Another game, two more home runs for Anthony Rizzo. Yawn. After entering the game in a dead heat with Giancarlo "Don't Call Me Mike" Stanton, Rizzo went yard twice on Tuesday night off of Padres pitchers. That gives him 5 in 4 games out of the All Star break and 7 in the last 10 games.
Rizzo now leads the Cubs in runs (67), home runs (25), RBI (55), batting average (.283), OBP (.385), SLG (.539; Mendy's .605 doesn't count yet), OPS (.924), oWAR (2.9), and fights picked (1). That's a pretty set of stats for a guy who, after batting .233 last year, had people wondering whether trading Andrew Cashner to acquire him was a good idea.
But nobody's questioning the move any longer, as Rizzo continues his ascent toward superstar status and Cashner nurses yet another injury in the visitor's dugout. And yeah, you read that right; Rizzo is trending toward superstardom. After being left off of the NL squad for the Midsummer Classic, Rizz garnered 8.8 million votes to earn the Last Man spot.
While you can chalk to up to Chicago's large population (Chris Sale of the White Sox earned the AL spot), that doesn't change the fact that the hype helped to put the Cubs cornerstone corner infielder on the national map. And rather than rest on his laurels or shy from the spotlight, Rizzo has excelled in the face of the added attention.
He's proving that the contract extension he received very soon into his major league career was a wise move on the part of a front office that has acquired him three separate times. Jed Hoyer was a part of the Red Sox brass that first drafted Rizzo, then was with the Padres when they acquired him in the Adrian Gonzalez trade, and he was with the Cubs when they made the aforementioned swap for Cashner.
In fact, when I think of Jed Hoyer's dogged pursuit of Rizzo, I can't help but be reminded of that famous line from The Last of the Mohicans: "Stay alive, no matter what occurs. I will find you." Much like Daniel Day Lewis, Anthony Rizzo has established himself as a leading man, in more ways than one.
His exploits at the plate speak for themselves and his glove, well...
And if "Yeah, great catch, but it allowed the go-ahead run to score" even crosses your mind, I will kindly tell you where to go and how to get there. Dude was going all out, risking his body on a play for a last-place team with no hope of going anywhere. That tells me all I need to know about what he's willing to do when the Cubs turn the corner.
During a time in which the only real excitement with the Cubs involves their minor league players, Anthony Rizzo is giving fans someone to rally around. Sure, Starlin Castro has rebounded and that's all well and good. But he was already a two-time All Star who had had some really solid seasons.
This coming out party for Rizzo is a sign that the Cubs are at least doing something right. His at-bats are becoming destination baseball and he may have usurped Theo Epstein's status as the face of the franchise, something many of us have been waiting patiently for an actual player to do.
So even as the Cubs limp toward another 90+ losses, there will still be a reason to watch them down the stretch instead of turning all of our attention to the farm. And speaking of prospects, Rizzo's growth into a leadership role may well ease the transition of those players into the limelight of the North Side.
Though he won't turn 25 until early August. Anthony Rizzo is already one of the elder statesmen on this Cubs team. As such, it's becoming more and more evident each day that his presence on the field, in the lineup, and, perhaps most importantly, in the clubhouse are valuable assets.
At the risk of being a bit premature in this comparison, I can see Rizzo as a Ryne Sandberg-type player moving forward, a quiet leader who sets an example for the rest of the team. Other players will certainly garner a great deal more hype in coming months and years, but Rizzo can be that steadying influence at the center of it all.
But that's something that remains to be seen. For now, I'm just going to sit back and enjoy the exploits of Rizz-OH!
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