[Carlos Zambrano in happier days, hobnobbing with Broadway’s Carol Channing.]

Last December in this space, I predicted two things.  Carlos Silva would be in good hands with the Cubs‘ Larry Rothschild and Carlos Zambrano would replace Milton Bradley as Jim Hendry’s Player To Be Hated Later. Silva was a bigger bet than the Z. I wrote then:

The question in my mind isn’t who will replace Bradley in CF, but who will replace him as Hendry’s next problem player.  I’m guessing another mediocre year from Zambrano will mean Big Z v Hendry in 2010.  Z fits the pattern right now:  expensive, once great, an ego problem, and possible trade bait.  He’s also not white, which is another unfortunate pattern here.

Zambrano’s shouting match yesterday with Derrek Lee, the need to separate them, and Z’s instant suspension (not to mention his mercurial 2010 overall) means I should have put some money down last December.  Zambrano and Bradley are obviously head cases, but so are other players around the league who don’t end up exploding on the field.  Hendry has a history of miserable management of personalities back to Dusty Baker’s 2nd year (when he fired Dusty’s unhappy SF holdovers), the Steve Stone v Dusty incident that caused Stone to leave the WGN booth, dealing with Sosa in decline, then Bradley.  It’s typical of what we’re seeing now with Z.  It’s not Hendry’s fault that Z is what he is.  But whatever Hendry is as a General Manager, he’s not built for keeping difficult personalities productive and has cost the Cubs a lot in pure drag.  Think of the temperaments, egos, haters, heels, and negative creeps who have played all over the league for different teams over the years — they rarely pull in public what the divas on the Cubs do year in and year out.  Sports is a celebrity-obsessed world like every other kind of entertainment, so we know Bradley and Sosa and Z’s names first.  Still, they all leave.  Not Hendry, year in and year out, he and the meltdowns remain.

I’ve skipped commenting on most of the season because I can’t watch much of it, but right now I wish I’d been following the Chicago brain trust of reporters covering the Cubs to see if they treat Z much different than Milton.  Since Milton had no problem calling reporters on their bullshit, I’m guessing they just view Z as a spectacle and not a threat to the White Man’s Burden of Chicago sports writing.