Chicago Cubs manager Lou Piniella, left, talks on the mound with Cubs reliever Ryan Dempster after Dempster gave up two home runs to the St. Louis Cardinals during the ninth inning of a baseball game Friday, Sept. 14, 2007, in St. Louis. Dempter was pulled out of the game soon after, but the Cubs won 5-3. From AP Photo by Jeff Roberson.

[via AP’s Jeff Roberson: Piniella, about to pull his press secretary, Ryan Dempster]

Lou Piniella took to the airwaves of WMVP-AM 1000’s Waddle and Silvy Show (see the podcast section) to refute Ryan Dempster’s comments, as amplified here by frequent CSTB commenter Andrew, that the Cubs were “unprepared” for the 2008 play-offs. Dempster finally spoke about October 2008 only after signing his 4-yr/$52-mil dollar contract with the North Side.  Andrew, to his credit, is not waiting to sign a $50-mil contract before criticizing the Cubs.  I ignored Dempster’s comments in this week’s Cubs Update, so “props,” as the kids say, to Andrew for finding this week’s buried lead.

To be sure, Piniella and Dempster haven’t always got their talking points down.  While in the bullpen, Dempster prematurely announced his rotation spot when Piniella gave it to someone else. Dempster went on to win 17 games in 2008, and while appreciated, it still feels like a fluke.  After Kerry Wood, the last thing the Cubs need is a built-in salary cap with a big contract starter who doesn’t deliver.  While I hope to be proven wrong on Dempster’s future, I am also glad to see the Cubs still in the hunt for Jake Peavy this AM.

The Trib’s Paul Sullivan reports Lou’s comments here, some added comments from Piniella on why Fukudome peaked in June.  Japanese ballplayers aren’t up to the long season here?

Cubs manager Lou Piniella disputed Ryan Dempster‘s comment that the team “underestimated how prepared you have to be” entering its best-of-five playoff series against the Dodgers.

“Look, the team was prepared,” Piniella told WMVP-AM 1000’s “Waddle and Silvy Show” on Wednesday.

Though likely unintended, Dempster’s statement reflected poorly on Piniella, who as manager is responsible for getting his team ready for the postseason. Piniella pointed to the lack of offense as the main culprit for the Cubs’ collapse, and reiterated they need more left-handed hitting to balance the lineup.

It ‘s very much alike, one through eight,” he said. “It’s right-handed, it’s power-hitting and it’s not very quick.”Add a left-handed bat and athleticism, “and the whole thing changes,” he said.While everyone has an opinion on what happened in October, Piniella said “the bottom line is we didn’t play good baseball.”As for Kosuke Fukudome‘s hitting problems, Piniella theorized the Japanese star was not in “as good a shape, core-wise,” after missing part of 2007 with an elbow injury. He also had to deal with the added length of a major-league season as compared to the Japanese League. He said the Cubs have talked about a more “Americanized” training regimen for Fukudome, though he didn’t elaborate.