Zambrano, who was abused for five home runs and subsequently ejected after throwing at Chipper Jones(notes) during a 10-4 loss to the Atlanta Braves on Friday night, reportedly cleaned out his locker prior to the conclusion of the game and informed people within the Chicago Cubs clubhouse he's going to retire.
Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago further reported that Zambrano's name plate was gone from his locker and all that remained were white hangers. Zambrano's whereabouts were unknown, even by manager Mike Quade.
"I figured he's just decided he's had enough," [Quade] said. "I have too much respect for the rest of the guys in this room to worry. It's on him now, and whatever he wants to do, whatever he's going to do, I guess he's made up his mind because he didn't stick around and tell anybody about it."
Of course we know the drill with Zambrano by now. A bad afternoon or evening at the office will always lead to some degree of melodrama. But his antics Friday night reached a different level than breaking bats over his knee, destroying inanimate objects in the dugout, or even confronting teammates in the open.
This time, he walked out on his teammates, one of the most unforgivable acts in sports. This has to be the final straw in his relationship with the Cubs. Regardless of whether or not the retirement talk is real, his days (perhaps hours) in their uniform have to be numbered. There's no way GM Jim Hendry could continue to throw his support behind Zambrano with a straight face.
"We will respect his wishes and honor them and move forward."
That's what they did when Sammy Sosa walked out of Wrigley Field — in the middle of a game — on the last day of the 2004 season. He was traded a few months later. It remains to be seen if — and how — the Cubs and Zambrano will divorce.
If the 30-year-old Zambrano really were to go through with retirement, he'd leave the $4.7 million he's owed over the reminder of this season and the $18 million he's scheduled to make next year. Then there's the $19 million vesting option for 2013.
We know he's impulsive, but is he THAT impulsive? Zambrano just might be. If he is, the Cubs might as well say they won the lottery. But even if he isn't, as large as that price tag is, the Cubs have to be ready to get rid of their throbbing headache at all costs.
Zambrano has a 4.82 ERA, and weak peripheral numbers, in 24 starts. That alone isn't worth $18 million or so per season — and it doesn't even factor in all of the drama he creates.
We're sure to have more on this developing story in the coming days and weeks. Stay tuned.