Subtraction still a distraction
With the Cubs still fuming about Carlos Zambrano, time is running out on their season
CHICAGO -- President Obama recently worked on some hamburger diplomacy with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, chowing down with the leader at a D.C. burger joint.
Given his relationship with Carlos Zambrano, maybe Ozzie Guillen could break bread (or share tapas) with the erratic ace and his real bosses, Lou Piniella and Jim Hendry, who are ready to go nuclear on Zambrano.
The Wit Hotel Accord, perhaps?
The White Sox won the AIG/New Coke/Acme Brand Explosives Crosstown Chalice, and stretched their amazing win streak to 11 games before the Cubs gritted out an 8-6 win Sunday, but the biggest news of the weekend was the Curious Case of Carlos Zambrano.
The now-suspended man-child chewed out his teammates Friday before chowing down with Ozzie Guillen that evening in a much-maligned dinner.
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Two of Guillen's media-savvy kids posted Twitter updates of the Friday night dinner at the tony Wit Hotel rooftop restaurant with Zambrano and the Guillen family. It was witty (Guillen) and witless (Zambrano), and it made plenty of news.
Cubs assistant GM Randy Bush referred derisively to Zambrano "yukking it up" Saturday, and Hendry and Piniella, neither of whom have spoken to Zambrano since the GM suspended him, expressed disappointment Sunday in the way the pitcher handled the aftermath of the situation he created.
While Zambrano has little trouble leaving it at the field, Piniella wears his losses like he wears his baseball uniform at his age. Which is to say, not well.
"I hadn't seen my daughter since I left for spring training," Piniella said Sunday morning. "That was in mid-February. She got in Friday night from Tampa and I got home into my apartment and my wife and daughter wanted me to go eat dinner with them. I was sick from what happened and I was very tired and I was embarrassed. They both went out and ate by themselves and I stayed home. That's all I've got to say about that situation."
Piniella doesn't miss many good meals downtown, so that shows how hard he is taking this season and how much Zambrano's epic meltdown, which culminated in an immediate suspension, is hurting him and his appetite. A few more weeks of bad baseball, Sweet Lou could be in "Dancing With the Stars" shape.
The Cubs' skipper likely missed another dinner Saturday night as his coaches huddled at the park, trying to figure out how to fix things, and likely engaging in some yukking it up of their own, gallows-style.
"You have to be able laugh just a little bit," Piniella said. "Look, we've got three months to play here. It's not like we have two weeks. It's going to turn into a long summer if we don't turn our fortunes around."
Piniella wasn't laughing after Sunday's game, which almost ended in disaster as Carlos Marmol imploded in a non-save situation. On a humid day, Piniella sweated a little extra as Marmol walked three, gave up two hits and three runs. Marmol struck out Alex Rios with two on to end the game.
"Look, it's in the win column," Piniella said. "Let's go back to Wrigley and have a good series against Pittsburgh and Cincinnati and go from there."
The Lose Two, Win One Cubs are a long way from emulating the White Sox, who are in spitting distance of the American League Central lead after a season-saving, ticket-selling run. But you have to start somewhere, right?
Pittsburgh comes calling with a 9-31 road record, so an actual, honest-to-goodness winning streak isn't an impossibility. But this Cubs win shouldn't come as much of a surprise and doesn't look like a harbinger of things to come.
As rare as a Cubs' road win has been, this one wasn't hard to foresee, even with young Sox ace John Danks on the mound. The Cubs came into the game hitting .281 against left-handers (compared to .256 overall) and are now 14-12 against lefty starters. If the Cubs could face left-handed starters every game and the White Sox were in the National League, this would be Baseball Town, USA.
More likely, we'll see more of the same out of this discombobulated Cubs lineup. Piniella was forced to hit super-rookie Tyler Colvin leadoff again because the traditional top four spots in his lineup are either ill-fitting or underperforming.
Colvin responded with another good game, going 3-for-5 with a three-run homer. He also drove in a run in the eighth, which turned out to be pretty valuable.
"Does it surprise me? No," Piniella said. "He's got good bat speed and the ball jumps off his bat. He's a confident kid. He believes he can get it done. Those are big ingredients for young kids."
While the outcome of Zambrano's suspension will continue to lead non-LeBron sports news in the city this week, let's not forget about Colvin, who is one of the only bright spots on this Cubs team. The North Siders aren't going on some major run until Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee get hot, and that's not a certainty, even with their track record. But Colvin has shown little fear and even with Piniella easing him into regular action, he's putting up numbers that will have him on the ballot for Rookie of the Year.
While the White Sox, who deserve more attention than they're getting this weekend thanks to the Cubs' implosions, are alive and gunning for a return to the postseason, I just can't see this Cubs team putting together an inspired run, and I'm not sure the players feel it, either. The word I'm getting is that the clubhouse isn't divided as much as it's lethargic toward winning. Winning breeds chemistry and there isn't enough of either.
But you never know what's going to happen, baseball is a game of inches and that's why they play the games: All those clichés. What I do know is it'll be an interesting week at Wrigley Field, one way or another.
Jon Greenberg is an ESPNChicago.com columnist.
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