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Carlos Zambrano’s outburst unacceptable

June 6, 2011

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— Summing up the way so many people on the North Side probably felt Sunday night, Jim Hendry just sighed when he answered the phone. On the eve of Major League Baseball’s amateur draft, Hendry took precious time away from preparing for the Cubs to pick ninth overall to compare Carlos Zambrano’s shenanigans.

It has been that kind of bad-meets-worse week for the Cubs’ GM, the kind in which Zambrano has behaved as if he owns stock in Chicago sports-talk radio stations.

“You don’t want Carlos to break his bat over his knee in frustration with himself (as Zambrano did Tuesday night) and risk getting hurt, but if it’s not directed at his teammates, I’m OK with that from time to time,” Hendry said in a phone interview from Arizona. “But what I’m not OK with is calling out teammates publicly, and even privately if somebody’s giving their best effort.”

Hendry stressed that he was in draft meetings all day and didn’t hear about Zambrano ripping closer Carlos Marmol or calling the Cubs “a Triple-A team” after a 3-2 loss in 10 innings to the Cardinals. By 9:30 Sunday evening, Hendry had yet to speak with manager Mike Quade about the incident, which he planned to address first thing this morning.

But judging from the tone of Hendry’s voice and the way he has handled similar outbursts by Zambrano and Milton Bradley, I would be surprised if this deed went unpunished. Nothing from Hendry’s track record with discipline suggests it will.

When Zambrano went ballistic against former teammate Derrek Lee in the dugout at U.S. Cellular Field last June, Hendry suspended him and ordered anger-management classes. When Milton Bradley ripped fans and the team environment at the end of the 2009 season, it was his last act as a Cub.

Will it be Zambrano’s? Hendry refused to speculate on the options he will consider until he discussed the matter with Quade after a good night’s sleep.

“I see it as the height of frustration,” Hendry said. “Obviously Marmol has done a tremendous job for a long time. He had a bad week, and unfortunately Zambrano was the victim of that and it cost him a couple victories. (But) Carlos’ is not behavior I would ever condone. You have to be a good teammate in these situations. When times are the toughest, you have to be above that, and he clearly wasn’t today.”

No, Zambrano was the same immature hothead he swore he wouldn’t be again.

I understand why Hendry needs to gather information and sort through issues related to the players association. But if it were me, after severing all ties with whatever therapist signed off on Zambrano’s anger management last July, the Cubs’ next move seems easy. Suspend Zambrano as long as it takes Hendry to find a trade partner willing to take on a contract scheduled to pay the pitcher $18 million in 2012 with a player option in 2013. If it takes all season for a Cubs team already out of contention, so be it.

Zambrano is making Quade look like an enabler. He risks doing more harm off the mound for a young, impressionable team than good on it — and he’s the Cubs’ best pitcher.

Zambrano belittling teammates in a selfish outburst should have emptied whatever was left in Chicago’s well of patience with the overpriced prima donna.

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