"It's only spring training."
Say it over and over to yourself, Cubs fans.
"It's only spring training."
Yes, it's only been four games—four games that don't count for anything, to be exact—but it's hard for a team to look any worse than the Chicago Cubs have so far.
In just four spring training games, the Cubs have committed 14 errors, including three in the first inning of a 12-5 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday.
Those three errors helped give the Brewers a 6-1 first-inning lead, as starter Carlos Silva gave up two home runs in the frame.
It also led to the much-publicized altercation between Silva and third baseman Aramis Ramirez, who committed one of the three errors.
Manager Mike Quade, who took over for Lou Piniella following his retirement last August, held a team meeting on Thursday. The meeting, Quade said, was related to the Cubs' overall play so far, not just the altercation in the dugout.
"I do like the fact that some people were pissed off. I really do," Quade said. "Now let's see if we can take some of that in the right direction."
Quade said there would be no fines or suspensions handed out to Silva or Ramirez.
Thursday's fight was more of a culmination of the last four games for the Cubs than just another incident. The entire team has struggled in the field, raising eyebrows along with tempers.
"If we were going to have everybody fight that has made mistakes this spring, we'd have the cage match of all time," Quade said.
You got that right.
While Quade is quick to point out that it's only four games, that's also the point: It's only four games.
If the Cubs are already coming apart at the seams after just four spring training games, how are they going to look when the games actually count for something?
Silva is one of six guys trying to win a spot in the Cubs' starting rotation this season. Quade has yet to name a fourth or fifth starter, but Silva believes he should have a job based on his first-half performance last season.
Over his first 16 starts, Silva was 9-2 with a 2.96 ERA and 1.07 WHIP. He missed most of August with an irregular heartbeat and was clobbered by the Houston Astros in his lone start after coming back on September 7.
Quade certainly has a reputation as a players' manager, but he has to get a handle on his team ASAP.
Yes, it's only spring training, and yes, it's only four games, but if he establishes himself as someone who will tolerate this type of play, even if it the games don't count, it will be impossible for him to change that perception during the regular season.
Quade has already said that Silva doesn't owe anyone an apology.
Really? He doesn't need to apologize for fighting with a teammate, not even to that teammate at least?
Ramirez has addressed the media about the situation, saying, "It's in the past, and you move on." But Silva has remained silent, refusing all requests for a statement.
So Silva doesn't have to apologize, explain what happened or do anything really to smooth the situation out or clarify what happened. He'll just leave it up to the speculation of the media, and we all know that can lead to all sorts of ideas.
Most will argue that spring training is meaningless and how a team plays in March has no bearing on their performance in April and beyond. Certainly that's true; no one expects the Cubs to regularly make 14 errors in any four-game span.
But the Cubs aren't known for being a patient, levelheaded team.
In fact, the altercation between Silva and Ramirez conjured memories of the dust-up between Carlos Zambrano and then-first baseman Derrek Lee on June 25 last season, which led to Zambrano's suspension and entry into anger management classes.
After Quade took over for Piniella, the Cubs went 17-9, including an 11-1 mark on the road, so the players will respond to him.
But Quade can't let this go on much longer. Four games is still four games, and this is a team that emptied its farm system for Matt Garza to contend in the pitching-deep NL Central, with a fanbase expecting Albert Pujols in Cubs white and blue in 2012.
While it may not seem like a big deal now, if the Cubs struggle during the regular season or another incident like this one occurs, everyone will point to these first four days as the genesis. Quade can do a lot to stop that before it happens by taking control of this team and reminding them that fighting and sloppy play aren't going to be tolerated, whether it's in March or September.