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:
1. Is this the clutch, resilient team that won four straight games before heading to Atlanta for Monday's 2-0 loss in that makeup of the rained out game 2 1/2 weeks ago? Or the team that went 0-6 two road trips ago and .500 on the last one?
2. Do they need the last ups that home-field advantage provides to win a game? This, considering that four of their five wins on the just concluded homestand came on runs scored on walkoff plays, while all four of their losses on the 4-4 homestand immediately preceding that came on walkoff plays. Cubs PR man Peter Chase noted before Monday's game that until Sunday, the Cubs had not played a game since May 31 that finished in 8 1/2 innings -- in other words, a game that the home team won with a lead they held entering the ninth.
3. Why does Milton Bradley need a day off when he's hitting well and looking good physically? Nobody on the team has had more off days than this guy (except Aramis Ramirez, who has been out nearly two months with an injury) and yet the team seems to feel the need to coddle him enough to give him time off that other players don't need. If he's hitting well and playing well in the field, without apparent nagging physical issues, shouldn't he simply be in the lineup? He is, after all, a switch-hitter, without, supposedly, any significant matchup problems with lefty/righty pitchers. And isn't this why he's getting $30 million?
4. Will the next six days in American League parks, using the DH, benefit the Cubs -- like it should with most NL teams -- or do they have enough good hitters deep enough on their roster for it to make a significant difference? Especially against a Detroit team with a good lineup? And a White Sox team with a chip on its shoulder playing at home with its fans? And the Cubs' general road woes?
5. And, finally, what's up with Angel Guzman? This guy is probably the most underrated reliever on the club this year, and he quietly, nonchalantly, went on the DL with ``triceps'' soreness after Piniella admitted the club held out on publicly announcing his ``tenderness'' for several days. For a guy with a history of arm injuries, this is nothing to shrug off, especially considering that bullpen this year would be a shambles without his contribution this season. If this turns into something more than the 4-5 days the club says it is (now 15 because of the DL requirement), then it's cause for more than a little concern in the context of the season.
Anybody got any other questions to throw into the mix with 96 games left?