Saturday, August 23, 2008

Zambrano's Lost Tooth And The Triumphant(?) Return Of Carl Pavano

  • Carlos Zambrano loses a tooth while pitching...and keeps right on going; big deal or not?
I haven't spent as much time on the Cubs as I probably should have (some might see such
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a lack of attention as a good thing); they're clearly a serious contender for the World Series and it's all likely to come down to whether Kerry Wood can handle the closing role in the playoffs; right now, that's an iffy proposition and manager Lou Piniella is going to have to make that judgment and switch to Carlos Marmol if necessary; the playoffs (especially the first round of the playoffs where a team can be gone before they realize what happened----like last year for the Cubs) is not a time to be screwing around if a first-year closer can't do the job. Other than that, they're well-built for a long playoff run because they get good starting pitching, they hit and hit for power and they catch the ball. It's no coincidence how Piniella's teams have always played the game correctly.
Speaking of their starting pitching, strange things are always happening to their ace,
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Carlos Zambrano. Zambrano sometimes appears to get so excited out on the mound that he bears a resemblance to a volcano about to erupt----not in anger, but in enthusiasm. He's hyperventilated on the mound because he gets so pumped up; has had problems with his forearm from spending too much time on the internet; punched walls in anger; and now, on Thursday, he lost a tooth while warming up. Zambrano claims it's from all the sugar in the gum he's always chewing, but he might have just been grinding too hard as he exerts himself, weakened the tooth until it eventually broke like the chipping away at a block of clay. It must've hurt, but aren't the armchair athletes making a bigger deal out of this than necessary?
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Hockey players, who abuse their bodies far more than the average baseball player----and far more than even the most active pitcher----get their teeth knocked out on a regular basis in a much more brutal way; I don't see or hear them being discussed as inordinately tough partially because if they can't stoically take the pain of being in the NHL, they're not going to be in the NHL for very long. Football players get their teeth knocked out as well and no one notices. In all fairness to Zambrano, this to me isn't that big of a deal.
  • Previewing tonight's start for Carl Pavano, 502 days in the making:
After all the head shakes, jokes and ridicule; with his desire to pitch rightfully questioned and the allegations that he'd rather go to the beach and meet girls than earn his lofty salary;
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and the disbelieving tone of his former manager Joe Torre who, while managing the Dodgers in Philadelphia, quizzically asked visiting New York reporters, “Is Pavano really going to pitch tomorrow?” without even trying to hide his disbelief; there's still time for Pavano to contribute something to the Yankees. He'll never be able to make up for the time missed and implications of disinterest, but he can help his team over the final month.
If I were manager Joe Girardi, one thing I would tell Pavano repeatedly is that he can't try to make up for everything that's happened over the past four years; that he has to stay within a gameplan and instead of trying to make amends all at once, he needs to execute his pitches and help his team by doing the best he can and not strike out every hitter as if he were an in-his-prime Randy Johnson. Publicly, the Yankees are
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saying all the right things about Pavano; that they expect him to compete and that he's on about a 100 pitch count; privately, I'm sure they'll be happy if he gives them five innings and allows three runs, and exits the game able to make his next start without some other catastrophe happening to him. (After that picture to the left was taken, did he end up Touching 'Em All? I wonder.)
If I had to make a bet, I'd say that Pavano is going to get shelled; he's in a hitter's ballpark against a team that can hit and he's bound to be nervous and rusty. That being said, he's still a better option than the likes of Ian Kennedy (which is a sad statement in and of itself after all the pre-season hype the rookie pitcher received), and the Yankees have a right to try and get something out of that sunk cost before Pavano is shown the door. Whether they will get anything from Pavano is the question.

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