By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) Carlos Zambrano is “climbing mountains.” Cue John Parr’s “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion).” He is “running on the beach.” Hit Kenny Loggins’ “Playing with the Boys” on the iPod. Says he is “exercising hard so I can arrive at Spring Training in optimal shape.” I can just hear “Gonna Fly Now” from Rocky.
Surely you have heard those songs at least dozens of times before. Definitely so if you have ever been to a party at my house. Those songs fall into that category we all have of “guilty pleasure.” They are songs we hate to love.
Many Cubs fans have hated to love Zambrano for years now. A fan really cannot root against a player that dons his favorite uniform (I never hoped Milton Bradley would strike out; I just wanted him eaten by fire ants) but with a character like Big Z, it felt dirty in recent years.
As of the end of the 2011 season, many fans and I had had enough. We had heard Zambrano’s guilty pleasure song too many times. I openly condemned his walking out on the team, encouraged his suspension, and proclaimed that I had washed my hands of him.
As far as I was concerned, the Zambrano era with the Cubs had met its end, and I was glad of it. Guilty pleasures have their place, but it is the really good, lasting, substantial stuff that feeds the soul—musical, baseball, and otherwise. He seemed nothing more than an impediment to a future championship back in September, and I want championship music, damn it. Wilco, Jay-Z, The Black Keys.
Zambrano has never been like them. The closest one could equate him with a great, enduring act is The Who’s hotel room the morning after.
But then DJ Epstein and Mixmaster Jed had to come along and leave the door pretty wide open for Big Z’s return, didn’t they?
About Zambrano possibly being welcomed back in the Cubs clubhouse Epstein said, “Am I hopeful or optimistic? I think it can work.” Last week new manager Dale Sveum said that he was confident the team could win with Garza, Dempster, and Zambrano.
That’s Zambrano-will-be-a-Cub-in-2012 talk. And now the man himself is saying he wants to come back. “I want to stay in Chicago for the two seasons I still have with the team,” he told the Venezuelan newspaper Lider on Monday night. And haven’t we heard that crappy honesty cover band before?
So with all signs pointing to Zambrano in a Cub uniform on Opening Day, what do I do now? I disowned him. Never wanted to see him throw another pitch for the Northsiders again.
But he is going to do so. There is always the possibility another GM picks up the phone and says he will gladly book The Carlos Zambrano Experience and take on the band members of bloated, once-terrific frontman of $18 million in 2012 and potentially $19.25 million in 2013, the tortured genius guitarist, the volatile, bipolar drummer that would as soon eat your face as shake your hand, and the quiet, humble, apologetic bassist.
That phone call is highly unlikely this offseason, though, and would only increase in possibility if Zambrano showed some semblance of normalcy the first half of the season. You know, like not being the baseball equivalent of Kanye?
Can I root for Zambrano after turning my back on him? Can I even trust the guy? Logic tells me no—too many bad albums in recent years. Hell, when he told that Venezuelan paper Monday that he wants to come back, that was while he was hitting in a home run contest after taking a liner to the face less than a month ago. Always the little kid. I’m sure he is eating right, too.
But a tiny part of me barely holds on to the great hits from a ways back and thinks maybe, just maybe, there’s another great song in him somewhere, as unlikely as that is.
The thing about that soundtrack to Zambrano’s rejuvenated Venezuelan workout mentioned at the beginning of this is that those three songs all have to do with change.
Another way of looking at them is the theme of departure, of moving on.
Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa and Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for 670TheScore.com, Tim corrupts America’s youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim’s inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @Ten_Foot_Midget , but please don’t follow him in real life. He grew up in Chicago’s Beverly To read more of Tim’s blogs click here.