the bus, too, but Soriano is the poster child for the Cubs' bad contracts. He, like Zambrano, is expected to lead the way.

Moreover, "Mowing guys down" is a common term for pitchers striking guys out. It's not a reference to the Zambrano mows my lawn shirt. You know that, though--I've read your blog and you know baseball. So why would you try to turn a common baseball term into a racist statement? Why would you take a column about Zambrano's bad Opening Day start and try to twist it into a statement of the author's prejudices?

Why? Because your agenda here is to drive traffic to your site by stirring the pot. If I recall you wrote a bloated, inaccurate hate-blog about Paul Sullivan not too long ago, too.

You're welcome to question the opinions and statements of mainstream media members, but your thoughts will be better received and more effective if they're presented in a professional way. You're not doing bloggers any favors by writing pieces like this--you're merely verifying the opinion of some mainstream media members that bloggers are full of vitriol, void of substance.

You don't NEED access to write about a team--in many cases the best commentary is from those who aren't handcuffed by their employer's connection to a team or their need to be nice so they don't lose a player's trust. But a lesson to learn from people who DO have access is that it's harder to spit fire at people you've actually met. I guarantee you'd hate someone to spew untruths about you without having met you--and that's true whether you're a ballplayer or a writer. If you're going to write from the perspective of having no access, you shouldn't overstep the bounds of your knowledge.

What Telander and Sullivan know about this team and its players on a personal level will influence their columns. They're in the clubhouse, they interact with the guys and they're the ones giving YOU the information that you can't get. At times they might write something you disagree with, but that doesn't mean you should attack them as people or claim that they're racist (especially when your argument for that is a complete stretch with literally NO valid points).

I'll continue to read your blog every once in awhile, but if it becomes a wannabe, poorly-written Deadspin (or, God forbid, a Desipio clone) where you forsake fact and tact in favor of shit-stirring, I'll pass.

c1t1z3nx said...

This made my day. Brilliant. Lollipop Guild...hehe!

Aisle 424 said...

First and foremost, I do not believe that Rick Telander is intentionally making racist statements (or allusions to racist t-shirts). I have clearly overstated that sentiment in my frustration.

However, the fact that the white guys on this Cubs team get longer leashes when it comes to poor performance is also not too much of an exaggeration. In this case, I jumped on Telander about it because this was the latest example, but the fans, the rest of the media, and the team itself have to be held somewhat accountable. The fact that Mr. Utility Player, Mark DeRosa is held in higher esteem than Carlos Zambrano is laughable. People are still upset that Kerry Wood was traded, but everybody couldn't wait to get Derrek Lee out of town until he went all Pujols on the ball after May last year.

So when I saw someone ripping Zambrano for one start after an overall exemplary career on the field for this team, I extrapolated and connected the dots poorly.

But to say that I intentionally stir the pot to draw traffic also says that some extrapolation has been done about my character. this is a blog that is intended to vent my emotions and feelings about things that me and my summer family tend to bitch about when we are in our seats. If my goal was to drive traffic, then I am to stirring the pot as Aaron Miles was to hitting a baseball.

I make no effort to pretend that I am a journalist, objective, or even rational when it comes to what I write. Thse are my opinions and nothing more.

Nevertheless, it was irresponsible of me to throw about the allusions to racism in such a casual manner, and for that I do apologize.

Unknown said...

Anonymous, if this is a vitriolic attack by a blogger on the MSM then what was Telaner's column on Zambrano? This nonsensical idea that the MSM is in the clubhouse so they "know" these guys is total bulllshit. They can observe a player's demeanor and quite frankly they then allow that to color their opinion of the player's on-field performance. Anonymous, your pious little lecture here really has zero credence since you act as if you have some sort of "inside" knowledge yet you hide your identity. Telander did a complete hatchet job on Zambrano and what Tim wrote here points it out quite well.

Doc Blume said...

Tim, good job. I once respected Telander as a journalist...and he has championed some good causes in his day...

But ever since his pathetic attempt to break into other facets of media (particularly that joke of a radio show he had on The Score), he's turned into a poor man's (and aforementioned) Jay Mariotti.

He's become stupid and lazy.

Keep up the attacks, Tim. This was well deserved criticism.

danieldschell said...

Exhibit A as to why I do not blog: I read an article like this and realize I could never measure up. Brilliantly written, thank you for this!

Jennifer McSparin said...

Let's go back a few weeks to spring training where we saw Z report a week early, worked hard, and appeared focused on helping the team win. Yes, he makes a huge salary. Yes, it's disappointing that he has been inconsistent and had a bad outing on Monday. But good grief, he's human, not a machine. No doubt he was just as frustrated as everyone else (or even more so), but all pitchers have rough outings-including on opening day.

The Cubs were not the only ones to get trounced on Monday, either. Three other teams scored 11 runs. The lowly Pirates even defeated the Dodgers 11-5.

Personally, I'm more concerned about the defense up the middle and Soriano's lack of production for a player making his salary. But all I saw on Twitter and elsewhere on Monday was Zambrano's name. One player doesn't make or break a team, or hold responsibility for winning or losing. That's why baseball is a TEAM sport.

