Does White Sox’ Pedro Grifol mind if Cubs’ Craig Counsell borrows ‘[bleeping] flat’ comment?

When Cubs manager Craig Counsell played for Pat Murphy at Notre Dame, he ‘‘hated’’ Murphy, as the first-year Brewers skipper likes to tell it.

‘‘I was pretty tough on him,’’ said Murphy, who was Counsell’s bench coach with the Brewers in 2016-23. ‘‘He never spoke up, and I wanted him to speak up.’’

When Murphy wanted to get under Counsell’s skin, he’d call him a name that no longer passes the political-correctness test: a ‘‘mute.’’ As Counsell toiled at the transition from outfielder to infielder, Murphy would beat grounders at him and insist he yell, ‘‘MINE!’’ even when no teammate was in the vicinity.

‘‘He’d get so pissed,’’ Murphy said. ‘‘He wanted to kill me.’’

That was more than 30 years ago. These days, Counsell merely wants to beat Murphy.

But Murphy and the first-place Brewers keep yelling, ‘‘MINE!’’ And the Cubs aren’t putting up much of an argument. Matter of fact, one might say the Cubs have gone “[bleeping] flat,” to crib off a phrase used this week by beleaguered White Sox manager Pedro Grifol to describe his god-awful team.

It’s a frustrating, demoralizing time to be a baseball fan in Chicago, no matter on which side of town your allegiance lies.

Entering play Tuesday, the Sox had lost six consecutive games and 10 of their last 11 while falling to a cartoonishly terrible record of 15-40. It was the worst mark in the majors and the worst 55-game Sox record since . . . hang on, still leafing through history here . . . oh, ever.

The Sox had been shut out 10 times. They had been held to one run six times. They had the lowest batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage in the big leagues, had hit the fewest home runs and had scored — by a gaping margin — the fewest runs. Aside from that, the offense is singing.

But the Cubs’ offense is even more maddening to watch because everybody who’s anybody is doing next to nothing all at the same time, and this lineup was supposed to be a pretty good one. The Cubs, who entered play Tuesday at 27-27, had the second-lowest batting average (.226) in the National League, had
dropped 10 of their last 13 games and were in danger of losing a fifth consecutive series — this one in Milwaukee, of all places, where the overachieving Brewers were trying to expand their 4½-game division lead.

Going back to their stretch-run collapse last season, the Cubs have lost 10 consecutive games started by 2024 Opening Day guy Justin Steele. They’ve already had 16 players go on the injured list. There has been some bad, strange luck. But the Cubs’ lineup is whole again; it just hasn’t made a damn bit of difference.

The Cubs and the Sox score like bottom-of-the-table soccer teams. If only their offenses could be relegated like them.

We’re only a week away from seeing our teams go head-to-head for the first time this season, June 4 and 5 at Wrigley Field. What are we calling this room-temperature rivalry these days, anyway? Is the ‘‘Crosstown Craptastic’’ taken?

Grifol’s ‘‘flat’’ criticism of a Triple-A-quality lineup is going to follow him for a while — and possibly until the end of his time on the South Side. He went into last season, his first as a manager, brimming with confident talk, then blinked and had a 7-21 record. This spring, he described the team’s ‘‘good vibe, good energy’’ and then started 3-22, tied for the worst 25-game mark of the wild-card era. Grifol speaks in managerial epitaphs.

No one in baseball has experienced more losing in recent years than Grifol. He was the Royals’ bench coach when they went 58-104 in 2018 and 59-103 in 2019. He lost 101 games last season and should exceed that total easily in 2024, if he makes it to the end of the line. And there’s the way-too-tempting comp to Royals manager Matt Quatraro, whose first team was 56-106 last season but whose second team is soaring at 34-21. How staggering is it to realize the Sox are 19 games behind the Royals — who aren’t even in first place — before the end of May? It’s no wonder the Royals plugged somebody else’s bench coach into their lead role, hiring Quatraro from the Rays instead of promoting Grifol.

Not sure who will be throwing out the first pitches during Sox-Cubs at Wrigley, but are Rick Renteria and David Ross busy? Just an idle thought. Never mind.

Grifol entered Tuesday 76-141 as the Sox’ manager, an appalling record. Then again, he was set up to fail by his biggest cheerleader, ex-general manager Rick Hahn, along with ex-executive vice president Ken Williams and — most of all — big boss Jerry Reinsdorf, who might be the least popular owner in sports.

Counsell was supposed to come in and take the Cubs from a 2023 postseason near-miss into the 2024 playoff field and eventually to another World Series. He still might do all of the above. But now we have to question the pieces he has to work with, the roster that president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer — who has yet to lead the Cubs to a postseason without Theo Epstein — gave him.

‘‘The shell of a really good team is there,’’ Hoyer insisted at the end of last season.

‘‘We have real organizational momentum,’’ he promised.

Any momentum has gone flat. Make that bleeping flat.

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