Whenever the Cubs reflect on the 2011 season, this weekend will go down as the most promising. And it has little to do with taking two out of three from the Braves.
The Cubs picked up something greater in Atlanta than just a couple of games in the win column. They gained opportunity.
Nearly two years after Chairman Tom Ricketts officially purchased the Cubs, the chance to begin a complete culture change finally arrived. That never could happen with Carlos Zambrano in a Cubs uniform. The size of Zambrano's contract limited payroll flexibility; the depth of his mood swings contaminated clubhouse camaraderie. He was like a modern-day goat, the symbol of underachievement.
Too many people in the Cubs' front office felt an odd allegiance to Zambrano because they were the team that gave a poor Venezuelan teenager a chance at prosperity more than a decade ago. Too often that long history with Zambrano got in the way of what was best for the team's future.
Somewhere is a graduate student who could complete a fascinating dissertation studying whether the Cubs enabled Zambrano or Sammy Sosa more during their respective tenures. Both players left a legacy that included walking out early on the team that refused to stop giving them repeated chances to fail.
But no longer, not after Zambrano all but guaranteed he had thrown his last pitch for the Cubs after responding to Friday's ejection by cleaning out his locker and quitting on 24 teammates under the ridiculous guise of retirement.