So who are the real Cubs? That may be the biggest question 66 games into the season, but breaking down the highs and the lows, upside and downside of this club, here are the five questions that emerged out of Monday's opener of what appears to be a daunting road trip to four cities:
June 2009 Archives
Is Thursday's late-inning outburst the sign of a struggling lineup breaking out of its slump, or the inevitable aberration that blips during almost any team funk?
The Cubs figure to get a quick answer to that when they face the reigning American League Cy Young winner, lefty Cliff Lee, Friday at Wrigley - the fifth time this season they'll have faced a Cy Young winner (those pitchers are 3-1, 1.88 against the Cubs).
It's clear to anyone who has seen or worked around Piniella for even the past 15 years that he's slower to rage and less inclined to blow up on the field, at a player or in the media now that he's in his 60s. And, to some degree, maybe now that he's in Chicago.
I covered his Seattle teams for a little over two seasons in the '90s, and he's definitely different now at 65 than he was in his early 50s. But he also has more resources, a deeper team, a different media market (not to mention a different media era) and a different upper-management structure than he's had in previous managerial stops.
And he's at what he calls the final stop in that career, which might tend to give anybody a different outlook.
So what about that famous Piniella fire and ire that many Chicagoans are saying they want and suggesting appears extinguished in the formerly fiery manager?
CINCINNATI - With closer Kevin Gregg into his third month of up-and-down results, and Carlos Marmol in the longest command slump of his relief career, is it time for a shakeup at the end of the Cubs' bullpen?
If so, is Angel Guzman the solution? The ninth inning looked like a good fit tonight -- albeit in a tie game and despite that two-out single.
Why couldn't the Cubs do that?
Not long after the Braves released 300-game winner and franchise icon Tom Glavine Wednesday night, they pulled off a 3-for-1 trade for Pittsburgh center fielder Nate McLouth - the lefty-hitting 2008 All-Star the Cubs at one point dreamed of acquiring.
Talk about stealing the headlines while rubbing it in the noses of the visitors at Turner Field.
ATLANTA - Is it too late to get Mark DeRosa back from Cleveland?
Not that the versatile and productive hitter would have made the Cubs' bullpen look any better in Tuesday night's late-inning meltdown and extra-inning loss in Atlanta.
But going forward, Tuesday's game provided a microcosm of the issues surrounding DeRosa's departure and the void left behind - not the least of which was right fielder Milton Bradley's latest injury.