What if the Cubs' Derrek Lee hadn't started slow the first five or six weeks of the season? He might have 40 homers and 120 RBIs and challenging Albert Pujols for the MVP award.
What if Milton Bradley was never signed by the Cubs? Considering they're 16-9 (.640) this season when he doesn't play, they might be on their way to a 104-win season.
And if Aramis Ramirez (14 homers, 61 RBIs in 76 games) hadn't been on the DL for two months? And if Tylver Colvin's 1-for-3-with-an-RBI debut means anything about his long-term big-league ability?
If, if, if. Woulda, coulda, shoulda.
At least the Cubs have finally, clearly begun to lock their sights on making the most of next year and hitting the ground running toward actually contending again.
The callup Monday and start in center for Colvin - the Cubs' 2006 first-rounder - said as much.
And so did Piniella, who said after Monday's 10-2 win in Milwaukee that winning pitcher Tom Gorzelanny is on his team next year, either in relief or as a fourth/fifth starter.
And for next year's run production, who needs Bradley (40 RBIs)?
Lee's 34th homer of the season and two-run single in the first gave him 107 RBIs, matching his career high, and Ramirez also hit a homer in Monday's win - giving Piniella a view to a thrill as he looks at next spring.
``It's starting to set us up for next year real well with him and Ramirez in the 3-4 holes,'' Piniella said.
And there's still 13 games left to see what Colvin can do in the majors before next spring.