The Unnecessary Rebuild

The Unnecessary Rebuild
Photo: Scott Changnon, Marquee Sports Network

I…think I’m upset.

I admit I’m a bit miffed at him (and certain other folks) for his decisions in the midst of a global health crisis, but like Nick Shepkowski wrote earlier, I have many fond memories of Anthony Rizzo on the Chicago Cubs. A good portion of that has to do with the part where he caught the final out in the 2016 World Series (which the Cubs won, by the way), but much more has to do with his goodwill and good humor as he played at a high level throughout his tenure on the North Side. Plenty of bobbleheads were commissioned of Anthony Rizzo, much deservedly, and I’m glad to have snagged probably the most treasured one:

I’m kind of glad that the Cubs at least recognized how important Rizzo was as the face of the Cubs for nearly a decade, enough to post a pretty nice tribute video:

One of the best ways they could have paid tribute would be to, you know, NOT trade him. This is the Chicago Cubs, who have one of the most dedicated fan bases and should be raking in the income. They are probably worth more than four billion dollars, and are near the top of the league in terms of franchise value. Considering Rizzo played his entire Cubs career at a bargain price, you’d think a key employee would be rewarded accordingly. Yet today, the day before the trade deadline, he did not even play in his final game at Wrigley Field in home pinstripes, and instead will soon be wearing new pinstripes for the Yankees. Same with Kris Bryant, who couldn’t believe that he spent the end of a brilliant Cubs career in the dugout instead of on the field.

But even if Bryant is the better player (he’s more versatile on defense, a better baserunner, and the Rookie of the Year and former MVP for crying out loud), Rizzo is still the more recognizable and ubiquitous face of the franchise. This should never have happened. The tribute video should have been done at the end of Rizzo’s retirement as a Cub, not because they shipped him off after doing nothing to improve the team around the core for the past few seasons. This is not how a team, especially a valuable franchise with lots of revenue, should operate. And this needs to change.

I believe the Cubs, assuming baseball operations is allowed to do what needs to be done, can recover quickly on the field. The prospects in the trades have good upside, and the players currently in the system have been making their presence felt. I believe that Jed Hoyer, if given the resources and autonomy he needs, can build a contender in short order. And because the Cubs are dropping so much money off their rolls come the offseason, they should be able to spend (we’ll worry about the impending CBA negotiations later). But that doesn’t change the fact that it never should have gotten to this point.

We know that these guys are talented, and they rode that talent to multiple playoff appearances even when flawed after the World Series Championship. Somewhere along the way, the Cubs needed to figure out their coaching, player development, and scouting, because whatever they did wasn’t able to maximize the talent that we knew was there. And other teams can recognize this talent too, because this was a Cubs team that was in first place for a bit before their collapse, and yet teams are trading for these players anyway in the hope that their talent would manifest again with a change of scenery. Why the Cubs couldn’t harness this talent while their guys were still in the Chicago uniform, I can’t say. But that needs to change, along with the part where the billionaire owners seem to be playing poor. Given how much overpriced beer they can sell at each home game to build all those cup snakes, either someone is cooking the books, or they are squirreling away money that could’ve been used to pay, oh, say, Anthony Rizzo?

I’m bracing for the Kris Bryant trade news, along with anyone else the Cubs may want to move before Friday afternoon, but for now, I’ll just try to remember the good times, and at least temporarily forget how the Cubs did their heroes wrong.

Good luck with the Yankees, Rizzo. I hope you still get to retire as a Cub someday, because this is where you really belong.

Photo: Scott Changnon, Marquee Sports Network

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