Nadel column from Wrigley Field
CHICAGO - Maybe you're working overtime just to put food on the table. Maybe you're a nurse trying to keep patients
The Cubbies are tired.
For 2 1/2 weeks solid, the overworked, underpaid Chicago Cubs actually had to throw pitches and swing bats and field grounders and chase flyballs. Throw in all the fighting with opponents and each other, my friend, and that's exhausting.
I'm drained just thinking about the grueling life they lead. And for what? A few million dollars here, a few million dollars there?
"It feels like the dog days of August," Mark DeRosa said, "and it's not even July yet."
Thank God his Cubs have today off!
They just finished a 4-3 homestand, pretty good by their standards. Still, a team supposedly built on power managed but three home runs all week - one apiece by Alfonso Soriano, pitcher Carlos Zambrano and career minor-leaguer Mike Fontenot. The San Diego Padres hit five homers Sunday alone in winning 11-3 and giving Greg Maddux one of the easiest of his 339 career victories.
The Cubs have been outhomered 74-63, including 35-33 at Wrigley Field, and I think you'll get a kick out of what Lou Piniella had to say about it.
"We thought we'd do a little more damage," he said. "I mean, sometimes teams just don't swing the bats well and we're probably in one of those periods now. We played 17 games in a row, too. Remember, we gave up our day off last week to play (a make-up game against) Houston. I think these kids are a little worn out."
Just look at poor Rich Hill. He worked almost seven whole innings just five days earlier, so no wonder he had all the energy of a batting-practice pitcher Sunday. All the success of one, too.
The Padres hit the ball so hard on nearly every swing, Piniella thought Hill might have been tipping his pitches. I just think Rich needs another five or six days off.
One thing for sure: Mike Cameron isn't tired of Hill. His two homers Sunday gave him four this season against left-handers - all courtesy of Hill.
If only the Cubs could have received a verve transfusion from Cameron. After getting shut out on two hits Saturday, they fell behind 9-1 in the first five innings against Maddux.
Seems the bone-weary Cubbies could barely lift their bats.
Michael Barrett was so spent after catching for the third time on the homestand that here's all he could say to the assembled media: "Y'all mind if I don't comment today?" Certainly not. Like his bat and fists, his vocal chords needed rest, too.
Soriano, who apparently didn't get the memo, acted surprised by the notion that fatigue might have factored into his 4-for-31 homestand.
"I feel good," he said. "I love to play every day."
Oh yeah? Then how to explain the $136 Million Man's sluggish bat? His only contribution all homestand was the showboating homer that might or might not have led to Saturday's beaning of Derrek Lee, which in turn led to a bench-clearing brawl.
Contrary to those who believe such silliness "ignites" a team, the Cubs were about as energetic as my teenage boy on a Sunday morning. Zzzzzzzzz.
While the Cubs obviously got no benefit from the fight, they almost surely will lose Lee for a significant stretch to a suspension. Now that's sure to bring the bats to life!
I can't figure out the Cubs. Just when it seems safe to give them a little praise, they stop hitting or stop catching the ball or stop pitching well. They win a couple and fans get giddy, then they lose a couple and Cubbieland gets brought back to reality.
The Cubs arrived at the dreaded 17-game stretch seven games under .500 and 6 behind Milwaukee in the NL Central. They departed it six under .500 and 6 1/2 games behind the Brewers.
Hmmm. I guess all that treading water really tuckers a team out.
Mike Nadel (email@example.com) is the Chicago sports columnist for GateHouse News Service. Read his blog, The Baldest Truth, at www.thebaldesttruth.com.