NLDS 2017: Cubs 3 – Nationals 2


(It is very hard to restart things when I break the habit.) (more…)

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Game 9 (NLCS 4): Mets 8 – Cubs 3



This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

Borrowing that lines seems like a cliche, but if it’s really meant to be a reference to Guy Fawkes’s being caught, tortured and executed, then I can’t think of anything more accurate. The Mets didn’t beat the Cubs, they cut of their head. This was a four game sweep where not a single game felt close at the end, where it barely felt competitive most of the way. People are going to point the finger at specific individuals – that’s probably Jason Hammel’s last appearance in a Cubs uniform – but they weren’t one player away. The Mets had better hitting, better baserunning, better pitching, and better fielding. The Cubs didn’t get many breaks, hit the ball very hard right at people, but were the own biggest obstacle. This was not close.

So what now? The last three months felt like maybe the Cubs could sneak out a surprise win and just needed to add a piece or two to be favorites. Now, the distance between them and a 2016 championship seems bigger than it was even when the season started. Does the front office react more to the last week, or the season which came before?

This was probably the last time Starlin Castro is a Cub. Something is going to give with him and Baez this offseason, and they may need a new second baseman when it’s all done. Fowler is going to get a lot of money somewhere else (and that’s the right move), but Austin Jackson as every day CF doesn’t seem like a great idea. David Price or some other starter is probably coming in – all the moves shouldn’t be budget reducing (and they should have room to expand over this year.)

Maybe the best move is having 4 months off to forget about the last 4 games.

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Game 6 (NLCS 1): Mets 4 – Cubs 2



This game never felt like it was really in doubt, even though the score indicated otherwise. Harvey was dominant and the Cubs couldn’t do much with him. His line (7.2 IP, 2 R, 4 H, 2 BB, 9 K) is not indicative of how he looked and hurt by the Mets unwillingness to use any one out of the bullpen besides their closer. (That was a bit of a culture shock having been watching team that’ll use anyone at any time.) It was dependent on Lester matching zero against zeros, he could not, and that was that.

There’s nothing much you can do when a starter is pitching that well. The disappointing thing is how quickly the Cubs went down against Familia. Bringing him in for four outs in the first game suggests he’s going to pitch a lot in the series and any pitch they got him to throw last night might mean a worse one later on. Bryant forced him to throw eight pitches, but he got thru next five batters throwing only thirteen more pitches. Twenty one is not a long night for a closer, not something that’s going to prevent him from coming back out a day later.

The talk after the game is about the two outs at the plate, and really mostly the Castro send. I didn’t like it at first – Castro is not fast, Cesepedes is really good – but felt more ok when I realized Ross and Lester were next. And that’s the problem with Ross as Lester’s personal catcher in postseason, you’re stuck with hard gambles and worse at bats to make someone feel more comfortable. When more comfort still leaves the the team 4 runs after 6.2 IP, that doesn’t seem like a great tradeoff. I presume Ross will be back out there in Game 5 and it’ll still not be a good deal for two plate appearances.

Tonight is Arrieta and it feels like a near must win. 2-0 holes are escapable, but the Mets getting wins over the Cubs two best starters (with Hendricks and Hammel on deck) is a big one to climb out. If the Cubs do win, they’ve split in New York and everyone’s feeling much better about the chances.

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Game 5 (NLDS 4): Cubs 6 – Cardinals 4



Just a bit late. I stopped doing back in the day because

  • the team was too boring to write about daily
  • other things were more interesting to write about daily
  • other people were mote interesting to write about the Cubs daily

These Cubs are very interesting, but the other two remain an issue. But, I started doing these things and I’m going to try and finish.

The Schwarber home run was fairly great. It’s seems impossible TV didn’t have an angle of where it landed. It’s kind of cute that it’s top of the scoreboard, but it’s also going to look very silly if they don’t finish this out. It was very much filling a need for something to talk about for a few days. Everyone was so excited about the Cubs advancing, on their home field even!, and then they had no next opponent to talk about for days. Obsessing about that ball filled one of them.

