You want to know what the Cubs got for their $91.5 million when they signed Big Z to that five-year extension two summers ago?
Then watch his starts Friday night in New York and next week in Pittsburgh.
Zambrano hasn't won since July 22 and hasn't pitched well since July 27, his last start before his back problems limited him to three innings in Florida and eventually forced him to the DL - and started the dominoes falling the wrong way toward the Cubs' August swoon.
In two starts since returning from the DL, he had his two worst starts of the season. And complained about media scrutiny.
Scouts from other teams wondered during the just-concluded homestand whether he has quit on what looks like a lost season for him and the team.
Anything short of a strong finish for him - starting tonight in New York - will increase the volume and bandwidth on those questions going into an off-season sure to include a lot of change.
``Let's hope his two starts on the road are a little better than his two starts at home,'' Piniella said.
If not, the Cubs might want to shift their hope to Zambrano waiving his no-trade clause, and then look for another ace.
Until then, Piniella and the Cubs will watch closely at how Big Z handles a stretch run that could quickly lose all relevance, depending how this road trip goes. What's certain is that any last-month surge the Cubs put together will have to include Zambrano, if not start with him.
Piniella pointed out, optimistically, that Z's road splits are better than his home splits this season, perhaps boding well for the trip (perhaps also offering insight into his frame of mind when the home heat intensifies):
Home: 11 starts, 2-4, 4.64
Road: 11 starts, 5-2, 3.17
``Let's see what happens,'' Piniella said. ``He needs to step it up.''