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CHICAGO -- Chicago White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, a close friend of embattled Cubs’ pitcher Carlos Zambrano, had plenty to say on Saturday about the combustible righty’s latest controversy.
“Very bad and very sad situation,” Guillen said. “I can talk both ways as a manager (and) I can talk as his friend. It's tough situation with how the manager's going to handle that because he's very intense about respect, loyalty. On the other side of the problem, this kid’s got a lot of pride, this kid's embarrassed. This kid wants to be good, he wants his team to be good. And I think he feel like he's not doing his job. This kid's a very emotional kid.”
Zambrano was ejected from Friday night’s game against the Atlanta Braves after attempting, and failing, to hit Chipper Jones twice. Zambrano had given up five home runs prior to his ejection. Zambrano then left the game early, packed up his belongings, and apparently told a clubhouse official he was contemplating retirement.
Guillen said his wife talked to Zambrano Friday night, but Guillen was too upset after his team’s loss to talk to Zambrano himself. Guillen said rash decisions like wanting to quit aren’t out of the ordinary, but they often don’t represent the player’s true feelings.
“You know how many times I want to quit?” Guillen asked. “I can't because I love this game. So does [Zambrano]. I guarantee you in two or three more days he'll be thinking 'Oh my God, what I did?' I know that. I don't know really what happened but I guarantee you he feels more embarrassed than anything else; about his performance.”
Guillen is no stranger to controversy himself, and he admitted that. Although he’s made many dubious statements, there was only one in particular he has grown to regret. Guillen didn’t get specific, but added that winning was the only way to get past these things.
“When you [are] losing games every little thing go out there and get bigger,” Guillen said. “It's emotion. Can you control your emotion? I don't know [if] you can because I can't control mine. [I’m] the last person to say he should be controlling his emotions. It is what it is.”
According to Guillen, every team has these types of problems. Guillen recalled how he handled a situation in 2005 when he wasn’t pleased with reliever Demaso Marte being late to numerous rehab sessions. He packed up Marte’s belongings and told him to leave. Marte wasn’t allowed to return until he apologized to the entire team, which eventually he did.
Of course that’s how things are run on the South Side; Guillen was adamant that no player would be walking out on his team.
“Why? I know my players and I think we respect each other,” Guillen said. “Like I’ve said in the past, hate me, love me, I don’t care what you do. I really don't. But one thing about it, respect. That's all I care about with players. If you respect and respect the game, you can go out and tell your wife how much you hate me. That’s part of the game, because I hate them, too. Because I did tell my wife how much I hate them. And I tell my wife how much I love them.
“But as long as they respect me and respect my coaching staff, everything is fine with me. Win games for me. Just hate me and make sure we shake hands after the game. That's all I get paid for. I don’t get paid here to make friends.”
What may have been most telling was how Guillen wrapped up his thoughts on Zambrano.
“The only thing about it, can you learn when you make mistakes?” Guillen asked. “If you learn from that people will forget you. But if you’re going to make mistakes in and out, day in and day out some people aren’t going to believe where you come from.”
Being that this is hardly Zambrano’s first brush with controversy, it may be difficult for the Cubs to forgive and forget. Among his numerous incidents are his 2007 fight with then-Cubs’ catcher Michael Barrett and last season’s dugout blowup with former teammate Derrek Lee. Friday’s episode may just be Zambrano’s last meltdown in a Cubs uniform.