The thing they should’ve been talking about – and maybe just wore out in the hours after that game – was that bottom of the 2nd. The whole series turned on Lackey throwing Hammel a hittable pitch, and by throwing Javier Baez anything in the strike zone. Baez has looked better since coming back up in September and looked good in this series – he may be having his own Soler moment – but he still seems like a guy who will get himself out. Lackey broke in the moment, and that was huge. The Cardinals tied it back up over Cahill (the only bad night from some improbably good reliever) but that was most of the Cubs offense over two at bats.

I think there’s some talk about the Cardinals fading next year, and maybe they won’t win 100. They looked like an aging team in times during this series, but they’re still in good shape if Molina is fine next spring and Wainwright can taking his place back in the rotation. (He was pretty great out of the pen.) The order might change, but it’s going to be a three way dogfight between the same teams in the Central again in 2016.

It’s amazing how a few games can change perceptions of the team, if those games come in the playoffs. The talk coming into the Wild Card game was about the domination pitching of Arrieta & Lester. The talk the last few days has been the Mets pitching against the Cubs hitting, with the possible Cy Young winner being an afterthought. Arrieta did not look himself in his last start and I liked the idea of bumping him to Game 2 to give him an extra day of rest, but one bad start doesn’t counterbalance thirteen good ones. If he’s back to normal and the Cubs hit the Mets like they hit against the Cardinals, no one’s beating them. (The trouble is no one hits that well for long.)

What else? Berry got added to the roster! I’ve gotten a lot of well deserved taunting texts after insisting Soler was going to get benched for Berry last round, so I’m crossing my fingers he actually has a moment this round. I was a little surprised they didn’t add Herrera this round, because they’re shallow in the middle infield. Baez starts at SS, Castro can will move over there in a emergency, La Stella can cover second, and that’s just about it. Maybe Coghlan plays an inning or two at 2B again. Maybe Bryant gets eligibility at another position. Herrera can’t hit at all, but he could’ve allowed more movement. Berry can’t hit either. He can play outfield, but so can half this team. Maybe this is a trade off for more catcher swapping? They’re starting Ross tonight, that’d be the time.

I feel weirdly confident and not all nervous about this. There’s nothing to feel angst about, this is found money on top of found money. I’m not too worried even when they’re tied or down late, like I was the last few times. I don’t know what that means.

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Game 4 (NLDS 3): Cubs 8 – Cardinals 6


A little out of order!


All season, the Cubs had problems leaving runners in scoring position. It works easier when you just make home plate scoring position! The big picture strategy for draft (/signing Latin players at a much younger age than would be allowed if they were American) is power hitters, power hitters, and more power hitters. People projected Jon Gray to the Cubs for balance in 2013, and any number of people in 2014, but the Cubs went after hitters. Hitting seems a bit more predictable, a little less injury prone, and a little quicker to advance in the system. (Maybe no one thought it’d be THIS quick.) Power’s costs a premium to acquire, but it looks pretty great when it’s all together. There’s a lot of luck in it working out, and working out all one day, but this an incredible lineup if they can live up to their Baseball America rankings.

Arrieta didn’t look great. He got 9 Ks and his line doesn’t look horrible days later, but he was missing the sharpness he had before. There’s fair concern about his inning count increase from last year. It’d be a surprise if it all came at once and everyone is entitled to one bad day. Rondon struggled, which would be concerning if he wasn’t better the next time out. He’s been much more up and down. The one really good sign was Strop shutting down his nemesis. Just glad he didn’t have to go back to St. Louis to do it.

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Game 3: Cubs 6 – Cardinals 3


2015-10-10 18.40.48

I made the trip. I do a lot of planning of trips I never make and thought a lot about ways to get to Pittsburgh, didn’t find a way to make it work. St. Louis just lined up perfectly – mid afternoon game, so I could easily leave in the morning and get back almost the same day. I had nothing to do Sunday so I could just crash (and I mostly did, which is why you’re reading this Monday.) It was cheaper to buy a ticket and pay for gas for 500 miles than to go to Wrigley, all it took was doing a monotonous task for a long period of time. That’s my skill set!

