Knucklehead Athlete of the Week: Carlos Zambrano

By Doug Halberstadt
Sports Columnist

From time to time, I like to write a reoccurring column I affectionately call “Knucklehead Athlete of the Week.”

Whether you are a Sox fan or a Cubs fan, you can probably guess who won the title this week. He exhibited his true “knucklehead” form during the recent three-game weekend series between the two Chicago teams.

This is the third paragraph, and I’m guessing by now you know exactly who this week’s winner (loser) is. You’re right! It is Cubs starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano.

He has a long history of not only being a hothead. I’d like to suggest it might be more accurate to say he’s not only a hothead, but in addition to that character flaw, he’s truly a head case.

What is up with this guy? He’s one of the highest-paid players on the team. He makes $18 million per year under a contract that runs through 2012, and yet he still seems to be unsatisfied and as equally unhappy. The Cubs organization has bent over backward trying to accommodate this guy’s wishes/demands.

Following several poor starting performances earlier this season, he was recently demoted to the bullpen. After a short unhappy, unproductive stint there, management reinstated him into the starting rotation. Nothing seemed to change.

He started the first game of one of the biggest series of the season, the “Crosstown Classic.” He didn’t seem to be up to the challenge. After giving up four runs in the first inning, he went on a tirade in the dugout. He accused his teammate, first baseman Derrick Lee, of not diving for a ball that was hit down the right-field line.

Moments later, he was prancing back and forth in the dugout. That’s when he unwisely decided to go back after Lee when he reacted to his outburst and told him to “shut the f— up.” Manager Lou Piniella and some other coaches got in between the two and directed Zambrano into the tunnel.

He came back shortly after and sat on the bench before he was excused for the day by Piniella and told to go home. After the game, Piniella said Zambrano’s behavior was unacceptable. Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry responded by suspending Zambrano indefinitely.

Way to go, Zambrano! Congratulations on earning this week’s “Knucklehead Athlete of the Week” award and all of the boos, whistles and catcalls you so rightly deserve.

Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at

From the June 30-July 6, 2010

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