Chicago Sun-Times
with sports reporters Chris De Luca and Gordon Wittenmyer

Are we there yet?

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The more pertinent question: Are they done yet?

And if so, do they know it? Is that why the only things disappearing faster than games on the schedule are players from the clubhouse after the game?

Except for a few stragglers, the Cubs' clubhouse Monday was cleared of players quicker than perhaps any other postgame scene this season that wasn't affected by an early getaway charter or postgame fireworks shows on the road.

Maybe that just means most of them are as tired of answering the same questions as we are of writing the same stories, after hearing the same answers.

Maybe it has something to do with the deflating nature of the past two days.

Just when it looked like the Cubs might start doing something on this homestand to make the wild-card race interesting, they get a pair of clunkers from their Opening Day starter, Carlos Zambrano, in Sunday's loss to the Mets, and their hottest starter since the All-Star break, Rich Harden, in Monday's loss to Houston.

And instead of climbing to 4 1/2 games behind the wild-card leaders, they're 6 back and looking in fade mode again.

Thirty-one games are left. But what's left in the tank?

Hendry, Piniella, Koyie Hill, Aaron Hielman and others talked Monday about pushing over this final month for a playoff spot, even though they face a four-team ladder in the wild-card race, if they can even play well enough in their own right to make it matter.

``Stranger things have happened,'' said Hendry at one point Monday.

Rosters expand today, with at least three players expected to get the call right away with four or five more in the coming week or so.

Do they have a chance? Are there any rabbits left to pull out of the hat? Will that series in San Francisco the last weekend of September matter?

And does anyone even care about the Cubs-Sox game Thursday?

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The Cubs are done.

This team has lacked toughness for the past three seasons. Hendry, for some reason, doesn't understand this. Instead, he goes and gets Milton Bradley, who is widely considered a "numbers" guy... as in HIS numbers, not the team's numbers. He is mercurial, oft-injured and a divisive clubhouse presence. Great acquisition.

Only teams willing to play hard over a defined period of time (e.g., an entire baseball season) are in a position to succeed. The Cubs have not played hard or consistently all season. To expect them to snap their fingers and turn an entire season around is silly. Only GMs and managers discuss this because they are trying to save their jobs.

All season, this entire organization thought it could roll the balls out onto the field and everything would take care of itself. They stopped executing. There's no sense of urgency. Nothing.

I remember when they were struggling early in the season and Derrick Lee said something along the lines of there's a lot of baseball left to be played so we don't need to worry. That statement says it all about this team (and D Lee).

Hendry's recent acquisitions have bombed and now he's locked the team into some painful contracts (Dempster, Fukudome, Soriano, Zambrano, Bradley). If Hendry somehow is retained by the Cubs, I'm expecting him to sign Mike Hampton to a 3 year contract at $12M/yr. That would make sense in Hendry-land.

I have been a CUB fan since about 1963 and seen a lot of clunkers in my time. This isn't the worst of teams - and it isn't exactly mediocre given the talent "on paper". But it is a team that chokes more than most. Having been swept in playoffs two years in row has affected everyone involved from the bat boy to the guy drinking three beers at a time. A losing year with a good team could be beneficial next year. The players will get angry watching team which are inferior "on paper" have fun and they will be making excuses to their fans, friends and themselves. But maybe next year they will return a bit hungrier and ready for the fight. They now realize it isn't so easy to make the playoffs as it seemed in the last two years. While these thoughts could be completely inane, I am a lifelong Cub fan and therefore I always find reason to hope - especially the mantra of "we'll get 'em next year"

I agree with Delon, and he said it well. I'm a bit more die-hard because I still hold out hopes for the play-offs.That is probably unrealistic, and certainly the Cubs have been a bit painful to watch lately, but I still have hopes for them. I do not understand all the animosity about Bradley. He is a competitor who takes tthe game and his own performance seriously. I have absolutely no doubt that he is harder on himself than any Cub fan is. Haven't you naysayers ever directed your anger at yourselves after not living up to the standard you set for yourselves? Look at Bradley and Lee after they strike out or pop out when a hit would score a run. They are angry as hell, but at themselves, not the fans or pitcher. That is the true nature of the competitive spirit, so ease up on these players. I'm sure they feel worse about their performance than we do.

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This page contains a single entry by Gordon Wittenmyer published on August 31, 2009 11:10 PM.

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