Carlos Zambrano bit the hand that feeds him Monday afternoon at Wrigley Field, ripping Cubs fans for booing him off the mound after another in a series of erratic outings.
As he walked to the dugout after being removed in the fifth inning of an 11-3 loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, Zambrano pointed to his head, nodded repeatedly and said, "I hear you."
What was going on in Big Z's head?
"I don't accept that the fans were booing at me," a seething Zambrano said afterward. "I can't understand that. You know, I thought these were the greatest fans in baseball. But they showed me today that they just care about them, and that's not fair, because when you're struggling, you want to feel the support of the fans.
"No, I don't accept it. I just pointed to my head, and I will remember that because I don't want any bad outings. I know the great moments of my career will come."
With both of the Cubs' closest pursuers losing, the Cubs remained 1 1/2 games ahead of Milwaukee and two games ahead of St. Louis.
But the pennant race seemed like an afterthought once Zambrano tore into Cubs fans like no one since former manager Lee Elia, during his infamous tirade in 1983.
It was another adventurous day for Zambrano, who fell to 14-12, and 0-5 over his last six starts with an 8.29 earned-run average.
In the CliffsNotes version of Zambrano's afternoon, he blew off a stop sign in the third inning and was easily thrown out at the plate, he walked three batters during a three-run fourth, he squatted on the mound in a deep funk instead of backing up home plate on a two-run single by pitcher Esteban Loaiza, he turned an easy out into a base hit by deflecting the ball with his bare hand, and he began taking off his jersey and gesturing toward his head while walking to the dugout as fans booed him during his fifth-inning exit.
Manager Lou Piniella said Zambrano "is letting things bother him when things aren't going right." Zambrano said he just wants some "love."
"[Fans] pay to see a good show," he said. "They pay to see a good pitcher. Right now, I'm not doing too well. I just call [out to] the fans, 'I want a little support.' That's all. When you're struggling, or you have a brother who's struggling, you show him love. You don't show him you want to kick him out. That's what I ask of the fans—a little support.
"And not only [for] me. I go out there and try to do my best, but not everybody is like Carlos Zambrano [and can] keep his head up and keep trying to do a good job. There are people on this team who are struggling and going down and down …
"When you're booing somebody, you're booing the 25 men on this ballclub, and that's not fair. That happened before to some of my teammates, and that's not right. I think we go out there to give Cubs fans a good show and to go to the playoffs, and that's what I want. No one wants to do a bad job. … Every single player in that clubhouse wants to do a great job for the city, believe me."
Zambrano opened a can of worms that may be difficult to close. He apparently was referring to the recent treatment of Alfonso Soriano, who heard some boos on Sunday after missing a pair of fly balls at the wall.
When Zambrano signed a $91.5 million deal last month, it was considerably below market value. He said he agreed to accept less money because he only wanted to stay in Chicago and play for the Cubs. But Zambrano's tirade may ultimately lead to a strained relationship that could cause him to waive his no-trade clause this off-season.
"They pay to see good ballgames," he said, "whatever they want to do."Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times