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Wild Weekend at Wrigley

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Jun 4, 2007 1:47PM

2007_06_sports_zambrano_barrett_piniella.jpgWith the Cubs' season rapidly spiraling out of control, all hell broke lose at the formerly "friendly confines," beginning with Friday's matinee.

Unable to beat their opponents of late -- and perhaps too used to beating themselves on the field -- the Cubs began beating on each other instead. Television cameras captured for all to see, a fight between pitcher Carlos Zambrano and catcher Michael Barrett in the Cubs dugout following a rough inning that saw Z give up five runs -- the last one a result of a Barrett passed ball and throwing error. The two went at it again in the clubhouse moments later, with Barrett ending up in the hospital for stitches to his mouth and a black eye.

With neither player in the game on Saturday things would be tamer, right? Guess again! Perhaps still riled up from the day before, Cubs manager Lou Piniella blew up at third base umpire Mark Wegner after Angel Pagan was thrown out trying to steal third. Piniella kicked dirt and tossed and kicked his hat during his tirade. And did Piniella actually kick Wegner, too?

Saying that he did, Major League Baseball acted quickly by suspending Piniella indefinately. While Piniella has a phone appeal on Monday with MLB executive vice president John McHale Jr., sources say Piniella will remain off the bench for five games. Which is five more games than he gave Zambrano, who took the blame after attacking a teammate.

In light of this weekend's fiascos, Jay Mariotti questions why Lou Piniella is here. At his age and with his legacy, he didn't need the job or the money. Having chosen to give up his broadcasting gig and get back into the dugout, he doesn't seem to be trying too hard to actually manage and coach the team he is being paid to manage. And his actions on Saturday sure make it hard for him to get too tough on his players for their lack of self control and accountability. Once again, the Cubs are a train wreck. Mariotti questions whether Lou can even finish out the season before throwing in the towel.

We here in the Chicagoist sports bureau were unimpressed with the decision to hire Lou Piniella from the get go and said so quite bluntly. Maybe even our less than optimistic prediction was too rosy. Do we really believe that Piniella can make it through two seasons with the Cubs now? As much as we hate to do so, we tend to side with Mariotti on this one.

Even so, Lou may not be the first one to ride off into the late afternoon shadows. Both Zambrano and Barrett are free agents after the season, and Friday's incident certainly didn't help anything for either of them. Neither is having a good season, and their fight clouds their future with the Cubs even further. Barrett might have been gone after the season anyway, but will the Cubs now look to move him before the trading deadline? And could they even do so to Zambrano -- their supposed ace?

Z was on the verge of signing a deal rumored to be around $75 million over five years when the Tribune Co. buyout occurred and new owner Sam Zell announced plans to put the club up for sale. The deal was never finalized, and Zambrano can still become a free agent at the end of the season. But now, between his sub par season and this latest explosive episode, Zambrano's wallet is probably going to suffer big time. While it looked like he was in line to be earning $15 million a year, might he be lucky to get $12 mil now?

Photos via Comcast Sports Net & AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh