Is Big Z Bullpen Banishment An Inducement To Waive His No-Trade Clause?

What's the next move for the Cubs and Carlos Zambrano? George examines some possibilities.

The Cubs are smarter than you think.

If Major League Baseball rules that the team and Carlos Zambrano must endure a shotgun marriage, at least for a little while, after the baseball lords decide on the length of his suspension, there's a nice little inducement for Big Z to allow the official divorce to begin at some point.

Dizzy from handling the afterblow of L'Affaire Z (the 2010 version, not the 2004, the 2007 or the 2009 models) Saturday, one quote stuck out like a sore thumb.

Obviously, the Cubs can't get rid of Zambrano before his suspension would run out, as likely will be mandated by Major League Baseball once it examines the situation early in the week. So when he returns, he'll probably be the 12th man on a 12-man pitching staff. Lou Piniella did not say as much Saturday, but you caught the drift when he announced Big Z would return in the bullpen. And not on a temporary basis.

“It’s not short-term, that’s for sure,” Piniella said.

What a stroke of genius. A permanent banishment to the bullpen could be a prod to Zambrano to waive his full no-trade clause so he could be moved to a team needing a starter. Can Big Z say, "I love New York?"

At this point the involvment of the Ricketts family will be needed since the Cubs likely will have to pay some or most of Zambrano's mega-salary. The Cubs confirmed Saturday the Ricketts siblings were informed of GM Jim Hendry's decision to suspend Zambrano Friday and concurred without reservation. Tom Ricketts is supposed to return in a few days from his African photo safari to his first big mess as owner.

Meanwhile, there's some justice in the entire story. Lefty Tom Gorzelanny, unfairly bumped back to the bullpen despite a spate of good starts to make room for Zambrano's return to the rotation, will take his spot as a starter Wednesday against Pittsburgh, his old team.

And, amazingly, Piniella introduced a hint of democracy to the clubhouse during his pre-game meeting with the Cubs Saturday.

"If they wanted to criticize me as a manager, so be it," he said. "That’s the truth."

In the news department, in the strange angles file, the Cubs are the franchise that just keeps on giving. In truth, you'd trade all this craziness for one Cubs journey to the World Series, preferably against a specific opponent.

I still have never been to New York or Yankee Stadium. Bud Selig would love to make such a wish come true and never have to deal with a Carlos Zambrano disciplinary report ever again.

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