Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011
Posted: 10:42 p.m. Updated: 12:58 a.m.
By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com Cubs Insider Follow @CSNMooney
SAN DIEGO Hours after being sent home from the South Side, Carlos Zambrano met Ozzie Guillen for dinner at a hotel in downtown Chicago.
This was June 25 of last year, and Lou Piniella was so embarrassed by Zambranos temper tantrum in the U.S. Cellular Field dugout that he canceled plans to go out with his family that night.
The Cubs thought it sent the completely wrong message. It also fed the perception that Guillen was the only manager who could reach Zambrano.
This isnt quite LeBron James taking his talents to South Beach to join forces with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. But the Marlins could be on the verge of assembling a dream team for the Chicago media.
By luring Guillen away from the White Sox, the first domino has fallen. The next one could be Aramis Ramirez, who talks about when hes going to become a free agent not if.
Friends have told Ramirez about the speculation that the Marlins could make a run at him this offseason. He's made it known that his first preference is to stay in Chicago, though he'd void the club's 16 million option for next season in search of a multi-year deal.
The last-place Marlins are getting ready to move out of a cavernous football stadium by the Florida Turnpike and into a new retractable-roof ballpark in the Little Havana neighborhood on the old Orange Bowl site. They can sell sunshine and a quick flight home to the Dominican Republic.
They dont have a third baseman, said Ramirez, who returned from a quad injury to hit his 26th homer during Tuesday's 6-2 win over the Padres. Theyre going to have the money, so they could be one of the teams interested in my services.
Any Dominican guy is going to be willing to play there, especially if its the right situation. They got a new ballpark. Theyre going to have some money to go out and get some good players. Its a tough division, but theyre going to have the money to compete.
The question becomes how much money the Marlins would be willing to absorb to take on Zambrano, who is owed 18 million next season. Chairman Tom Ricketts is on record saying that hed have a hard time picturing Zambrano pitching for the Cubs again.
Zambrano has had little to no contact with teammates since cleaning out his locker and talking about retirement last month.
Major League Baseballs labor lawyers and the players union will process his grievance during the offseason. His house in River Forest is reportedly for sale. Its almost as if hes become a Bartman-like figure.
I think hes still in Chicago, Ramirez said, but I havent seen or heard from him.
If anyone could get through to Zambrano, it would be Guillen, his friend from Venezuela.
Its not that easy, Ramirez said. Im sure Ozzie would take him. But I dont think its Ozzies decision. Its the front office and the owner. Everybody knows Zambrano can still pitch.
Some people might be afraid of his attitude (and) the stuff hes done in the past. Hed be the first one to tell you he made a lot of mistakes. But he also would take the ball every five days.
At the very least, Zambrano will generate headlines and national media attention. The Marlins are a team that needs to create buzz to sell tickets.
Cubs broadcaster Len Kasper was the Marlins play-by-play man when they won the 2003 World Series. He remembers them drawing around 25,000 fans that September and 65,000-plus in the playoffs. Guillen was the third-base coach on that team and developed a strong relationship with owner Jeffrey Loria.
Its an event town, Kasper said. The spectacle is a really big deal down there. And anything they can do to help make that more of a place to be and I think Ozzie will do that (is) good. (He) understands the market really well and understands the organization.
Its almost in a way like hes returning home, even though it feels like hes leaving home. If there was another perfect situation for him other than the White Sox, I think the Marlins would be (it).
With Zambrano and Ramirez in Guillens clubhouse, Chicago baseball writers would not disagree. The Cubs are scheduled to visit Miami during the second week of the 2012 season. Get your recorders ready.
Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.