Anthony Rizzo: The Most Important Cub Ever?
By Bret Spurgin (Guest Contributor) @RedDirtCyclone
Wrigley Rapport was created by Chicago Cubs fans for Chicago Cubs fans. Everyone who contributes is a Chicago Cubs fan. We are pleased to publish this contribution for one of those fans who shared this with us.
Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Billy Williams, Ryne Sandberg, Fergie Jenkins, and Greg Maddux. When you hear those names you immediately think about blue pinstripes, ivy covered walls, and the seventh inning stretch. All six of those men are as Chicago Cub as a Harry Caray call or a beer and a hot dog sitting with the Bleacher Bums.
Each man has cemented himself in Cubs history as one of the six greatest Cubs of all time. They are all in the Hall of Fame. Their numbers fly above the bleachers in left and right center. When you talk about the greatest Cubs of all time it is those six names you start with. But none of them are the most important Cub of all time. The most important Cub of all time did something none of them accomplished. He led a team to a World Series championship. The first in 108 years.
Anthony Vincent Rizzo, the Cubs first baseman who caught the final out of the Chicago Cubs’ 2016 World Series victory. The Cubs first baseman who routinely comes up with the big hit, the clutch walk, and the key defensive play. The Cub who beat cancer and then started a foundation that raises millions of dollars battling pediatric cancer. Anthony Vincent Rizzo IS the most important Cub of all time. The leader of a team and the face of a that finally gave millions of fans around the globe a chance to see THEIR beloved Cubbies at last win that elusive World Series that eluded them for more then a century.
Anthony Rizzo joined the Chicago Cubs in 2012 when he was traded from the San Diego Padres after starting his career with the Boston Red Sox. According to Tom Verducci’s book “The Cubs Way” Theo Epstein wanted Rizzo for a specific reason, his leadership. Sure the bat helps a lot, but at the time of the trade he was struggling in San Diego. In 49 games with the Padres Rizzo was batting just .141 with a .523 OPS. That is not exactly what Cubs fans wanted for vaunted pitching prospect Andrew Cashner. Theo and crew knew that Rizzo would be a key part to something special. In a total of 87 games with the Padres and the Cubs in 2012 he hit .285 with 15 home runs and 48 RBI’s. A good sign for a young slugger.
In 2013, his first full season in Chicago he struggled at the plate but played outstanding defense. He started to become a leader in the clubhouse. In 2014 it all came together for him. he had a great year at the plate and the field, made his first All-Star team, and on July 9th that year Anthony Rizzo became the fan favorite he is today.
Aroldis Chapman, the flame throwing reliever who helped the Cubs to the title in 2016, was pitching for the Reds. He threw two 101 mph fastballs over the head of then Cubs left fielder Nate Schierholtz. After finally getting out of the inning Chapman started chirping at the Cubs bench and Rizzo took exception to this. Rizzo decided he would take on the entire Reds team himself that afternoon and became the lovable leader he is today. No punches were thrown, no one was ejected, but Rizzo’s willingness to stand up for his teammates helped make him the most important Cub to ever play the game.
Anthony Rizzo is a fan favorite. He is an emotional leader. In game three of the 2017 NLDS he hit a bloop single to center. It scored Leonys Martin and gave the Cubs a 2–1 lead(Rizz got tagged out between 1st and 2nd, but we won’t talk about that). After the out he screamed at Dusty Baker, reliever Oliver Perez, the Nationals, to all of baseball, and to the heavens above, “Respect Me! Respect Me!” This is exactly why his teammates love him, Joe Maddon loves him, and all of Cubs Nation loves him.
In the long, storied history of Cubs baseball there are players with more home runs, more RBI’s, higher WAR, more flash and style on the diamond, but none of them have been more important to their team than Anthony Vincent Rizzo. All that is left is for him to cement his legacy by leading the Cubs to back to back titles, just like 108 years ago!
Doug Preszler is the type of person who can be a Cubs fan and an Iowa fan while living in South Dakota. He is a man who cares not for regional loyalty. He can be found on Twitter here, telling tales of the Dakotan Cubs fan’s existence.