Busch Stadium III is a nice play to see a baseball game. I really liked how the skyline sat beyond the stadium, looking nice and making it feel part of the city. The views of the field were great from the 200 level I was on. The concourses were spacious and had plenty of places to hang out away from your seats before the game. There’s far too many fan prompts to cheer – not quite as bad as the Chicago Bulls but not far off – and it was rare the fans actually started doing things on their own. The stadium was about 10-15% Cubs fans, who did try starting their own chants at times. The first time they tried, the stadium operations clue immediately disrupted them with music. It was kind of hilarious. Everyone was friendly and there was no real tension between fans, but a lot of high fiving of similarly dressed strangers after the game. Someday there will be a Cubs/Brewers game in Milwaukee and that’ll be a bit amazing. I’d definitely go back to this stadium another time.

This was a great game, one that didn’t feel completely safe even up five runs. Travis Wood and Trevor Cahill were dominant, but it felt like they had to be. The Cubs could do very little outside that one really big inning, and the Cardinals chipped away at the lead and threatened until the end. No Cubs game against the Cardinals ever feels comfortable and being a postseason game (down 1-0!) just ratcheted it up. They played it like a postseason game too – the two relievers were up and ready to come in earlier, and I’d guess Maddon wished he did make the move a few batters earlier even though Hendricks was just striking out everyone.

Jorge Soler finally was the Jorge Soler everyone was projected coming out of spring training. The home run was massive, putting an exclamation point on an half inning where the Cubs did everything right and the Cardinals seemed to do everything wrong. It was the later plate appearances which impressed me more, where Soler laid off some very close pitches to draw a couple of walks. He had that command of the strike zone last season, but lost it and was just getting beat by pitches low and away for months. It’d be easy to go right back to that after a lot of time on the bench, and it’s a big advantage for the Cubs if he can find that old form.

Everyone leaving the stadium was doing the series math: the Cubs stealing this game means it’s 1-1 going into an Arrieta start, which feels almost like 2-1 already. That’d give the Cubs two chances to win one game. They just had two chances and won one game. This could be a pivotal win.

Tsuyoshi Wada getting cut from the team was the only real news story of the off day. I thought it was very strange, but none of the beat writers had anything to say about except what was in the press release. Wada was a disappointment and wasn’t going to be brought back, but those kind of guys are usually dumped all at once after the World Series. There’s no advantage into putting Taylor Teagarden on the 40 man – he’s also a guy who’ll be cut right after the season. I think he’d have to be on the 40 man to be added to the postseason roster, but there’s no sign any of the catchers are hurt and need a replacement. There’s seems to be some story with Wada that isn’t being told – he was only used once when he was called up again, not even used on the days where the Cubs were unloading the entire bullpen – but who knows if has to do with the move. Teagarden got dropped off the roster for a short time because of lack of space, maybe getting him back on the 40 man now gets him an extra payday for being a good organizational solider? It probably doesn’t matter, but it’s strange.

Monday’s 5pm start is a bizarre time for a Cubs home game. Shadows! Arrieta really didn’t need the help, but thanks national TV.

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Game 2: Cardinals 4, Cubs 0


Almost forgot to do this already. The last few hours have been slightly crazy. I’ve also gone crazy; I think about making a lot of trips I never actually make, but I’ve talked myself into driving to St. Luis for (proper) Game 2 of this series. I got no one to ride with, I got a 4.5 hour drive, I got an eTicket from a company I didn’t know existed a half hour ago, and I got plenty of things to occupy my time if I opted to stay home. But, you got to take your chances – and I don’t take enough of ’em – because you don’t really know when you’re going to have another. I’m not getting into Wrigley unless my name comes up in a lottery. New York and Los Angeles seem a fair big longer drives. There may be other years, but there might not. For them or for me.

The Cubs couldn’t take their chances tonight because there weren’t really many of them. I was shocked when the Cardinals took Lackey out of the game, because he was over matching the Cubs and seemed to show no sign of weakness. It’s a one run game and it’s understandable to be cautious, but he was pitching better than Arrieta on Wednesday. This, in a lot of ways, was like being the Pirates on Wednesday – the score was close but the Cubs never felt particularly close to being in it, you had to keep reminding yourself that one hit could tie it up. That hit wasn’t really coming. They made it fun in the ninth, but they never got a run across.

