Carlos Zambrano walks out on Cubs, said to be mulling retirement
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org August 12, 2011 11:12PM
Volatile right-hander Carlos Zambrano is said to have told clubhouse personnel that he’s retiring. | Dave Tulis~AP
Updated: November 16, 2011 1:25AM
ATLANTA — Carlos Zambrano has left the building.
Whether he returns — and whether he ever pitches in a Cubs uniform again — was a matter of anger, dismay and conjecture after the enigmatic pitcher packed up his belongings in the visiting clubhouse during Friday night’s game and left Turner Field.
By the time the media were allowed into the clubhouse, not even the nameplate above his locker remained, and Zambrano was said to have told clubhouse personnel he intends to retire.
‘‘He walked out on 24 guys that are battling their ass off for him,’’ Cubs manager Mike Quade said after the 10-4 loss to the Atlanta Braves that included five home runs off Zambrano and his ejection.
‘‘I don’t know where he’s gone or what he’s doing. I heard he’s talking about retiring. I can’t have a guy walking out on 24 guys, that’s for damn sure.’’
Quade had not had a chance to talk to general manager Jim Hendry by the time he addressed the media.
Hendry, who was not with the team, said late Friday night that he had not talked to Zambrano.
‘‘We will respect his wishes and honor them,’’ Hendry said, ‘‘and move forward.’’
Zambrano’s agent, Barry Praver, didn’t return any messages Friday night.
Zambrano, who has another year at $18 million left on his contract and a no-trade clause he has suggested he might waive, drew no interest from contending teams leading up to last month’s non-waiver trade deadline, according to sources.
One official from a rival team said teams are leery of the big price tag on the out year as well as the long history of blowups, meltdowns and finger-pointing, including his infamous ‘‘we sucks’’ postgame rant earlier this year in which he singled out teammate Carlos Marmol for a blown save.
While several teammates were publicly supportive of Zambrano, many have expressed weariness over his long list of actions that have undermined the team.
If he doesn’t return, it’s not likely to break many hearts in the clubhouse. Even Friday night, one veteran called the circumstances a ‘‘wonderful opportunity for the organization to get better.’’
For all the past histrionics and even last year’s suspension and anger-management therapy, Zambrano’s actions Friday were extreme enough to surprise even some longtime teammates.
‘‘Yeah,’’ third baseman Aramis Ramirez said, ‘‘because I’ve never seen that before, never seen anybody just pack their stuff and leave and retire, and I’ve been around for a while. Even for him. Players don’t do that.’’
Several teammates said publicly they would accept Zambrano back if he chooses to return.
‘‘He probably just wasn’t happy with the way he pitched. And there’s a lot of things that happen in people’s lives that we don’t know about,’’ said center fielder Marlon Byrd, who planned to reach out to Zambrano on Friday night. ‘‘Hopefully, the rumors about retirement aren’t true, and he’ll be back tomorrow, and then we can talk about it. Until then we don’t know. . . . I’ve been around him long enough to know he’s a sensitive guy. Maybe tonight was just too much for him.’’
Quade said he knew of no extenuating personal circumstances that might have led to Zambrano’s actions.
Until Friday, he had pitched well in recent starts. On this night, he allowed five home runs in less than five innings, including back-to-back homers to Freddie Freeman and Dan Uggla in the fifth.
After a subsequent visit to the mound by pitching coach Mark Riggins — in part to stall to help get a reliever ready — Zambrano tried twice to hit the next batter, Chipper Jones.
The second miss drew the ejection from ump Tim Timmons, at which point the Braves’ bench emptied briefly. Before anyone could contemplate a push or a shove, Zambrano was already halfway to the Cubs’ dugout, leaving the mound calmly after getting tossed.
‘‘It’s a bad night, and that’s allowed,’’ said a fuming Quade, who added he didn’t know if Zambrano would be accepted back at this point if he tried to return. ‘‘To have done whatever he did and tell people goodbye — we’re losing a game 10-4, and there’s 24 guys that aren’t happy about it and he’s gone, and that’s not right.
‘‘Whatever your thoughts are after a tough outing, you don’t leave your teammates. To hell with me. You don’t leave your teammates.’’