The Carlos Zambrano Meltdown

August 16, 2011

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Once again, Carlos Zambrano is persona non grata in the Cubs clubhouse.  He was suspended for 30 days without pay following his most recent blowup.  After giving up five home runs against the Atlanta Braves, he began using Atlanta icon Chipper Jones as target practice before getting ejected from the game.  Mind you, Jones wasn’t even one of the guys who hit a homer.

Cubs GM Jim Hendry took the somewhat unusual step of apologizing to Jones (via Braves GM Frank Wren) for the incident.

This isn’t the first blowup for Zambrano.  He has a long history of failing to control his temper.  The problem with baseball’s guaranteed contracts is that it’s very difficult for a team to part ways with a problem player.  If the Cubs were to release Zambrano, they’d still be on the hook for his contract of $18 million+ next year.

Zambrano’s statistics put him in the “potential hall of famer” category.  If he pitches until he is 40, he could surpass 250 career wins and even make a run at 300.  However, he needs to stay focused and remain on the field for this to happen.  I sincerely hope Zambrano can put his anger issues behind him.  He’s making $18 million per year – hire a personal psychiatrist to travel with him during the season.

Sad day for the Huskers

Last night was the deadline to sign baseball draftees.  The future of Nebraska football took a hit when multi-sport star Bubba Starling signed with the Kansas City Royals, dashing the dreams of Husker fans who envisioned him behind center for the Nebraska football team.  Starling, the 5th overall pick in the draft, used his status as a football player as leverage in negotiations and was able to secure a $7.5 million signing bonus.  I have suggested the nickname of “Clarice” for the newest member of the Royal family.

The Pirates signed top overall pick Gerrit Cole to an $8 million bonus.  Interestingly, Cole was drafted in the first round by the Yankees in 2008, but failed to come to terms with the team and elected to go to college instead.  Imagine that – the Yankees losing a player to the Pirates because they wouldn’t pay the money.

Thome Hits #600

Jim Thome of the Twins reached the 600 home run plateau last night.  There wasn’t much publicity leading up to the event, other than a handful of articles pointing out that there wasn’t much publicity leading up to the event.  Thome is generally regarded as one on the nicest guys in baseball, and this might be working against him.  You never read news stories about him criticizing teammates or getting into a fight at a strip club.  He just goes to work and does his job every day.  Congratulations to the most low-key future Hall of Famer you’re likely to encounter.

49ers Add Seasoning With ‘Pepper?

The 49ers worked out quarterback Duante Culpepper on Monday, with an eye toward possibly adding him to the roster.  I was a fan of Culpepper when he was leading the high octane Vikings offense, and I still like the guy.  I think it would be smart for the 49ers to add Culpepper to their group of quarterbacks.  It’s a low risk, high reward situations.  Hoping for a triumphant return for Duante!

Will Bubba Starling Pick Baseball Or Football?

June 10, 2011

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Bubba Starling recently graduated from high school and has committed to play quarterback for the Nebraska Cornhuskers.  Starling is also one of the top baseball prospects and was selected 5th overall in this year’s baseball draft.  The kicker?  He was picked by his hometown Kansas City Royals.

Starling has a decision looming.  He can choose to sign with the Royals and spurn the Huskers.  He can spurn the Royals and stay with the Huskers. 

Or he can do both.  The NCAA allows an athlete to participate as a professional in one sport while retaining amateur status in a different sport.  The football/baseball combination is by far the most common due to relatively small season overlaps.  While it’s not exactly common, it’s also not particularly rare.  For example, Clemson starting quarterback Kyle Parker was a first round pick of the Rockies in 2010 and continues to play both sports.

However, either the Huskers or the Royals could give Starling an ultimatum and force him to pick one sport or the other.  The football injury to Bo Jackson may be fresh in the minds of many in the Royals organization, so they may not be eager to see Starling lining up at quarterback.  The Huskers, too, would prefer to have Starling focus on just one sport – but as an outfielder, his injury risk is relatively low.  (Conversely, if he were a pitcher, he’d be more prone to arm injuries, which would hinder his ability to player quarterback).

Of course, the one thing that the Royals can offer that the Huskers can’t is money.  (Hey, this isn’t Ohio State!).  How much?  I wouldn’t be surprised to see an offer in excess of $5 million, considering the leverage that Starling has as a two sport athlete.

My advice?  Take the money.  If you can balance both sports, great.  But there is no guarantee that Starling will ever make a dime from football.  There are a lot of highly touted high school quarterbacks who never make it to the NFL.  If Starling choose to forgo college at this point, he can negotiate inclusion in Major League Baseball’s College Scholarship Program and pursue his degree at a later date.

If Starling doesn’t sign with the Royals, he wouldn’t be eligible for the draft again until 2014, unless he transfers to a junior college (JUCO players are eligible after their freshman and sophomore seasons).

The Royals wouldn’t be left completely high and dry if Starling doesn’t sign.  They would receive a compensatory pick in 2012 immediately following the pick of the team with the 5th worst record.  This most likely would be pick #6, but could be lower (if players picked in the top 4 spots don’t sign with their teams and thus yield compensatory picks for those teams).

In other draft news … teams really seemed to be shying away from injured players.  TCU pitcher Matt Purke was picked #14 overall out of high school in 2009.  He actually agreed to a $6 million bonus with the Rangers, but Major League Baseball had veto power because of the Rangers’ troubled finances, and they nixed the deal.  Purke eventually opted to go to college.  He was 16-0 as a freshman for the Horned Frogs.  This year, he has been fighting bursitis in his shoulder.  He was a draft-eligible sophomore (due to the fact that he was 21 before the draft) and slipped all the way to #96, where he was snapped up by the Nationals.

I understand the concern about the injury, but this is clearly a guy with elite talent.  Sure, he might not make it to the majors because of injuries, but it’s quite likely a lot of the guys ahead of him won’t make it simply because their talent level isn’t high enough.  Why are teams willing to take a gamble on a guy with a lower talent ceiling and no injury history than guys with higher ceilings but some injury history?  To compound the situation, a lot of the “healthy” guys will encounter career-ending injuries.

And, off the diamond, former Major Leaguer Lenny Dykstra is in the news again.  This time for his arrest on grand theft auto and a variety of drug charges.  Dykstra was always a guy who colored outside the lines, but his life has been in a tail spin for several years.