When Lou Piniella agreed to be the manager of the Chicago Cubs, it was hoped that this would be a historic year for the franchise. Thanks to the events of today, I think it will be so.
The "Battery Brawl," Michael Barrett's second heavyweight fight in two years, is sure to take its place in baseball history alongside the famous 1977 Billy Martin-Reggie Jackson confrontation in the first base dugout at Fenway Park. If the Barrett-Zambrano throwdown doesn't quite achieve the infamy of the Martin-Jackson fight, it will be because the latter involved a New York team, one that would go on to win 100 games and a World Championship that very season. Barrett v. Zambrano, by contrast, is just the latest chapter in the comic history of a national laughingstock.
I am disappointed by Piniella's public reaction to the episode, at least to this point. As with so many of the team's failures this season, he seems willing to write it off as just another one of those things that shouldn't happen to a baseball team, but sometimes does. The problem is, like the missed flyballs and the mindless baserunning mistakes and the relief pitchers who thoughtlessly throw 0-and-2 meatballs in key situations, it happens to the Cubs a lot, and that's what the $300 million investment in free agents and the hiring of a high-profile field manager with a first-class pedigree was supposed to address.
I hope today's nonsense leads the Cubs to move both Barrett and Zambrano, neither of whom is signed to a contract beyond 2007 or apparently, is stable enough to make up the foundation of a championship team.