Saturday’s game strangely doesn’t seem like must win. It’d be really great to win, but they have Arrieta on Monday and that seems so certain to get it to 2-1. Lester losing means one of the Other Guys is going to have to win a start, but it’s more about hitters on the team doing a little better. It was only the two guys who hit Cole, and it was not even two guys who hit Lackey on Friday. Hendricks should be okay. I’m more concerned about the bats. Garcia’s not going to be easy.

They did dump Berry, which I was wrong about. They’re going with the conservative route on the rotation, which I was wrong about. Hope I’m not wrong about this trip.

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Game 1: Cubs 4 – Pirates 0


Why not?

There was a spirited debate today in my text messages after the lineup came out. Tommy LaStella, a guy most people forgot was ever on the team by July, was not the most straightforward choice for batting fifth. My biggest concern was putting Kyle Schwarber in the outfield in a critical game. Kris Bryant is a passable outfielder, maybe even average. If the Cubs decided to go with Bryant as a frequent centerfielder next year (2), it wouldn’t be optimal but they’d get by fine most of the time. Schwarber appears to be the second coming of Matt Stairs, and especially Matt Stairs in the outfield. It’s sometimes an adventure. He – and the Cubs! – have mostly gotten away with it, but there’s been plays a normal outfielder would’ve made and plays were thing nearly could’ve gone very wrong. Given the way he was slumping for the last month, it didn’t seem like it was worth the risk to put him out there.

And then…


Kyle contributed one very long single earlier and that’s was all they needed. I think he had about zero meaningful plays in right field too. Maybe Fowler does it himself anyway, maybe it’s really good scouting of what tendencies match up with which players, or maybe the roulette ball just keep landing on the right number time after time. The team seems good – “We Are Good” even – but it also feels like the 2015 Cubs are living a charmed existence. It doesn’t have to go that way – the Rodriguez misplay followed by the complete ineffectiveness of Alvarez showed how badly it can go the other way – but this is the year where everything seems to go right. You don’t get many of those.

Jake Arrieta went 9 innings, gave up zero runs, struck out twelve, allowed four hits and hit a couple of people, and it completely looked like his shakiest start in a while. Bar is high, he’s been incredibly dominant, but he was wild early (maybe overwhelmed by the moment) and lost it again in the middle innings before settling down. He locked back in fair the last few innings, after the scrum, but the Pirates had their chances. They just hit the ball very hard where people happened to be positioned. Four zero doesn’t say how close this felt like going the other way, but the Pirates just can’t break thru. That’s their story.

The Pirates prepared the Cubs for their next opponent well. The HBP to Arrieta was some true Cardinals Way junk. I didn’t like the TBS announcers that much and maybe that’s just local team bias, but their lack of familiarity with these two teams hurt the broadcast during that not-fight. Pirates were definitely angry about getting hit, but it’s also probably was a little bit about the second baseman who was in a wheelchair during introductions. This isn’t the end of it for these two teams, this is coming back as a remix in 2016.

It took me about 15 seconds to start trying to map out the rotation for the next series, and only that long because I fought hard to resist thinking about it from about the seventh inning on.  The design of these wildcard games it to make it tough for the Wild Card winner to throw their ace again in the next series. Tough, but not impossible.

                   Plan A    Plan B
Game 1 Friday      Lester    Lester
Game 2 Saturday    Hendricks Arrieta*
OFF    Sunday
Game 3 Monday      Arrieta   Hendricks
Game 4 Tuesday     Hammel?   Lester*
Game 5 Thursday    Lester    Arrieta

Traditional planning would have A. My preference is to go for Plan B; get Lester and Arrieta as many times as possible even if not on full rest. People with more sense than I pointed out maybe you don’t decide at all until you must. (4) If the Cubs win, hold back Arrieta onto normal rest to be either the close out guy or the guy who puts them back ahead in Game 3. If the Cubs lose game 1, play Arrieta right away because you then you know to find a way to get two wins from him and one win from anyone else, and you can’t afford to go with a Hammer or Haren or Bullpen Day in game 4. Playing aggressive has gotten the Cubs this far, so I’m thinking Arrieta’s going to be pushed hard.

