In 10 years covering the Cubs, I've seen my share of bizarre clubhouse scenes.
But few could top the crazy atmosphere Thursday after a 7-4 loss to the Brewers.
The Cubs may be out of the pennant race, but they still lead the league in chaos, confusion and misdirection plays.
It all began with rookie starter Randy Wells taking the blame for Thursday's loss, admitting he "lost focus," saying manager Lou Piniella "hit a nerve" with his criticism and calling his outing "pitiful."
Normally, that would be enough to stand on its own. But Wells' mea culpa was just the appetizer. As Wells left, media relations director Peter Chase flicked the switch to the sound system, ending the interview session without manager Lou Piniella.
"Where's Lou?" I shouted.
Piniella had declined to talk, he replied.
Piniella not talking after a game is a rarity. He does it about once a year and already had used his mulligan for 2009.
As the media horde wondered what was up with Piniella, it filed into the clubhouse and saw some colorful costumes hung in several players' lockers. It was rookie hazing day, where Ryan Dempster buys goofy costumes for the rookies to wear on the team charter.
Players huddled around Milton Bradley's locker, wondering why he left for a pinch-runner with no one immediately replacing him. Bradley picked up his clothes and went elsewhere to dress.
I wandered over to Rich Harden's locker, where the Cubs pitcher appeared surprised to learn he was being skipped in the rotation for his next start, and possibly one more.
Harden had told the media he was fine Wednesday, so why would he possibly miss two starts?
"Who said that?" Harden asked.
"Lou," I replied.
Harden insisted he would miss only one start and that he's just "a little tired."
I trudged to the other side of the clubhouse, where Sam Fuld was dressed as Wonder Woman, Jeff Samardzija as Buzz Lightyear and David Patton as a giant leprechaun. Carlos Zambrano was the official team photographer, naturally.
Bradley re-entered the scene and reluctantly took questions at his locker.
What happened with the injury?
"I'm not talking about that," he said. "What else you got?"
Why did you come out?
"I got knee inflammation," he said. "I got two knee surgeries. That happens when you got knee surgery, in case you don't know. What else you got?"
How long will you be out?
"What else you got? Anything significant?"
This went on and on until Bradley turned his back, ending the interview. A few minutes later, reporters were called into Piniella's office, where he calmly discussed Wells' start, Bradley's knee injury and Harden's fatigue.
So why didn't he just tell us that in the first place?
"Once in a while, I don't have anything to say, and sitting in my office here and just having a bottle of cold water, it helps me relax a little bit," he said. "And you all can't get my goat as easy."
Piniella laughed. There was no water bottle in sight, though Piniella appeared quite refreshed. As for Bradley's defensiveness, Piniella said Bradley handled things wrong, saying he should have just told the truth.
"All he had to say was I talked to [the trainer] in front of the manager, which he did, and he said, 'My patella is bothering me,' " he said. "When he went over to first base, I motioned to him and he said he couldn't run, and we just took him out of the ballgame. ... He was in his perfect rights to come out of the ballgame, and that's all he needed to say.
"All he has to say are the facts. And if he says the facts, nobody is going to dispute anything. That's all. Just say the facts."
The fact about the Cubs is there are 17 games remaining, and it's only getting weirder by the day.
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