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Why I Can't Blame Victor Zambrano

I want to blame Victor Zambrano for this. I really do. I want to say it's all his fault and make him feel guilty about stinking it up on the hill. I want him to feel bad about being the weak link in the Mets rotation-- the only thing that can keep the 2006 team from greatness. But it honestly isn't his fault.
Victor didn't ask to be a Met. Victor has pitched his guts out, frustrating as he may be. Victor's biggest problem was being traded for Scott Kazmir.
Some act like they don't think it matters who you're traded for. But the fact that the Zambrano trade is already indented in our minds as a horrendous swap has hurt him. It makes the fans mad. It makes the talk radio bums mad.
It really isn't his fault. He began as an infielder in the New York Yankees system, someone who just couldn't play his position up to snuff. He then signed on as an original Devil Ray minor leaguer in 1996, joining the pitching staff of the Gulf Coast League Rays. He was promoted to Low A Ball in 1998, going 6-4 with a 3.38 ERA. The next year he was tossing in AA, going 7-2 with a 4.59 ERA in 40 games (4 starts). In AA for the next two years, he went 1-8 with an ERA of 5.03 in his first season and a 2.06 in his second, during neither of which did he start a game. With a strong bullpen showing during that second year, he was promoted to the D-Rays, going 6-2 with a 3.16 ERA in 36 relief appearances.
The next year was slightly uglier, going 8-8 with a 5.53 ERA in 42 games (11 starts). At one point he was demoted to AAA, but he put together a nasty stint at Durham, putting up a 1.93 ERA in 10 relief appearances.
In 2003, he was back up to the show, going 12-10 with an ERA of 4.21. This was his first year as primarily a starter, as he threw in 34 games (28 starts). The next year was 2004, where he went 9-7 with a 4.43 ERA in 23 games (22 starts) for the D-Rays before being shipped to Flushing. He went 2-0 with a 3.86 ERA in 3 starts before going down with a flexor muscle injury.
We all remember 2005, but his career serves as an important blueprint. Zambrano was never a consistent starter. He has been a consistent reliever, despite high walk rates, and he is, by all observations, about an average pitcher. He's not Pedro, and, no, he's not Scott Kazmir.
But people want to blame Victor, as Brian Giles' grand slam lands in the right field seats. They want to curse Victor, when all he meant for was success. He wants to succeed.
I blame many people. I blame Jim Duquette. I blame the Wilpon/Katz family. I blame Chuck LaMar. I blame every writer who put pressure on Duquette to trade for a starter. I blame Al Leiter and John Franco, for accusing Kazmir of having a drinking problem and a love for marijuana. It bothers me that they were upset that he commandeered the clubhouse stereo. I blame Anna Benson, for not marrying Victor so that he would have been traded. I blame Rick Peterson for having 10 minutes take 3 years.
It's come to the point where it's foolish to expect anything out of Zambrano. He needs to go down to AAA and learn how to pitch, so, maybe, just maybe, he can be a key part of this 2006 rotation.
It's not his fault anymore. He never said he could be fixed in ten minutes. I recall stories of him in tears, apologetic for concealing his injury at the time of the trade. Victor Zambrano isn't guilty of anything besides being traded for someone better than he.

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