The Chicago Cubs will probably lose 105+ games this season (the club record is 103), so in this most dreadful of seasons tonight was pretty much their Super Bowl. It’s the first “green shoot” of the Theo Epstein- Jed Hoyer regime, a huge night for Cubs fans and the long term view. And a reason for extra media to show up.
With over a century on ineptitude, Cub fans are always obsessed with the next savior, the next big thing to come along and turn it all around.
Anthony Rizzo has that title now, but in the past the very heavy crown has been worn by: Shawon Dunston, Derrick May, Corey Patterson, Felix Pie, Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Ty Griffin, Mike Harkey, Hee Sop Choi, Lance Dickson, Gary Scott and many more “can’t miss” prospects who ultimately missed.
Rizzo is an MLB super-prospect and Hodgkin’s Lymphoma survivor, before battling the hype and expectations of the third largest media market and the most success starved of all sports fan bases, he’s battled and conquered cancer.
Rizzo did not make his major league debut tonight, but his Cubs debut was just as hyped and anticipated.
He’s played with the San Diego Padres and came up with the Boston Red Sox, so he’s Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein’s guy, Rizzo’s performance will make a statement on Jed and Theo’s performance. He wore #44, hit third and went 2-4 last night with a single, double and RBI. More importantly, he generated a buzz around the ballpark which hasn’t been felt in ages. Jerseys with his name have already been sold (or home-made such as in the pic above).
His arrival was so big, just the idea of his call-up, and perhaps violating the MLB super 2 designation caused a stir in itself.
What we wrote on Memorial Day weekend:
The Chicago Cubs AAA affiliate, the Iowa Cubs, made a huge PR department blunder tonight; their media relations employees appear either a.) incompetent or b.) manipulative. When the organization itself (the insider of all insiders) gets the news wrong, as they did regarding top prospect Anthony Rizzo, it’s either gross negligence or a desperate play for publicity.
Back to tonight, Rizzo probably thought he was in Low A ball when he saw the third world facilities Wrigley had for media opps. But here’s what he had to say before the game:
“I’m coming up trying to establish myself as a major league 1st baseman. To play everyday.”
He laughed at the savior question. And said he was supposed to be the savior last year in San Diego.
Rizzo says people could have written him off last year, but the people close to him and Theo, the organization believed in him. Now it’s about getting an entire team of players like him, not just one.
Rizzo hit .342 w/ 18 doubles, 2 triples, 23 HR, 62 RBI in 70 games, leading the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in HR, OPS, SLG, total bases before he was called up. So you understand why there was just so much hype before he began his Major League career hitting .500.
Even when he hit a routine fly out he received a standing ovation, just like he did as he approached the plate four times. When his first hit was originally ruled an error, it drew vociferous boos.
That’s how much he means he to this team and this fanbase. Happy first day of “Rizzmas.”
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Chicago Tribune.com, Fox Sports, MSN, Walter Football and Yardbarker
A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; and he’s a member of the Football Writers Association of America, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and Society of Professional Journalists. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too