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Carlos Zambrano calls the Cubs “embarrassing”

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Yesterday I flipped from the Reds-Dodgers game to the Cubs-Cardinals game. The kids were watching with me, and as they do every time a game is on, they constantly asked me questions about who so-and-so is, and is this guy good and all of that. Carlos Zambrano was on the mound and they asked me about him.

“Is he good?” my daughter asked.

“Um, yeah, sure, he’s good” I said.

“Is he cool?” my son asked.

“Well, I don’t know if ‘cool’ is the right word,” I told him.

All of this led to me explaining to them — as my wife listened in from the other room wondering why I engage in these conversations with the kids — about how Zambrano more or less flips out once a year and beats up coolers and fights with his teammates and stuff.  I think I started it with the idea of teaching the kids a lesson about composure and good sportsmanship, but it really just made them think that Zambrano was awesome.  I pretty much fail as a father.

Anyway, the conversation ended with the kids asking me to keep the game on because they wanted to see “the Carlos guy” go crazy on some Gatorade coolers or yell at someone.  I told them that it wasn’t going to happen because Zambrano has been better behaved this year and maybe he was trying harder to be a better teammate and all of that.  Maybe he is. Maybe he isn’t. I feel like I need to share with the kids, however, the fact that Zambrano threw his teammates under the bus after the game:

Albert Pujols won Sunday’s game in the 10th inning with another walk-off homer. This time it was a Rodrigo Lopezfastball traveling 426 feet into the left-center field seats. But Zambrano felt burned by Carlos Marmol. The closer blew the save in the ninth when Ryan Theriot lined a two-out double down the left-field line, scoring the game-tying run from first.

“The problem wasn’t Pujols,” Zambrano said. “We played like a Triple-A team. This is embarrassing. Embarrassing for the team, for the owners. Embarrassing for the fans. Embarrassing. That’s the word here for this team.

He specifically called out Marmol’s decision to throw Theriot a hanging breaking ball instead of a fastball, allowing him to tie things up.

Yes, this would have been a useful lesson for the kids. Maybe a dual lesson: (1) Sometimes it’s better to be seen rather than heard; but (2) Even if you can’t follow rule number 1, at least always tell the truth.

So, hey, at least Zambrano was half in the good yesterday. Because even if his motives were bratty and selfish (question: would he have called Marmol out if it was a Ryan Demptser start that got blown?) he’s not wrong.

The Blue Jays will talk long term deals with Jose Bautistia and Edwin Encarnacion

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Ever since Alex Anthopoulos resigned as Blue Jays’ GM and Mark Shapiro took over as team president, a distinct air of frugality has set in over Rogers Centre. The go-for-broke attitude that fueled Toronto’s fantastic second half last year was repudiated and long-term, sustainable building has seemed to be the order of the day.

But the Jays aren’t going to go crazy with that: ESPN’s Jayson Stark reports that the Blue Jays plan to have long-term extension talks with the agents of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion during spring training. This, combined with the still-remaining possibility that they can avoid arbitration with MVP Josh Donaldson and hammer out a long-term deal could mean some serious spending by the Jays before Opening Day.

Or this could just be talk from the front office designed to buoy the spirits of fans. Locking up all three of them to long-term deals may be hella expensive and may not be possible. It’s also the case that, given their ages — Bautista is 35 and Encarnacion is 33 — it may not be advisable to lock the both up. As always, it depends on the terms and how generous Rogers Communications plans on being with the Jays’ budget.

But the chatter is now out there and expectations are poised to be set.

The Rays are REALLY ready to get to work on that new ballpark

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Last month St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay Rays reached an agreement that would allow the Rays to seek a new ballpark outside of the St. Pete city limits, anywhere in the Bay Area. Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports today that the Rays have submitted a required report to that end which “describes how they plan to evaluate potential ballpark sites across the Tampa Bay area” and serves as a rough outline of the sort of facility they’re looking to build.

They submitted it 39 days before deadline. Ya think they’re eager to get moving?

As for the specifics, it sounds like they’re shooting for a Braves or Cardinals style destination place with surrounding entertainment, retail and the like. The Braves are achieving that by basically building the park at a mall and plan to surround it with other mall/entertainment district-type development. The Cardinals built a downtown park, but have developed Ballpark Village after the fact. This is to be contrasted with downtown parks which either counted on existing city businesses or spurred separate development.

All of which makes sense given that there isn’t one dominant location in Tampa which all but demands development there. Tampa has a few different areas that might make sense and the place is generally more spread out than older cities. It also makes sense for the Rays’ owners who are likely well aware that being in the real estate business is just as good for them as being in the baseball business.

Will anyone EVER break that record that was broken nine years ago?

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In 2007, Barry Bonds hit his 756th home run. He would go on to hit six more, finishing his career with 762. That was nine years ago and, at present, the active home run leader is nearly 80 homers behind him and no sure bet to come close. The next closest guy is over 200 homers back and clearly entering a period of decline.

All of which raises the question: will anyone EVER pass the home run total of Hank Aaron, who is in second place on that list?

Maybe you think that’s not really a pertinent question. We tend not to ask whether people who do not, by any objective measure, hold a record will have their records surpassed. But you’d be wrong. Why, just today, on Hank Aaron’s 82nd birthday, at least two journalists speculated whether anyone would ever become the all-time second place home run king:

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That’s from Cliff Corcoran at Sports Illustrated. As always, it’s excellent work from Cliff. Right up there with his seminal “will anyone ever catch Lou Brock in stolen bases?” and “who can catch Trevor Hoffman in career saves?” pieces.

Then there’s Dave O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, who approves of the question posed and has his own response:

You can imagine how those tweets were received by those parts of Twitter who are all about PED apologia, math, objective standards, noting that Aaron admitted that he took a PED that would have him banned today too and stuff like that. As always, these things get ugly.

Not that they have to be. It’s almost as if, if one were to try, one could celebrate the amazing inner-circle Hall of Fame career of Hank Aaron, full as it is with nearly unsurpassed accomplishment, without applying a revisionist gloss to the one accomplishment that, according to all objective measures and the accounting of Major League Baseball, has been surpassed. That one could talk about Aaron without slagging on Bonds.

Angels claim Christian Friedrich off waivers from Rockies

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Last week the Rockies parted ways with left-hander Christian Friedrich, designating the former first-round draft pick for assignment, and today the Angels claimed him off waivers.

Friedrich was the 25th overall pick in the 2008 draft and twice cracked Baseball America’s annual top-100 prospects list, but now he’s 28 years old with a 5.81 ERA in 167 innings as a big leaguer after back problems halted his development.

At this point Friedrich’s best bet to stick in the majors seems to be as a reliever, where his fastball-slider combination could work well in shorter stints.

To make room for Friedrich on the roster the Angels dropped 26-year-old infielder Taylor Featherston, who was originally drafted by the Rockies in 2011.