And something that annoys me even more than Soriano or the terrible two up the middle are anonymous commenters who see fit to criticize but don't have the balls to do so under a recognizable handle. You can disagree with Tim, but at least he's man enough to post under his own name.

Aisle 424 said...

As much as we would like to have everyone post a comment with at least a tag of some sort to identify them, I don't mind anonymous comments since there are situations relating to places of employment or other circumstances that require a certain amount of anonymity.

This is also not the most self-explanatory commenting system around, so people who may not have commented before may not realize tehre is an option for commenting under a name without logging in to Blogger or Twitter or whatever the other choices are.

Anonymous hate comments are uncalled for, but in this post the commenter may not agree, but they explain their reasons for why I am wrong and also kind of a douche. I can handle that.

I also enjoy comments supporting me, so thanks everyone else who doesn't hate me!

PS - you can choose Name/URL and just not put in a URL if you don't want to officially log in to comment and still have a "name" attached to your comment.

Anonymous said...

telander has sucked for years. good work tim. sorry you had to bother reading him to write this. eh, better you than me.

Aisle 424 said...

Maybe it was all those years he was next to Mariotti clouding my memory, but I used to consider him the voice of reason at the Sun-Times.

Oh well. Without him, I wouldn't have all this traffic! Now I'll really start making tons of money from the blog, right? Right? Hello? Damn it.

Anonymous said...

with all that money, did you quit your day job?

Aisle 424 said...

I'm going to tomorrow. Man, I can't wait to move out of my mother's basement. This is going to be sweet.

Michael Proper said...

While taking a less-than-stellar journalist like Telander to task is something I'm all for, I do find one thing somewhat hypocritical in your post.

You mention that Telander jumping all over Zambrano after one start despite a pretty decent track record is foolish. And I whole heartedly agree. But you also seem to mock the defense of Theriot and Fontenot for one poor defensive game when, for their careers, they've been very good defenders.

Fontenot might never hit like he did in 2008 again but he's averaged a career 10.7 UZR/150 games for his career at second base. Last year was his least productive defensive year and he still finished with a 1.8 UZR.

Theriot on the other hand had an amazing 09 playing the toughest position on the field with a 7.7 UZR. He's averaged a career 4.8 UZR/150.

I just think you might be so worried about the media letting the scrappy white guys off the hook that you are going out of your way to put them on it, even if it's not warranted.

Adam said...

I'm still waiting for the beat writers AND columnists to join forces and come up with enough Cubs-related information I can't access (and would have the slightest interest in reading) to fill a Paul-Sullivan-size thimble.

I also thoroughly enjoy the anonymous hypocrisy of accusing bloggers of stirring the pot by criticizing sportswriters for nothing more than traffic when sportswriters routinely do the exact same thing toward athletes . . . and with less writing talent!

When sportswriters write crappy, thoughtless, torch-wielding attacks on players, coaches, or teams, they deserve to get roasted by Tim. The whole "you don't even know Telander" argument is pretty lame considering he's aired his every attempt at rational thought over every mass medium known to humanity. How much more is there to know?

Aisle 424 said...

I will not pretend to fully understand how UZR is calculated nor what its flaws are, but when I watch the games, I know that if Theriot has to go in the hole, he is not getting the baserunner unless the baserunner has a heart attack on the way to first.

I do know that UZR does not take into account infield pop-ups or similar infield flares that seem to particularly haunt Theriot.

They also seem clumsy and awkward on what should be double play balls. There is absolutely no rhythm from a tandem that has been playing together since college.

I am unsure how much having a defensive first baseman like Derrek Lee vacuuming up all the weak-ass throws that come from those two helps a player's UZR, but I'm pretty certain it doesn't hurt having him there.

I may overstate how bad they are for humor, but I do know that UZR doesn't tell the whole story of how well a player performs on defense, and this was hardly an opinion (right or wrong) that was formed after one game.

Michael Proper said...

UZR does account for double play runs though it's based around a 50/50 split for the fielder and pivot man, so yeah it's not perfect. From a visual standpoint, I don't see anything particularly clumsy about how they turn DPs, but that's just my opinion.

Also, yes it doesn't track pop up in the no-man's land that they fell into in the first on Monday, and I'd agree that while those were tougher plays than they look, Theriot absolutely needed to get over faster and has looked like an idiot many times in similar scenarios.

I'm looking to find exactly where I saw this, but I was pretty sure I read that UZR did account for infielder arms. Either way, Theriot is never going to be considered a Yunel Escobar or Raphael Furcal, but I think it's pretty fair to say his arm has improved greatly.

Basically, to conclude this rambling, yes UZR has its flaws and shouldn't be taken as the end-all process of evaluating defense, however it is generally considered by saber experts as being far and away the best we have right now, and the fact that Theriot and Fontenot have been consistently plus defenders since they began, I think it's safe to say the general hatred of at least their defensive abilities (not necessarily by you, but Cub fandom in general) is likely unwarranted.

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Aisle 424 said...

This blog has been called many things, but "useful" and "valuable" are definitely new ones. Thanks!

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