Mike Quade came to the conclusion that the Cubs are no longer contending. Quite the epiphany when you’ve hovering around 20 games under .500 for months, huh?
Quade claimed the Cubs were in position to get back in the race if they had a good run against NL Central foes. He also claimed he was not a lunatic. For those of you scoring at home, that’s 0-for-2 as Quade’s team sputtered deeper into the toilet, securing its grasp on the second-worst record in baseball.
And then, before Tuesday night’s win in Pittsburgh, Quade admitted the Cubs are not contenders and will have to play spoiler. http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/baseball/cubs/ct-spt-0803-cubs-bits--20110803,0,2447728.story So, that’s good. Quade came to his senses about the kind of season his team is having shortly before he figures to lose his job because of the kind of season his team is having.
It’s not all his fault, of course. But there’s nothing to recommend his return. Outside of Jim Hendry’s liking him, I mean. Remember when Quade said he would be hands-on in spring training drills? That seemed to indicate attention to defensive play, and look at that, the Cubs have ranked last or close to it in fielding percentage this season.
But most damning is what some of the players have said, including one of the newer Cubs, who sounds like a lot of players who come through Wrigley and can’t believe or understand what happens.
Carlos Pena, who came from the once-dogbreath Tampa Bay Rays, said the Cubs’ culture has to change. This, mind you, came after the Cubs won a game Sunday in St. Louis. But after four months of Cubness, Pena obviously had something figured out. Pena didn’t elaborate because of time constraints. After all, we only have about 16 months before the Mayans’ prediction of the end of civilization.
Pena might’ve made the point that Quade seems to be the manager of the younger players and the designated driver for the veterans, but he didn’t, so I’ll make it for him.
Carlos Zambrano, meanwhile, told Comcast SportsNet the team needs players who really want to win and will pay the price for it. I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the nut paragraph from the resident nut who had a spasm of lucidity Tuesday the way he did during his famous “We stinks’’ rant.
Many players want to come here. Nobody wants to leave. See Aramis Ramirez for details. Why? Because nobody seems to be in charge. Nobody seems to demand winning. Nobody seems to make anyone accountable.
That’s a culture that starts at the top with the Fanboy Owner and goes right through the clubhouse, where Cubs players traditionally act as if holding each other accountable causes leprosy. Zambrano’s method of delivering his message “stinks,’’ but his message in that rant was spot on, particularly the part about throwing the wrong pitch to former teammate Ryan Theriot.
Smart players know what to do and take pride in doing it. Smart managers and coaches prepare them, but smart players take care of these things themselves. Peer pressure remains the most powerful motivation for athletes who care. For those who don’t care, it’s follow the money. But for those with pride, it’s the fear of failure and it’s hating that everyone in the locker room knows who wasn’t prepared.
For athletes who can’t handle such scrutiny, there’s always Wrigley, home of Cub Med.
It worsened this season when the Fanboy Owner said there was nothing wrong with his near-major-league-worst Cubs except a lot a injuries. That’s the worst excuse in sports. Only the dumbest fans buy it. When a Fanboy Owner relies on it, the stupidity and/or embarrassment is exponential.
Pick a Carlos, any Carlos -- Pena and Zambrano are right. But good luck changing the culture when the Fanboy Owner makes a bigger deal about of changing the urinals.