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Zambrano Needs To Get Counseling, Or Move On

What is the Cubs' next move with Carlos Zambrano? George says Tom Ricketts & Co. don't have many choices.

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Now Big Z's saga is squarely in the lap of Tom Ricketts, when he returns from his photo safari in Africa.

After Major League Baseball and the Players Association chew over his suspension, the Cubs owner must craft two actions. Ricketts should give Carlos Zambrano is absolute last chance as a North Sider: mandated counseling via a sports psychologist, regular psychologist or psychiatrist. The goal is to have Zambrano come out a changed, calm mature man of 29 rather than a petulant, tantrum-filled kid of 9, enabled too many times by Cubs management.

And If Zambrano won't go to therapy or show positive results from sessions, then Ricketts must release or trade him. The death penalty as a Cub. Ricketts has access to loans and lines of credit that are barred to just average folks. If he can't round up the money to pay off Big Z's contract, then Ricketts and his family bought the Cubs too close to the margins.

The timing is terrible. Ricketts already needed to consider spending millions to eat a couple of unproductive contracts, just to move them off the roster. He did not need Zambrano reverting to his loony ways after a season of calm -- astounding considering how the pitcher was jerked from the rotation to the bullpen and back to the rotation again.

I have never seen a more egregious violation of team spirit than Zambrano displayed Friday. To accuse Derrek Lee and Aramis Ramirez of not diving for hot shots down the line was way beyond the pale.

The origin of Zambrano's tantrums does not compute. He should be at peace. He married early, and has a gaggle of kids who love him. After a brief detour into the bullpen, he snared a Cubs rotation spot at 21. He got the contract of his dreams at 26. The man is smart and baseball savvy with a good command of Engish, his second language. What is there to be angry about, no matter what the game situation?

And Zambrano is lucky he landed with the Cubs. If he played with the Braves, Bobby Cox would have tossed his sorry butt off the team at the first sign of a tantrum or team-averse behavior. I don't think he would have survived too long under Ron Gardenhire with the Twins, either. Ozzie Guillen claims he could have managed Zambrano, but those two would have generated a chain reaction after just a few months.

Just shows you baseball is made up of all types. Players aren't immune to mental or emotional problems. Unfortunately, two of them alighted with the Cubs. Big Z has had his issues since 2004. Milton Bradley fooled most of the people most of the time to snare a $30 million deal. He's on his last legs in Seattle.

Between the Zambrano affair and the down-the-drain play of his teammates, the Cubs have as big a mess as they experienced in 2006. Or 1999. Or 1981.

Now it's Ricketts' turn to clean it up. Ownership is far more than giant noodle sculptures, fan ambassadors and bison burgers.

All those decades, we wondered how a fan owning the Cubs would turn things around. Now we get to find out, in a future either with a becalmed Zambrano or none at all.