We may have seen the last of Cubs righthander Carlos Zambrano, who seems prepared to shut himself down for the rest of the season because of a balky back.
In so doing Zambrano would forfeit his Cy Young candidacy to protect himself for a perceived big-time payday when he reaches free agency after next season.
Can you say Roy Oswalt, who signed a five-year, $73 million contract extension two weeks ago?
“I want to pitch, but I can’t take a risk on my career with this,” Zambrano said.
“When you have a back problem, sometimes you can (compensate and) hurt your shoulder, and that can be the end of my career in one or two seasons.”
Zambrano, 25, is 14-6 with a 4.50 ERA and 188 strikeouts this season, and the Cubs likely will have to sign him to an extension before the start of next season to keep from testing free agency afterward.
An MRI showed nothing more than back irritation, but Zambrano said his problem is hereditary.
“I’ve had a problem with my back the last three years. One thing people don’t know is one of my legs (the right) is longer than the other one, and that’s my main problem. We’re born like that. All Zambranos are born like that,” he said.
The Oswalt comparison seems appropriate. Zambrano is 62-41 with a 3.30 ERA and 843 strikeouts in 956 career innings. Oswalt, 29, is 94-47 with a 3.07 ERA and 986 strikeouts in 1,165 innings.
OPENING THE WALLET
Ownership in Cleveland and Toronto, competing in the two toughest divisions in baseball, are on record as saying their payrolls will increase in 2007.
Toronto’s payroll is about $72 million this season, high but nowhere near the Yankees or Boston. Cleveland began the season at about $56 million.
Toronto owner Ted Rogers agreed that the Jays need to increase salaries a few days after general manager J.P. Ricciardi spoke out in Boston, saying, “I don’t think you’re going to win this division on $70 million. I don’t think you’re going to make the playoffs in this division on $70 million.”
Jays center fielder Vernon Wells could command as much as a Carlos Beltran-ish $15 million a year as a free agent, but now it appears the Jays could meet that figure, although it probably means they will pass on Bengie Molina and his $7.5 million option.
Cleveland general manager Mark Shapiro has been told not to limit the scope of players he is interested in this winter, team president Paul Dolan saying the payroll will increase “significantly.”
Shapiro, who traded closer Bob Wickman to Atlanta for prospects six weeks ago and has been patching in the bullpen ever since, has made it a priority to sign an experienced closer.
He bid on Trevor Hoffman last winter but lost.
BEATING THE SYSTEM
The cost of the new Yankee Stadium has been estimated at $1 billion, and it appears as much as one-third of the cost will be paid for by the other 29 major league teams because of language in the new collective bargaining agreement that permits teams to deduct the cost of building a new stadium from the money contributed to the revenue sharing pool.
Baseball Prospectus author Neil deMause said the rest of the league will pay between $117 million and $311 million for the Yankees’ new park, depending on how the financing is structured.
The offshoot is, the Yankees will in essence rob from the poor (by contributing less to the revenue sharing pool) to make themselves rich. Richer.
NO ’ROID GUT
Ryan Howard points to his stomach when the subject of performance enhancements arises, as it has lately while he creeps closer to what some are calling the “non-steroid” home run record, Roger Maris’ 61 in 1961.
“I know I’m not using steroids. This barrel right here (tummy) is proof enough. People are entitled to their opinion. But it does bother me. It casts a shadow on the game,” he said.
“I think it sucks. If you are going to make those kinds of comments, have proof. Otherwise, you can ruin people’s reputations.”
Howard was subjected to the minor leagues’ strict drug testing policy before entering the majors in midseason, 2005.
On Aug. 7, 1997, young Anaheim prospect Ramon Ortiz pitched a no-hitter for Class A Cedar Rapids of the Midwest League, getting the final out by retiring Houston prospect Aaron Miles.
Nine years and 851 miles later, Miles lined an 0-1 fastball to left-center field leading off the top of the ninth inning to break up Ortiz’s no-hitter in Washington’s 4-1 victory on Monday.
“You never forget when you are in a no-hitter and you make the last out of the game,” said Miles, in town with St. Louis this weekend.
“I really wanted to return the favor, so to speak.”
“I remember that first day we were all here in Jupiter. He stood in the middle of the clubhouse and said ‘I expect you guys to compete for the playoffs. I expect you to win the World Series.’ Nobody laughed, but I don’t think people bought into it at the
– Florida’s Scott Olsen, on manager Joe Girardi’s opening speech in spring training. Starting young Miguel Cabrera, 23, officially is the third-youngest player with three straight 100-RBI seasons, following Ted Williams and Mel Ott. Ty Cobb also did that, according to Elias, but he is not officially recognized because his career began before 1920, when RBIs became an official statistic.
Santana and Sandy
Johan Santana enters his start today leading the major leagues in victories (17), ERA (2.84) and strikeouts (219) and trails Roy Halladay, who also starts today, by 2 /3 of an inning in innings pitched. The last pitcher to lead the majors in all four categories, according to Elias, was Sandy Koufax in 1967, when he won 17 with a 1.73 ERA and 317 strikeouts in 323 innings.
A perfect summer
Angels closer Francisco Rodriguez is channeling Mariano Rivera. Rodriguez had not given up an earned run in his 27 appearances since June 26, covering 27 1 /3 innings, entering Saturday’s game. He recorded his 40th save Friday, tying a team record with two 40-save seasons set by Troy Percival. Looking ahead Philadelphia’s Ryan Howard shoots for 60 home runs in wild card-implication games vs. Atlanta and Houston.