It was some kind of crazy hot Wednesday at Wrigley Field.
The game-time temperature was 97 degrees with the heat index soaring well into the triple digits, prompting organist Gary Pressy to play Christmas music.
There were reports, rumors and denials that Cubs owner Tom Ricketts has been talking with venerable baseball executive Pat Gillick about some sort of front-office job. Gillick is going into the Hall of Fame this weekend, so there's no chance of a Cubs job tarnishing his legacy in that regard.
And on the field, the Cubs spent the hot afternoon getting pounded 9-1 by the Philadelphia Phillies.
On one of the best days for hitting all year, the Cubs didn't have a hit until Geovany Soto singled in the fifth inning. At one point, the Phillies were outhitting the Cubs 11-1.
So what did manager Mike Quade think was the key play of another debacle?
A one-out popup from the second batter of the game. Shortstop Starlin Castro lost the ball in the sun and it dropped. The Phillies scored twice that inning, with Cubs starting pitcher Ryan Dempster throwing 27 of the 86 pitches he threw over his 3 innings.
After the game, Quade was late coming into the interview room because he wanted to talk with Castro and second baseman Darwin Barney.
"It was disappointing at the start," said Quade, whose team fell to a season-low 21 games under .500 at 39-60. "I needed to talk to the kids in the middle of the diamond about that. Demp wasn't as sharp as you wanted, but we set a bad tone. We've got to stop.
"Ball's in the sun. They're communicating. Cassie thought he had that all the way. I look at this whole game and look at that play. The sun's been in the same damn spot for however long Wrigley Field's been here. Those are the kinds of mistakes. There are certain (mistakes) you'll accept.
"Those are two talented kids in the middle of the diamond. We make enough mistakes, and we need to clean them all up. But it's so important for those guys to play well in the middle. Everything goes through there."
Castro had left by the time reporters got to the clubhouse, but Barney stuck up for his manager, who has singled out Castro for perceived problems at least three times since taking over as manager last August.
"I agree with him 100 percent," Barney said. "We handle every ball: relays, throws in. Everything goes through us. We've got to be better. We've got to be more energized. You look at this team, and you've got to decide: How can we be better? Pitching and defense is the name of the game, and we're right there in the middle of it.
"We've got to get better. We got to talk more. We got to be more excited to be out there. I'll take responsibility for that."
Barney did not wish to talk about what more he could have done on the botched popup.
Really, there seemed to be enough blame to go around. Dempster gave up 7 hits and 6 runs while Phillies rookie pitcher Vance Worley ran his record to 6-1 with a 2.02 ERA with 8 innings of 4-hit, 1-run ball.
The Phillies scored 3 in the second as Dempster threw 37 more pitches, and once more in the third.
"They did a good job of that, the Phillies," Dempster said. "I'd like to take most of the credit for pitching bad, but they deserved some of it for working the count. They fouled off a lot of pitches."
Quade's comments likely are not going to play well with an increasingly restless public that may see him as throwing two key parts of the Cubs' future under the proverbial bus.
Veteran first baseman Carlos Pena made 2 errors on one play. Left fielder Alfonso Soriano was 0-for-3. He is without a homer since June 19.
"I think our veterans are doing a pretty damn good job," Quade said. "I see intensity from our center fielder (Marlon Byrd), and Rami's (Aramis Ramirez) playing really well. It doesn't mean we don't make some mistakes. I just know the value of the middle of the diamond. We've got two talented kids there that need to get better, and they've got 60-some games to prove that and to show that the rest of this season and go from there."
So what to do?
"Put the negativity behind us," Quade said. "Play with some freakin' intensity and continue to work on playing the game the way we need to play, and we're not."