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For now, hope floats for Mike Quade, Cubs

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

It fell in mid-sentence.

One drop of water, from the ceiling of an interview room deep in the bowels of Wrigley Field, onto the table from which Cubs manager Mike Quade was speaking to the media.

A crack in the foundation, an old pipe — does it even matter at this point as the Friendly Confines get dumpier by the year?

But Quade didn’t pause, didn’t blink an eye. Even when it seems the ballpark he practically lives in is falling apart more each day, Captain Positive sees a Cubs team — currently 8-8 — that can shock the baseball world by winning the National League Central.

‘‘There is nothing I can do other than believe this group is going to contend for this division,’’ Quade said just minutes after it was announced that rain and wind had postponed Tuesday’s game against the San Diego Padres to set up a doubleheader today. ‘‘For me, there are more positives than negatives. The negatives weigh heavily on the injury factor. But, in simplest terms, the one thing I wanted from this club and what I made clear was I wanted a quality effort every day and every night, both mentally and physically. Let’s think this thing through. And we’re going to make mistakes, but let’s rebound from them and move forward.

“If you get that, then you are going to get the best out of your club. We’ll see what that is. I’m thrilled with the effort and the way they’ve gone about their business the first couple of weeks, so that leads me to believe that we’ll get better and improve.’’

Call it a Quade leap of faith made easier by a division in which mediocrity is the standard so far. Before Tuesday’s games, the Cubs, who beat the Padres in extra innings Monday night, were among four teams in the Central at 8-8, a game behind the division-leading Cincinnati Reds.

They’ve stayed with the pack even with starting pitchers Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner on the 15-day disabled list and with projected big guns Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster on the still-haven’t-shown-up list. The Cubs’ 4.89 team ERA was 14th in the National League entering Tuesday, but they’re one hot streak from grabbing the Central lead as April winds down.

‘‘With our pitching, our three horses — Z [Carlos Zambrano] pitched well [Monday] night, and we need to get the other two guys going — we’re pretty damn formidable on the mound, and our bullpen speaks for itself,’’ Quade said. ‘‘That in itself, along with the young kids that are getting better, leads me to believe that we should be able to stay in this thing. Time will tell.’’

That should be the Cubs’ mantra.

Time will tell if Quade’s bio stays on Page 26 of the media guide or if he’ll appear only on Page 298 with 50 other former North Side skippers. Time will tell if general manager Jim Hendry is the right guy to clean up his own mess. And, more important, time will tell if the Ricketts family has what it takes to build a dynasty or if it keeps the Cubs toiling in disappointment for a 103rd consecutive year.

‘‘We’re far from playing our best baseball, and we’re going to have to play better if we want to make any impact — there’s no question,’’ Quade said. ‘‘We’re middling right now, but it looks like the whole division is, so far.’’

It would be nice to share Quade’s enthusiasm on what could be, but it’s tough to get past what is. The Cubs looked like a .500 team in spring training and look every bit like the .500 team they are now. There are some positives — Starlin Castro, Alfonso Soriano’s power stroke, a few arms in the bullpen. But we’re past looking for positives when it comes to the Cubs. It’s championship ring or bust nowadays.

This team looks like it will float in mediocrity until the sinking starts in August as the Cubs take on water.

One drop at a time.

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