Despite the hand-wringing of the usual gaggle of dolts who write about the Cubs when Theo Epstein said it would be a “trust but verify” situation that could get Carlos Zambrano back on the mound for the Cubs this season, it was never going to happen.  Theo wasn’t going to let Carlos pitch an inning for the Cubs this year, and if he could avoid it, he would trade him before spring training ever started.

Well, it looks like Theo managed to avoid it.  Pending Carlos passing a physical (and given his love for the MRI machine, let’s hope they don’t do one of those) today, he’ll be traded to the Marlins for 6’8 mongoloid Chris Volstad.

It’s too bad it had to end this way.  Carlos was both one of the most likeable and detestable Cubs of all-time.  He is funny and smart, a great athlete, a very good pitcher and a switch hitter with power.  Things are never boring with Carlos.  His numbers with the Cubs were excellent.  125-81 with a 3.60 ERA.  He also hit .241 with 23 homers.

His playoff numbers were not so hot.  In fact, his inability to hold a four run lead against his new team, the Marlins, in game one of the 2003 NLCS, led to one of the wildest postseason games ever.  And, if the Cubs had won, they might have swept the Marlins instead of…well, you know.

Zambrano did pitch much better in game five of that series, except Josh Beckett decided to two-hit the Cubs…so…oh, never mind.

Also remember, that in 2003 Carlos was only 22 years old.  And a year later, when the most talented Cubs team of our lifetime was gagging away a playoff spot, it was Carlos who almost single-handedly kept them in it.  In six September starts he went 4-0 with a 1.96 ERA in 41 innings.  So much for him never pitching well in big games.

He was about as good for a six-year stretch (2003-2008) as anybody not named Fergie or Greggie has been for the Cubs in decades.  He won 18 games in 2007 helping drag an awful Cubs team into the playoffs.  He threw a surreal no-hitter in Miller Park against the Astros in 2008.  In the 2008 playoffs he tried to follow up the complete game one pants-shitting by Ryan Dempster, but had all four infielders make an error while he was pitching.  Fun times.

He’s still only 30.  He could have a lot of good baseball left in him.  Unfortunately, I doubt it.  He threw a lot of innings…a lot…at a very young age and typically pitchers who do that don’t last.  But he should be good for a few more.  The Marlins have a great situation with him.  If he pitches well, they’re only paying him a little bit more than what they would have paid Volstad.  The Cubs are eating $15.5 of the $18 million he’s owed this year.  If he pitches poorly, they can let him walk at the end of the year.  If he goes crazy again, they can just release him.

The sad part is that it came to this.  The Cubs and Carlos have no one but themselves to blame.  He’s crazy, he’s a badass, he’s petulant…he’s all of those things.  And early on, the Cubs let him get away with all of it.  Consider that in the last two seasons he was suspended for about five months of playing time.  Once for yelling at guys in the dugout.  Once for leaving the clubhouse early during a game.

This is the same guy who literally beat up his own teammate during a game several years ago, and didn’t miss a day.

Our good friend Dave Kaplan twatted last night that it doesn’t matter what Volstad does, the Cubs win the trade just by doing it.  But it does matter.  The Cubs are eating all of that money in an effort to get a decent player in return.  In a salary dump, the more you agree the pay, the better player you can get.  They need to get something out of this, otherwise they should have just released Zambrano last year instead of trying to hold him to his “retirement” and then suspending him without pay.

Theo says he wants to establish a culture that Carlos’ past behavior doesn’t mesh with.  That’s fine.  But I would hope that Ryan Dempster’s attention whoring magic tricks and awful, off -base celebrity impersonations don’t fit into that culture.  I hope Alfonso Soriano’s inability to run to first base on pop-ups or ground balls doesn’t fit, either.  I have a hunch that they don’t.  In fact, as much as I want the Cubs to do a similar trade with Soriano (and I think they will), I want to see Dale Sveum get a chance just once to go apeshit at Soriano for watching what he thinks is a home run hit the fence and him end up a first with only a single.

What I’ll miss about Carlos is that you never had to worry about how hard he was going to play.  You had to worry about when he was going to implode and scream at Todd Walker for not getting to a routine pop-up in Houston, or when he’d get frustrated and just start throwing really straight fastballs harder and harder and they’d get hit harder and harder.  I’ll miss him screaming at Lassie Edmonds for homering off of him and then plunking him in his next at bat.

All in all, there was a lot more good and fun with Carlos than there was bad.  So I’ll miss the big lug.  But that doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s not time for him to go.

The time for him to go has been here for a long time, and a savvy front office (like the one the Cubs have now) would have done this a long time ago and gotten a lot more in return.

So long, Carlos.  Have fung with Ozzie in Miami.