After Tony La Russa and Jim Edmonds stopped acting like 9-year-olds - My dad can beat up your dad! Can not! Can too! - something that actually mattered took place in Edmonds' former home for his current team.

After Tony La Russa and Jim Edmonds stopped acting like 9-year-olds - My dad can beat up your dad! Can not! Can too! - something that actually mattered took place in Edmonds' former home for his current team.
 
Carlos Zambrano was healthy and dominant, meaning La Russa should be worried less about getting into silly spats with friend-turned-enemy Edmonds and more about the Cardinals keeping up with their more-talented division rivals.
 
Returning from a shoulder injury that had cost him two starts, Zambrano was in complete control in the Cubs' 2-1 victory Friday night. And anybody who has caught Cra-Z's act over the years knows that's no small thing.
 
He didn't smash any water jugs to smithereens - it's tempting to speculate that his trip to the disabled list was exacerbated by his June 7 cooler-throwing meltdown - nor was there any reason for him to do so.
 
Zambrano allowed four measly singles (including two swinging bunts). He used his 95 mph fastball and can't-touch-this slider to strike out five. And the Cardinals got nary a runner to third base during his six-inning, 87-pitch masterpiece.
 
Between the second-inning standing ovation for Edmonds and Albert Pujols' home run in the eighth off reliever Bob Howry, Zambrano gave Redbird rooters little reason to cheer.
 
"Since he's been on the DL, we haven't pitched nearly as well," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said before the Cubs increased their NL Central lead over the Cardinals to 3 1/2 games. "I don't know if it's a coincidence or something that was gonna happen anyway, but ... sometimes you lose your No. 1 starter and your rotation struggles. I'm hoping he'll come in help stabilize things."
 
When Zambrano struck out Pujols to end the first inning, there were no Cra-Z fist-pumps or over-the-top gyrations. He merely walked off the mound. Maybe his latest brush with mortality made Zambrano grow up just a little bit.
 
La Russa was anything but grown-up beforehand. Having misinterpreted a few innocuous statements by Edmonds about living in the present instead of in the past, La Russa downplayed Edmonds' contributions during the Cardinals' recent glory years and expressed his "disappointment" in one of the city's most celebrated athletes.
 
"He's a Cub," La Russa said. "When he retires, he can be recognized again (in St. Louis), as far as I'm concerned."
 
He then said fans should "just ignore him." They ended up doing both, cheering loudly when he came up to the plate for the first time - the look on La Russa's face when Edmonds doffed his batting helmet was precious - and booing him on subsequent plate appearances.
 
All in all, it was a nice way to handle things: appreciate what Edmonds' did for eight years but then let him know he's no longer "one of ours."
 
Too bad La Russa couldn't have been as magnanimous, avoiding Edmonds before the game despite promising he'd "say hello."
 
Asked about Edmonds' contributions to the 2006 championship run and other great moments, La Russa responded: "Didn't he play in a bunch of postseasons? How many postseasons was he in before he got here? None. He got to a World Series, too, and he was paid for it. Right?
 
"He was paid, he was respected, he was applauded. That's why I was disappointed the way he wanted to shut the door this year. So fine, shut the door! It's not a big deal, man."
 
La Russa's tone suggested it was a big deal. Or was all that simply more posturing and silliness from the Guru of Gamesmanship?
 
"I don't do that (bleep)," said Edmonds. But he couldn't resist, saying he was just "another piece of meat" to La Russa and the Cardinals after a poor 2007 season.
 
"Tony has to be in control, has to have the last word," Edmonds said. "I think he's just trying to stir it up. He gets a little excited about this rivalry."
 
La Russa can be forgiven that sin. Cubs-Cardinals is one of the great shows in sports, and Friday was another example.
 
Home runs by Kosuke Fukudome and Geovany Soto got thousands of Cubbie fans at Busch Stadium stoked. And with Fourth-of-July fireworks exploding in the background, Kerry Wood snuffed out the Cardinals' final opportunity. Though Edmonds went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts, he was celebrating at the end, body-bumping Fukudome and Reed Johnson in the outfield.
 
Take that, Tony!
 
Capping his angry evening, La Russa groused that Wood benefited from umpire Ted Barrett's suddenly oversized ninth-inning strike zone.
 
You know what? La Russa was absolutely right. He finally had a legitimate reason to be upset.
 
If Piniella is right about Zambrano getting the Cubs back in gear, La Russa's angst has only just begun.
 
Mike Nadel (mikenadel@sbcglobal.net) is the Chicago sports columnist for GateHouse News Service. Read his blog, The Baldest Truth, at www.thebaldesttruth.com.