This is going to have trade implications. You may have seen the video of Carlos Zambrano and Michael Barrett having something of a slap fight in the Cubs’ dugout today. Something to do with a Barrett passed ball; it seems that Zambrano may have been truly ignited when Barrett gestured to the scoreboard, perhaps reminding Zambrano of the seven runs he allowed.
If the extent of it was the dugout scuffle, this would be something that could blow over. However, the fighting spilled over to the locker room. Lou Piniella mentions in his press conference that Barrett was sent to the hospital for a busted lip. CubDumb, a source I trust for inside Cubs info, has found Barrett’s injuries to be far worse than a split lip. As they say, Barrett probably wouldn’t go to the hospital for that. If the 255 lb. Zambrano really gave Barrett a frighteningly severe beating in the locker room, he probably punched his ticket out of Chicago.
Both players are free agents after this season, and it’s certainly possible the Cubs retain neither. Zambrano’s five-year, $85MM or so extension was tabled in April, not a bad move for the Cubs. I don’t think Zambrano is all the sudden a worthless pitcher, but I still think his best years are behind him. Despite his struggles, Jim Hendry could get a very useful young player or two for him this July.
Barrett’s future is in doubt, as no one as ever been thrilled with his defense or handling of the pitching staff. I think these aspects are typically overplayed in the media, and that a catcher who hits well is worth it. The biggest problem with trading him or letting him walk is that the Cubs have no one to replace him and the free agent market is bleak. The Blue Jays have had interest in Barrett in the past, but are not in a position to acquire a player in his walk year.
Bonus random thought: I do not want to see newspaper columnists continue to say the Cubs are third in the league in "hitting" because they have a .266 team batting average. Here in 2007, we know that batting average is just a subset of on-base percentage, for which the Cubs rank eighth. They are eighth in OBP, seventh in slugging. Their offense has been right in the middle of the pack.