That and figuring out the end of the roster are the talk of the next few days. The Cubs will add at least one more starting pitcher and maybe one more reliever. As strange as it would’ve seemed at the start of the season, I wonder if Jorge Soler is off the 25 man now. He only serves a purposes as right handed pinch hitter but they don’t seem to be using him much as that. I’d be sure LaStella would be the other guy to be dropped if he didn’t play this game and he’s the guy I’d cut. People will look at Ross’ numbers and think it’ll be him, but he’s Lester guy and he allows more double switching and positional movements; he’s as safe as they get. Berry’s another one that’s going to look weird to people who haven’t been closely following the team, but the only reason he’s getting paid is to steal a critical base in the postseason and he’s got to be active for that. Maybe Denorfia? The problem with having such a deep team is there are some hard cuts, but having a deep has at least put them in the position to make some cuts.

11 to go. Why not?

(1) And that out of the box thinking didn’t seem to amount to much; 0-2 for him, 0-2 for Austin Jackson in his spot.)

(2) Dexter Fowler is going to get paid so much for so many years and good for him

(3) I’m fairly sure I couldn’t do that last time I wrote one of these.

(4) uncertain why I need the thing I tend to do most explained to me; I was too happy in the moment?

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on Soriano, redux


the thing about being on the internet for three or four lifetimes is I can occasionally go back seven years and see what I said about silly things

I don’t think we’ll know for sure till the deal is done or he’s gone (given the A-Rod and Manny drama, it seems likely they’ll at least try moving him sometime in the ’10s),

YEP. I was beginning to think Soriano would be the guy who just never gives up his no-trade clause. I don’t he wanted to at the end, and I think it was underreported how Theo & Jed pretty much told him he’d be benched if he stayed any longer. That probably wouldn’t have gone over too well – manager is okay with developing but wants to win to show progress – so it’s best it didn’t happen no matter how much money it took.

The deal [is] a high percentage of the payroll and he probably won’t produce at a level where it’s an even bargain…but if he contributes towards a World Series win (or, gasp, multiple ones!), then everyone will be fine with whatever he’s getting paid. At least for a year, anyway.

multiple world series. NOPE.

The FanGraphs number WAR calculation was highly quoted as proof Soriano was actually worth his contract after all. Some of that is fair, some of that are contract prices going way up…and some of that is goofy UZR ratings giving Soriano much more credit for defense in his first five seasons with the Cubs than he should’ve gotten. You can only tell the story about Soriano getting much better the last two years if you acknowledge how bad he was to previously, and those Fangraph value numbers have Soriano as a better defender than hitter in his first two seasons. That’s not what I remember seeing.

Soriano had the misfortune to have his big dropoff season the same time the team did. He was hurting the team, but he wasn’t the only one and it took him until the last couple years to shed that. It was still an overly optimistic deal, made hoping they could pay a good player into being a great player, like a lot of Cubs free agency signings at that time.

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end of the alphabet


the Cubs agreed to assume $15 million of his $18 million contract in a trade that should be announced soon.

The Marlins will send 6-foot-8 right-handed pitcher Chris Volstad in return, according to multiple sources


