9/14 M-V-P, M-V-P

Lou Piniella was asked before Monday’s game if Derrek Lee was the Cubs’ MVP for ’09.

“Without question,” Piniella said of the first baseman. “He’s really come on. He got off to a little bit of a slow start and started to pick it up and has gotten better and better since the year has gone on.”

Lee extended his hitting streak to seven games with his 33rd homer, a solo shot, in the Cubs’ 2-0 win over the Brewers Monday. He has 98 RBIs and is close to reaching his second 100 RBIs season of his career (he drove in 107 in 2005). The next closest Cubs player? Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez each have driven in 55, and Ramirez missed two months with an injury.

Is Lee the MVP?

“He is,” Ramirez said. “Thirty homers, 100 RBIs, hitting .300 — he’s the MVP. He’s got close to 100 RBIs, and the next guy has 55 maybe. That tells you who the leader is right there.”

Ryan Dempster agreed.

“Look at the way his April went and the numbers he has right now,” Dempster said of Lee, who batted .189 in the first month. “I’ve been really lucky to be his teammate for almost 10 years now, down in Florida and then here, and I’ve never met a more professional guy, a guy who comes every day and is prepared to go out there and help the team win.

“He’s battled through a lot of different things whether it’s off the field stuff or injuries,” Dempster said. “There’s really nobody I pull harder for than a guy like him. To see the success he’s having and see him plugging away, he’s a great leader just by example.”

Of course, if you ask Lee, he’s focused on winning. The team’s record matters more than personal numbers. And he hasn’t given up on the 2009 season.

“We just have to keep going about it the way we’re going,” Lee said. “Who knows what will happen? They haven’t X-ed us out [in the standings]. Obviously, it’s a big uphill climb. You just keep grinding it out to see what happens.”

And all this team MVP talk?

“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “It doesn’t matter.”

– Carrie Muskat

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