Is Anthony Rizzo Emerging as Leader/Face of The Cubs?

Is Anthony Rizzo Emerging as Leader/Face of The Cubs?

As soon as Anthony Rizzo stepped to the Cincinnati Reds dugout this past Thursday with some words for Aroldis Chapman, a question arose in the minds of Cubs fans: Was this a case of Rizzo taking ownership of his team?

Was this an example of Rizzo truly becoming the team leader in the wake of the Jeff Samardzija trade? Rizzo will likely shy away from it publicly, yet he has always appeared to have natural leadership qualities. He already seems to be a guiding presence within the locker room, even at the tender age of 24.

The only question has been whether or when Rizzo could accomplish enough at this level, or whether he could manage to stay consistent enough for that role. Rizzo is now an All Star, however, and his 20 homers, 49 RBIs and an .879 OPS can do some talking for him.

The Cubs front office will still likely bring in a veteran who can duel as a guiding force for the young, and even yet to get younger, clubhouse. Maybe even a veteran that is decorated enough to take some of the burden away from Rizzo, who likely still needs to grow into such a role.

However, you can see where someday Rizzo could be the Cubs version of a Paul Konerko or Tino Martinez type.

"I thought Anthony standing up, quite frankly, in that moment during the ballgame showed that he’s got a little bit of heart and what it takes to be a leader. I think everybody kind of gravitated to it," his skipper Rick Renteria told Patrick Mooney.

Rizzo has always been a favorite of this front office. They drafted him. GM 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 reason for the long-standing attraction. Rizzo has endured real grown-up issues at a young age. Overcoming a serious illness will dwarf baseball any day.

The Cubs first baseman also had his share of ups and downs last year on the field. However, now Rizzo is producing on the field in a big way. The first time All-Star will be able to carry that credibility into situations when it comes to guiding a young player like a Javy Baez in the near future.

Some believe leadership can be overrated within the game; certainly, at least the rah-rah effect. But it's more about setting an example. Recently I've been thinking about comparing this next core of Cubs players on the come to the core the Yankees boasted in the 90's heyday of Derek Jeter, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, and Andy Pettitte.

That team just ooozed leadership, and the responsibility was distributed throughout the clubhouse. Even so, most would agree that Martinez was the guy who, while maybe not the most talented, had the ultimate respect in that clubhouse.

Rizzo could soon be surrounded by players like the aforementioned Baez, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, any or all of whom could easily surpass him in ability and output.

That said, Rizzo may end up becoming an elder statesman of sorts, one that saw this rebuild through. Anthony Rizzo is now the face of the franchise regardless. He already seems to be speaking out more as well, whether it be at the Reds dugout or at the lack of clubhouse renovations.

I can tell you from personal experience, this is a first-class kid. Rizzo is also certainly a guy everyone can get behind; that was proven to the fullest recently with the All-Star Game Final Vote campaign.

Most of the core may still be on their way, but the anchor is already here.


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  • Great article. If you met him he has a certain air around him. It's leadership and confidence without being cocky.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    I don't think Aroldis Chapman would agree with you.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    Well, Rizzo will just have to fight him for that.

  • When Junior Lake had that ugly collision with the outfield door a few weeks ago, I remember that Rizzo was the first man out there to check on him (other than Ruggiano who was there when it happened). That stuck out to me as a leadership type moment at the time...he's the guy who has his teammates' backs at all times.

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    Not surprising in the least, good catch.

  • fb_avatar

    Great article. As an engineer I define my proposed solution to a problem by defining the assumptions I used. This is critical to understanding my proposed solution.
    My comments are therefore built on the assumption that Rizzo "can handle the leadership responsibility of captain." With that assumption, I offer the following for comment and discussion:
    1. Fan perspective. The FO has been stating "we have a plan and are executing it." and "Fans, have patience." Also, I don't believe (and please correct me if I'm wrong) but MLB teams do not have a designated captain like NHL teams. I think this would be a very visible symbol to the fan base that the major rebuild is over. Like Gandalf in LOTR declaring, "This far! No Farther!" We have a strong core, we have more pieces coming up and we have designated Rizzo our leader. And include the "C" on his uniform.
    2. Free Agent perspective. This move could positively influence FA to sign with the Cubs. While yes we have young, talented players coming up, we also have a young yet veteran leader for this group. A veteran wouldn't feel the pressure to be brought in and forced to lead the team. A veteran could come in and advise and counsel (like Manny in Iowa) and support Rizzo.
    3. Marketing perspective. The Blackhawks have built their image around their young captain, Jonathon Toews. Toews was the third youngest NHL captain and has shown he is a great leader, both on and off the ice. I don't know if Rizzo will have a similar impact as Toews, but the thought of that impact is tantalizing.
    4. MLB perspective. Again, I don't know if MLB teams have a captain. The media uses 'captain' often in conjunction with Derek Jeter. Again I am not saying Rizzo is at that performance level yet; however, I think the FO can change the perception of the organization with a more formal structure. As the organization changes from 'lovable losers' to yearly contenders, a formal captain is another visible change which may influence the entire league.
    I know this is a lot and I understand captain in this timeframe could expand to include all of Cub history. This history could be heaped on his shoulders. That weight and responsibility (however misplaced) could be enormous and crushing. However, Rizzo could respond as Toews has (with similar expectations at that time: a storied franchise coming out of mediocrity, built with youth) and become the franchise leader. I, for one, would be honored to pin the "C" on Rizzo's chest.

  • I'm a bit late, but with experience in investigating in law endorsement, I was able to lip read Rizzo' s response to the Reds dugout. He said ' with all due respect Mr. Chapman II f you throw another 100mph+ fastball at the head of one of my teammates, I'm going to break it off at the elbow before I give it back. Thanks for your time.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I don't think Rizzo had enough time to say that. Also, since Chapman was featured last night as one of the 5 Cuban All Stars, I doubt that he would have understood it.

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