By the time the game started Friday afternoon for the Cubs, none of it seemed to matter.
They even played like it.
“I think anytime you see a teammate going through something, there’s going to be some of that,” second baseman Daniel Murphy said of the emotions in the clubhouse after teammate Addison Russell was put on administrative leave by the commissioner’s office while it renews its investigation into newly brought accusations of domestic violence.
“But we’re not the first people in history to deal with something like that,” Murphy added after the Cubs’ 10-4 loss to the doormat White Sox. “I don’t think that had any bearing on today’s outcome.”
With the sobering news about Russell on Friday, chairman Tom Ricketts and top executives were in and out of the clubhouse and manager’s office leading up to a flat performance for the team with the best record in the National League.
“It was good to be able to have Theo and Mr. Ricketts in here to kind of explain what’s going to happen and give us all better peace of mind about it,” slugger Kyle Schwarber said of the informational meeting Ricketts and team president Theo Epstein held in the clubhouse about two hours before the game.
“Obviously, it’s something that’s not ideal,” Schwarber added, “but we’re going to have to be able to move forward about this and be able to focus on baseball.”
With Russell out, the Cubs’ jobs didn’t get any easier Friday, despite their strong position in the National League Central.
The loss trimmed their division lead over second-place Milwaukee two games with nine to play, pending the outcome of the late Brewers-Pirates game Friday night.
“We are short a player, but we’ll be fine,” manager Joe Maddon said before the game. “We’ve gone through some difficult baseball moments to this point. It’s just another day at the ballpark regarding any kind of difficulties we might have.”
The gravity of the real-life moment was evident in Epstein’s weary stoicism before and after the game.
“We wanted them to have the information when they showed up for work today,” Epstein said of the team meeting, hours after meeting with Russell and talking with league officials about the latest revelations that surfaced overnight.
“We want them to know first and foremost how seriously we take all allegations of domestic violence,” Epstein said, “and we want to let them know that Addison is on administrative leave and that it’s [a step to] protect everybody’s rights and allow the league to bring the matter to a fair and just resolution, and that we’re supportive of that.”
NOTES: Kyle Schwarber (back) returned to the starting lineup for the first time since Sept. 8 and was the designated hitter. Despite going 0-for-4, he said he felt physically fine. He could be back in left field by the end of the series.
• Pinch hitter Tommy La Stella also was available after being sidelined the previous week with a sore back.
• Daniel Murphy delivered three of the Cubs’ nine hits, including a leadoff homer in the first. He’s 6-for-10 since a 2-for-27 slide.