Lou Piniella Has First Blow Up

Not happy about his team blowing a 5-0 lead (5-0!) with their best pitcher, Carlos Zambrano, on the hill, Lou Piniella blew up at a reporter who asked him what's not working. Listen below to hear Lou's first blow up of the '07 baseball season.

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Baseball Preview: Chicago Cubs

Last year’s record and finish are in parenthesis with projected improvement/decline indicated by plus or minus.

Chicago Cubs (66-96, 6th in NL Central) +16 games

Get Crunked: Carlos Zambrano is a Cy Young contender — funny he turned out to be the best on a promising staff that once featured Mark Prior and Kerry Wood. Bam-Bam Soriano went 40-40 last year, fully maximizing the potential he’s shown for his entire career. If he can bash 46 out at RFK, imagine what he’ll do at Wrigley! Aramis Ramirez is a stud slugger at 3B, and killed during spring training so he should start out the year strongly for a guy who’s a notoriously slow starter. Derrek Lee is back from injury, and seems fully recovered and ready to return to his MVP-like form of ’05.

Party Foul: The bullpen still blows big-time, that’s the major weakness. Dempster was as stable at closer last year as a coke addict tweaking out in Vegas. Neal Cotts showed his true colors last year with the White Sox after a stellar ’05 and will probably stink. Scott Eyre and Bob Howry are probably the most solid in the pen, but even they’re not too reliable. And for all the additions to the rotation, there weren’t many upgrades, it’s still only slightly above average.

A healthy Derrek Lee is the key to the Cubs’ success

What’d my GM do: What didn’t he do is the question. Hendry was busy all winter setting the team up for the future owners, saddling them with around $272 million in future payroll commitments over the off-season. Let’s examine: Aramis Ramirez could’ve been the best bargain of the winter, Alfonso Soriano got overpaid by about $20 million, Jason Marquis was decent value, Lilly was overpaid by about $8 million, DeRosa will be a bust, and Cliff Floyd is a cheap and excellent bench option. Kerry Wood did the right thing in giving the Cubs a discout for being so ineffective the past few years. But I would’ve liked to see them reach a long-term deal with Zambrano, that’s a huge priority.

Lay it on me Straight: It’s a much improved team this year, if not for the free agent additions, but also just to get Derrek Lee back and healthy. His absence is a big reason why the Cubs struggled to score runs last year. Don’t be fooled however, lots of free agent acquisitions don’t mean instant winning. Lilly and Marquis offer depth and consistency, but not a drastic upgrade. Soriano’s bat probably added an extra 5-6 wins alone. The wheels seriously fell off last year and the team just spiraled downhill, they weren’t as bad as they turned out to be.

So where my boys gonna finish right now: I have them at just above .500, in the thick of the division, but with new players, a new manager, and a refreshed attitude, they can put up a serious fight for the division title. Man, if they only had a bullpen.

Can we be better than that: Yes, if all the pieces in the puzzle come together this team can win around 86 or 87 games, which should be good for first place or so. They probably won’t finish worse than 5 or 6 games below .500.

Aramis Ramirez expects Playoff Run for Cubs

As the Chicago Cubs began to file in for Spring Training, it wasn't Carlos Zambrano and his newly inked 1 year deal that was the news of the day. Oh no.

When I first heard this statement come out of Aramis Ramirez's mouth, I thought I was hearing George Steinbrenner talk (with the exception of the accent and all).

Here it is for you — a nice sound bite to remember and store for when the playoffs come around.

Quote of the day from Aramis Ramirez:

"Everybody's looking for us to make the playoffs and anything short of that is going to be a disappointing season."

Check back for my Cubs preview to see where I stack them up.

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