Cubs' Rizzo Being Pressed into Leadership Role?

Cubs' Rizzo Being Pressed into Leadership Role?

I've been thinking it, I've written it.

Anthony Rizzo spoke to it.

Someone is going to have to look out for the next group of Cubs wunderkinds. Rizzo seemed willing to take on some of that responsibility Tuesday in camp by addressing it.

"[The media] is going to crown them (Cubs top prospects) the next Babe Ruth," Rizzo said Tuesday. "People did for me, and it's part of the game, and they're going to have to deal with that so-called pressure of coming up. They're going to have fun, and we'll make sure we have fun."

Rizzo has natural leader written all over him. He already seems to be a guiding presence within the locker room. Problem is, until Rizzo himself can say he has accomplished much at this level, or manage to stay consistent, he can't really fulfill such a role.

Even if the Cubs desperately need it.

Look around. There appears to be no clear leader on this club. At least not any that will be here in the future. When the team will be supposedly contending in a few seasons, who is your money on to be this team's captain?

Who will be the Cubs version of Paul Konerko?

As I was reminded today, people around the game thought Konerko had displayed leadership qualities early on in his career, as well. The White Sox Captain admitted recently, he realized he couldn't lead fully until he proved something on the field.

Konerko, always a steadying force for his teammates, is nearing the end of his stellar career; Rizzo can only hope to have people still drawing parallels to Paulie years from now.

Rizzo has always been a favorite of this front office. They drafted him. Jed Hoyer has traded for him twice. It has been his personal makeup, as much as his left handed power bat, that has been the reasoning for the long standing attraction.

Rizzo has endured real grown up issues at a young age. Overcoming a serious illness will dwarf lofty baseball expectations any day. The Cubs first baseman also had his share of ups and downs last year on the field.

Rizzo does have an old ally in Rick Renteria back by his side. Renteria was brought here to nurture the young players, Rizzo very much included.

After getting threatened with a trip to Iowa early on last season, Rizzo's new Cubs skipper is singing a different tune about the Cubs slugger.

"He had a good season (in 2013), just not as good as everybody was expecting," Renteria said. "Did he get outside himself trying to do too much to help the club? We've got to figure what were those variables that put him in a position where everybody says he wasn't able to do what everybody expected him to do."

That would be typical of Rizzo: to struggle by trying to do too much.

Trying to do too much is a by product of what the talent level is here. For instance, in a good line up, Rizzo would likely hit between 5-7. For these Cubs, he's counted on both as the clean up hitter and a leader.

Is it too much, too soon?

Rizzo however, does fully understand the pressures and pratfalls of being a highly touted prospect, from his early failures in San Diego. Will he be there to guide Javy Baez or Kris Bryant through similar situations?

While the front office takes their time nurturing the young core, Rizzo knows they won't learn the most valuable lessons until they reach Chicago.

"You say you don't want to rush them too fast and make sure they can get the right amount of at-bats, but they've shown they can handle every level," Rizzo said. "The biggest learning process is up here [in the Major Leagues] -- that's where you learn the most. Adding that third deck of the stadium is huge. You can't prepare for that."

Whenever those kids do get to Chicago, be sure Rizzo will be there for them.

@TomLoxas

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  • Rizzo needs to worry about Rizzo for now. Leader is a role for a veteran. I don't think that he should even have to think about leadership yet. Because he is a 'natural leader' if some of that rubs off fine, but I wouldn't ask that of him.

  • I'm with you to a point. I think Rizzo has it but, he shouldn't be asked to do it alone.

    Hoyer said today he feels Rizzo will be that guy.

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