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Cubs' Zambrano screams at Lee, sent home by Lou, suspended

David Brown
Big League Stew

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Carlos Zambrano(notes) acted like he wanted to get thrown out of the game.

Even like he wanted to get thrown off the team.

Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella partly obliged, saying he sent Zambrano home from U.S. Cellular Field after the ever-combustible pitcher screamed at teammate Derrek Lee(notes) in the visitors dugout between the first and second inning Friday afternoon.

For a guy with a long history of epic meltdowns, this might have been first among equals.

Sit back and watch him go off

"The Zambrano thing is something that just doesn't work and we're not going to tolerate it," Piniella said.

After the game, won by the White Sox 6-0, Cubs general manager Jim Hendry said Zambrano was suspended indefinitely.

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Zambrano has an infamous history of losing control of his emotions on the field, and it always has overshadowed his talent. In 2007, he fought with teammate Michael Barrett(notes) in the home dugout at Wrigley Field. A season ago, Zambrano lost it during a tirade against an umpire and a Gatorade dispenser.

This time, Zambrano took out his frustrations by screaming at a teammate he didn't think was trying hard enough.

[Photos: See more of the Cubs' hot-tempered pitcher]

In spotting the White Sox a four-run lead, Zambrano allowed four hits, including a three-run homer to Carlos Quentin(notes). Apparently it was the first hit — a leadoff double by Juan Pierre(notes) that went near the first-base bag — that set off Zambrano.

"I thought he was upset that he gave up a three-run home run on a two-strike pitch," Piniella said. "[But] he said guys weren't diving for balls."

Zambrano ripped into Lee with a verbal tirade before others in the dugout got between the two. But Zambrano wasn't trying to motivate Lee. He was trying to run away from his own failure, his own inability to live up to his contract and expectations.

The Cubs came into the game playing like corpses, continued doing so, and the White Sox won their 10th straight. If Zambrano meant to light a fire under his team, he only succeeded in boiling the water in his own cauldron.

In fact, Cubs TV analyst Bob Brenly called them "a dead-ass team" on the air. That's about right.

Piniella said he sent Zambrano home because the Cubs "didn't want to have any more incidents in the clubhouse."

"He's going to have to apologize to his teammates, that's for darn sure," Piniella said. "And that's the least. That's the least."

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Piniella obviously feared Zambrano continuing to misbehave. It was a good call; Zambrano was still raging after changing out of his uniform. He reportedly was filmed shouting obscenities at cameramen as he left the park.

Lee, with the usual class, offered no comment on Zambrano.

Coincidentally — or not — it was about a year ago that Piniella sent home Milton Bradley(notes) after a churlish, childish and selfish meltdown during a game on Chicago's South Side.

"Boy, every time we come here," Piniella said.

The Cubs have tried everything — from tough love to soft soaping, from paying him $91 million to demoting him to the bullpen. Zambrano's effectiveness as a pitcher has flat-lined and he's no less given to losing emotional control.

Of course "it's time to do something" with Zambrano. It's been time. It's past time. If only trading Zambrano — who has 2 1/2 years plus a vesting option left on his deal — solved all of the Cubs problems. It didn't work when they got rid of Bradley and it won't work by getting rid of Z.

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