Try, try again isn’t working for Chicago Cubs and Chris Volstad


Chris Volstad fires away in his “best” outing of the season Saturday in Los Angeles. (Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)

Before this season started, I was listening to a sports radio interview session with Cubs president Theo Epstein. The question was put to him directly about Carlos Zambrano and how he could be on a Cubs team that was embarking on a new direction. There was laughter from everyone in attendance, and Theo began by addressing the second part of the question, which was unrelated to Zambrano. When he finished with that answer, the host reminded Theo of the Zambrano part of the question, at which the typical “we’ll meet with him to see how he fits in” remarks were made.

I knew when I heard this that Zambrano was gone, as I wanted him to be. He pitched his way out of Chicago with his meltdown in Atlanta last August, and there wasn’t any way he would be anything other than a distraction had he returned to the Cubs this year. His departure was only a matter of where he would be sent to.

The day that this radio show aired, or perhaps the next day, it was announced that Zambrano was traded to the Marlins for Chris Volstad. The Cubs paid all but a modest amount of Zambrano’s salary, so the Cubs wound up eating a huge amount of money just for sending Carlos away. And maybe this guy Volstad would be a decent return, the thinking went. But we’ve now reached a point where the answer is clear. If the Cubs had to get somebody for their purported staff ace, they should have done a lot better than they did.

Last night in Los Angeles, Volstad had what, for him, was a solid outing against the Dodgers. It was even labelled as “impressive” in one place. The same source claimed that it “felt like a win,” which in anybody’s book might count for something, except where it actually does count, which is the standings that are printed in the newspaper everyday.

With last night’s loss, Chris Volstad is now 0-8, which is the worst record of any pitcher in the major leagues. A couple of other pitchers are 0-5, but nobody has recorded so many losses without also gaining at least one win. He’s now reached a string of 21 starts in a row without a win. Twenty-one starts. That means Theo and the powers that be were aware of his winless streak when they traded for him, but they thought he was a better pitcher than his numbers suggest. But numbers don’t lie, and the time has come to quit suggesting that Volstad is a serviceable pitcher. The point of starting pitching — and the team in general — is to win games, not lose them.

Volstad may be a fine person, but even with this lost Cubs season, trotting him out to the mound isn’t helping. It’s time to pull the plug on this experiment, and realize that Volstad’s contribution to the Cubs started and ended on the day Zambrano was traded away.

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