Remember Mitch Williams? "Wild Thing"? Sure you do. He was the 1989 Cubs closer who notched 36 saves and gave countless more fans heartburn, or worse. Williams' emotional temperament and lack of control usually saw him walk the bases loaded, only to strike out the side on the next three at-bats. He was the definition of erratic.
Which makes him perfectly qualified to give advice to Carlos Zambrano. That advice: "Pitch as I say, not as I pitched."
Williams made an appearance on WSCR's "Mully and Hanley" yesterday to discuss Zambrano's disappointing 2009. Here's what he had to say:
"I think he's an unbelievable talent. The only thing keeping him from being a Cy Young [winner] is from the neck of his jersey and up. Once he figures out how to control himself and maintain what he has he's a light's-out kind of pitcher."
There are a few things wrong with this. For one, Zambrano is not exactly young anymore. He's not finding his peaceful inner Carlos at this point in his career. He's a nine-year veteran with 105 wins and 1324 strikeouts. Barring some sort of unlikely late-career renaissance, Carlos is pretty much who he is both skill-wise and personality-wise, and that's unlikely to change.
Second, what on Earth is a guy who earned the nickname "Wild Thing" -- as a pitcher! -- doing offering lessons on mental stability to anyone? Williams is a decade removed from professional baseball, and so he probably sees what afflicted him as easy to conquer, the sort of thing he could handle with ease if given another shot. But the bottom line is that he didn't. He was a headcase. And he wasn't half the pitcher Carlos Zambrano is. So what good is his advice?
Bottom line: Big Z has his fair share of emotional hiccups, and he could probably maintain a more even keel when he's on the mound. But for better or worse, Zambrano's numbers have stayed the same through much of his career, and his recent backslide has more to do with age and arm fatigue than any emotional problem. The sooner Cubs fans figure that out, the sooner they can stop turning to guys like Mitch Williams for advice on emotional stability. What a concept.
Eamonn Brennan is a Chicago-based writer, editor and blogger. You can also read him at Yahoo! Sports, Mouthpiece Sports Blog, and Inside The Hall, or at his personal site, eamonnbrennan.com. Follow him on Twitter.