Year Age Tm Lg W L W-L% ERA G CG SHO SV IP ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB Awards
1998 17 CHC-min Rk 0 1 .000 3.15 14 0 0 1 40.0 1.600 8.8 0.0 5.6 8.1 1.44 CBZ · ARIZ
1999 18 CHC-min A 13 7 .650 4.17 27 2 1 0 153.1 1.383 8.8 0.5 3.6 5.8 1.58 LNS · MIDW
2000 19 CHC-min AA,AAA 5 6 .455 2.62 43 0 0 6 117.0 1.316 7.2 0.4 4.7 6.8 1.46 WTN,IWA · SOUL,PCL
2001 20 CHC-min AAA 10 5 .667 3.88 26 1 0 0 150.2 1.274 7.4 0.5 4.1 9.3 2.28 IWA · PCL
2001 20 CHC NL 1 2 .333 15.26 6 0 0 0 7.2 28 2.478 12.9 2.3 9.4 4.7 0.50
2002 21 CHC-min AAA 0 0 0.00 3 0 0 0 9.0 0.889 2.0 0.0 6.0 11.0 1.83 IWA · PCL
2002 21 CHC NL 4 8 .333 3.66 32 0 0 0 108.1 111 1.449 7.8 0.7 5.2 7.7 1.48
2003 22 CHC NL 13 11 .542 3.11 32 3 1 0 214.0 139 1.318 7.9 0.4 4.0 7.1 1.79
2004 23 CHC NL 16 8 .667 2.75 31 1 1 0 209.2 160 1.216 7.5 0.6 3.5 8.1 2.32 AS,CYA-5,MVP-28
2005 24 CHC NL 14 6 .700 3.26 33 2 0 0 223.1 135 1.146 6.9 0.8 3.5 8.1 2.35
2006 25 CHC NL 16 7 .696 3.41 33 0 0 0 214.0 136 1.294 6.8 0.8 4.8 8.8 1.83 AS,CYA-5,SS
2007 26 CHC NL 18 13 .581 3.95 34 1 0 0 216.1 117 1.331 7.8 1.0 4.2 7.4 1.75 CYA-5
2008 27 CHC NL 14 6 .700 3.91 30 1 1 0 188.2 118 1.293 8.2 0.9 3.4 6.2 1.81 AS,SS
2009 28 CHC-min A,A+ 0 1 .000 4.15 2 0 0 0 8.2 1.385 9.3 0.0 3.1 6.2 2.00 PEO,DYT · MIDW,FLOR
2009 28 CHC NL 9 7 .563 3.77 28 1 1 0 169.1 118 1.376 8.2 0.5 4.1 8.1 1.95 SS
2010 29 CHC-min AAA,Rk 0 0 5.40 4 0 0 0 5.0 1.400 10.8 0.0 1.8 9.0 5.00 IWA,CBZ · PCL,ARIZ
2010 29 CHC NL 11 6 .647 3.33 36 0 0 0 129.2 127 1.450 8.3 0.5 4.8 8.1 1.70
2011 30 CHC-min A 0 0 0.00 1 0 0 0 4.0 1.500 6.8 0.0 6.8 9.0 1.33 PEO · MIDW
2011 30 CHC NL 9 7 .563 4.82 24 0 0 0 145.2 81 1.442 9.5 1.2 3.5 6.2 1.80
11 Seasons 125 81 .607 3.60 319 9 4 0 1826.2 122 1.319 7.8 0.7 4.1 7.6 1.87
162 Game Avg. 14 9 .607 3.60 36 1 0 0 207 122 1.319 7.8 0.7 4.1 7.6 1.87
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 1/5/2012.

This is a smart baseball move. Volstad is worth the gamble; the Cubs are going to be making a lot of those types of gambles to see who is worth keeping around when (if!) the next wave of competitive rolls thru, and it seems a decent use of otherwise useless innings. Either Zambrano will pitch well in 2012 and be out of the Cubs price range, or he’ll pitch bad and not worth signing. It’s also a great offering to the Cubs base, who have bought in to the idea of a ‘necessary culture change’ to the point the right amount of subtractions is worth more than any additions.

It also breaks my heart. We’re now five seasons away from when Z was really Z. He had the biggest win total in 2007, but the hits per 9 jumped that year and have never gone down again. He’s not been the guy you’d go out of your way to see every time he starts since, but he still usually put together one really strong stretch every year, usually right before or after a blow up. He still is out there trying (except for those meltdowns), it’s his arm started going out on way too early. Prior and Wood will be remembered as the arms the Cubs (possibly) mangled via overuse at a young age, but Zambrano was throwing 200 IP at 22 and 23 and 24 with them, and maybe it just took a little bit longer for it to catch up to him. Prior’s pitied for his his failed career, Wood is respected for battling thru his arm problems, but people seem to just blame Carlos for the same problems. Mostly because he’s made himself such an easy target.

It’s sad it ended like this. It’s depressing that it’s the second franchise guy who’s left on such terrible terms in a decade. Maybe Carlos will be welcomed back to the family before Sammy – Carlos is always willing to admit his mistakes (just not stop making them) and perhaps he’ll be a calmly guy when he’s no longer competing – but it’ll be years down the line. Zambrano acted like a jerk, but I’d wish he’d also be remembered for being the best player on the team and easily the most entertaining for the last decade.

I understand why he had to go, but I wish people remember why we were happy to have him here.