- Melissa Isaacson, espnW.com
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CHICAGO -- Detained by airport security for 40 minutes late Tuesday night before his return trip from the All-Star Game in Arizona, Cubs manager Mike Quade said he was tempted to tell them who he was as they whisked him away to a "concealed room."
"It was a full pat-down," Quade said. "[They asked] 'Are you sensitive in any areas?'"
Oh, where to begin? His team's lack of fundamentals? The whole Ryan Dempster thing? His job security?
If it had happened at O'Hare, he may still be in the concealed room.
"But it was good, a great experience," Quade concluded of the break.
And other than sitting at 18 games below .500, the first half of the season was swell, too.
Not that Quade is in denial.
"We have to execute better, pitch better, hit better. We have to be better," he said Thursday before the Cubs took on the Florida Marlins to begin the unofficial second half of the season on an otherwise picture-perfect night at the ballpark, then concluded it in perfectly horrendous Cubs fashion with a 6-3 defeat.
Even in the scope of a hopeless season, this one was near-epic, with a scoreless seven-inning gem by Matt Garza and perfect setup by Sean Marshall obliterated by Carlos Marmol, who blew his National League-leading seventh save and the second in his past three opportunities.
Marmol opened the ninth by walking the first three Marlins batters, then gave up a bases-clearing double to pinch hitter Greg Dobbs.
It couldn't get any Cubbier when the go-ahead run -- scored by Dewayne Wise -- came after Wise tripped and fell rounding third but still managed to cross home when Darwin Barney's relay -- scored a throwing error -- skipped past Geovany Soto. And Marmol was not backing up the play.
Kerry Wood came in for Marmol, who gave up five earned runs on one hit and four walks. Wood allowed another hit, another walk and another earned run as fans glumly filed out in still another daze.
"That was pretty bad," Quade said, "as bad as I've seen [Marmol]."
The Cubs skipper had begun the workday by reminding his players that they're as healthy as they have been all year and that they had a strong finish last season.
Of course, that was the last week of August and this is the second week of July, and in both situations there was nothing left to play for. But that wasn't his point.
"The thing to be able to draw from, to me, is that these guys didn't just all of a sudden start beating people 9-1 and start crushing people the last six weeks of the season," Quade said. "We had a lot of close ballgames, we pitched very effectively, we caught the ball better than we had and we just did a lot of little things better than we are [doing] right now "
Then Thursday's game started and the first Marlins batter reached base after Carlos Pena made a good play on the ball but hesitated on his way to first, thinking either that Garza would be there or that Emilio Bonifacio was a lot slower than he looked.
The second Marlins batter, Omar Infante singled. And cleanup batter Hanley Ramirez moved Bonifacio to third on a fly ball fortunately caught at the warning track by center fielder Marlon Byrd after Alfonso Soriano ducked out of his way at the last second.
The Marlins didn't score, but the top of the first did sort of remind you why the Cubs are in their current position.
Cubs fans want change seemingly any way they can get it, a premise at which Quade recoiled, probably because he's Exhibit A.
"I despise that word [change]," he said. "I just think there should be reasons whether it's in this sport or it's business or anything else. That usually means people don't want to say why they're making changes -- 'Let's just change things.' Well, probably it's because things aren't going well and it's time. Well, OK then, we're not just making change for the sake of change. Every time I hear that, it's like, 'Be more specific, please.'"
Well, OK. Specifically, the Cubs apparently need a more reliable closer, though the three-year, $20 contract Marmol signed in February makes things more complicated with nearly $17 million coming over the next two seasons. They need more financial flexibility and hence less money on the payroll. They need better players, and whether Brett Jackson or Ryan Flaherty -- just promoted to Triple-A Iowa -- are ready yet seems not to matter so much right now.
As for Quade, he was never intended as a long-term solution in the first place and would be an easy scapegoat. And it is worth wondering whether Dempster's public argument with him last week is a sign that clubhouse support of the manager is slipping.
Interesting that Dempster, who starts Friday, was not at all apologetic about the incident, prompted when Quade removed him from the game earlier (after five innings) than the pitcher thought warranted.
"Everything's fantastic," Quade said when asked about the situation. But clearly nothing is even close to fantastic right now.
"Now is not the time or place to make all sorts of bold changes," Quade said after the latest bloodletting.
But maybe it is.
Sometimes there's simply no other logical option.
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.
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