Results tagged ‘ Anthony Rizzo ’
Please don’t judge me, but …
I grew up an Atlanta Braves fan. Look, there wasn’t much I could do about it. I moved a lot when I was younger and lived in Atlanta in the early ’80s. With each subsequent move, I was able to follow the Braves because of TBS.
Here’s what I remember about the Braves from my younger days—1981 was a miserable, strike-shortened year; 1982 was a blast until the postseason (a phenomenon I didn’t realize would repeat itself throughout my adulthood); 1983 was solid; and then depression set in.
The Braves were 80-82 in 1984, and that was by far the best it would get until the franchise began its unprecedented run of regular-season success in 1991. The late ’ 80s saw a wretched slide that reached its nadir in 1988, when the team went 54-106.
So why am I recounting this sad chapter from my childhood? I see a lot of similarities between what the Braves were doing in the late ’80s/early ’90s and what the Cubs are doing now.
In 1990, the Braves went 65-97, good for last place in the NL West, 26 games behind the Reds. In 1991, they shocked the baseball world by winning 94 games and getting all the way to Game 7 of the World Series. Since then, they’ve been one of the most stable and consistently excellent teams in pro sports.
But the Braves’ worst-to-first run didn’t come out of the blue. In fact, the team probably wasn’t as bad as its record in 1990. If you look back at the roster, it included names like Steve Avery, Tom Glavine, John Smoltz, Mike Stanton, Ron Gant and David Justice. All those players had some important things in common—they were young, untested, and between the ages of 20 and 25.
When we talked to Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein for our January issue, something he said resonated with me.
“There are two ways to really improve your team in a hurry from one year to the next,” Epstein said. “One is sign impact players or bring in impact players from outside the organization. The other is to have a wave of young talent that’s approaching their prime years at the same time.”
The Cubs might not shock the world this year, but they’re building that wave of talent—players who can grow together, win together, lose together, and ultimately figure things out together as they move into their prime years.
One of these waves is at the major league level now in Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo, Jeff Samardzija and Edwin Jackson. Epstein calls these players the “Cubs core.” And the organization is developing another strong group in the low minor leagues with high-ceiling players like Javier Baez, Albert Almora, Jorge Soler, Pierce Johnson and Dillon Maples.
In the May issue of Vine Line, we talk to the Cubs core about what it means to them to play in Chicago and how they plan to turn potential into major league success. One thing is clear—no matter what the record said at the end of 2012 or what it says right now—these guys do not buy into the presumption that the Cubs are years away from winning.
We also check in on the new minor league affiliate that is helping develop the next wave of top talent. After eight years with the Peoria Chiefs, the Cubs switched their Midwest League affiliate to Kane County, located about 40 miles from Wrigley Field’s doorstep. There are huge benefits to having a farm team nearby, and the Cougars and Cubs both hope to take advantage of that in 2013 and beyond.
Finally, we look at the other side of the Cubs equation—the fan base. This season, the team has developed an advertising and marketing campaign based on the fierce dedication and undying passion of the best fans in the game. We talk to the stars of the new ads and the Cubs front office to find out how it all came together.
Here’s to a brighter future.
You can never have too much pitching.
If you need further proof of that old baseball axiom, let’s look at the 2012 Cubs. They started the season with a fairly solid rotation behind a pitching-out-of-his-gourd Ryan Dempster, reliever-turned-starter Jeff Samardzija, a rejuvenated Paul Maholm and young veteran ﬁreballer Matt Garza. At the back end, there were two options: newly acquired lefty Travis Wood and underachieving former top draft pick Chris Volstad.
Things looked pretty good on paper. But, as we all know, that didn’t last long.
The offense didn’t score. Injuries took their toll. The trade deadline came and went. And, well, the rest is lamentable Cubs history.
It turned out the team didn’t have much major league-ready talent behind those guys—in the starting rotation or in the bullpen—and baseball president Theo Epstein’s preseason prediction, “The numbers show you’re going to need your ninth starter through the course of the year,” came true.
As a result, the front ofﬁce was laser focused on one thing throughout the hot stove season: acquiring more serviceable big league pitching to ensure there isn’t a repeat performance of last season.
“I think that probably the biggest weakness when we got here was depth in pitching, especially at the upper levels,” General Manager Jed Hoyer said. “Ideally, you want to home-grow all of your pitching. We don’t have that luxury right now, so we actively sought out a lot of starting pitching. We brought in four guys we see as starters: [Edwin] Jackson, [Scott] Feldman, [Scott] Baker and [Carlos] Villanueva.”
The Cubs might not have a traditional “ace” coming into the season, but they have three guys with the ability to ﬁll that role in Samardzija, Garza and Jackson. If strike-throwing machine Baker can fully recover from last April’s Tommy John surgery, he should be a useful veteran addition to the staff. Feldman and Villanueva have both proven they can start and relieve in the big leagues, giving manager Dale Sveum plenty of flexibility. And Travis Wood, the only lefty in the starting mix, has tremendous athleticism and mixes in six different pitches.
The team also solidiﬁed the bullpen by re-signing veteran Shawn Camp and bringing in Japanese reliever Kyuji Fujikawa. Even Rule 5 pick Hector Rondon, who is required to stay on the 25-man major league roster all season or be offered back to the Indians, looked impressive in his spring appearances.
The April issue of Vine Line takes a look at the Cubs pitching staff from top to bottom to give you an idea of what each pitcher throws, how they attack hitters and what to expect this season.
We also sat down with Hoyer to get a sense of where the organization stands as he enters his second season in the driver’s seat. The team certainly still has work to do, but there are many reasons to feel optimistic about the future.
“We’re trying to build something that every year [fans] know is a playoff-quality team,” Hoyer said. “It doesn’t happen overnight, and we’ve been really honest about that. But I do think fans deserve to start seeing the fruits of our labor, and I think you’re going to start to see that coming together now.”
Still, winning organizations are not built solely by shrewd front ofﬁce maneuvers. They require buy-in from coaches, players and personnel at every level. While we were in Mesa, Ariz., with the team this spring, we got a ﬁrsthand look at how the Cubs’ message is being passed along from veteran players, like David DeJesus and Alfonso Soriano, to the younger generation, like Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson. It’s a time-honored baseball tradition—each spring, older players take the young studs under their wings to teach them the ins and outs of the major league game.
Baseball is back. Let’s see where this ride takes us.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Cubs star Anthony Rizzo has had a busy spring. After arriving at Spring Training in mid-February, the 23-year-old spent the beginning of March with a totally different group of ballplayers wearing blue and white.
Representing Team Italy in the 2013 World Baseball Classic, the first baseman was called upon to be the lumber in the international squad’s lineup. Rizzo hit just .235 batting in the middle of the order for the European squad, but he also walked five times in 22 plate appearances. He drove in the eventual game-winning runs in the team’s opener against Mexico and propelled the underdog Italians into the second round.
Much like the Italian squad, the Cubs will be looking for Rizzo to provide the pop in the middle of the order in 2013. This year, the North Siders will be getting a full season of the phenom, who hit .285/.342/.463 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with 15 homers, 15 doubles and 48 RBI after a late-June 2012 call-up. With a more selective Starlin Castro likely batting in front of him, Rizzo should get more RBI opportunities. And if projected cleanup hitter Alfonso Soriano posts numbers similar to those he put up in 2012, it may result in Rizzo getting better pitches to hit.
Rizzo will be in the lineup Tuesday as the Cubs host division rival Cincinnati in the team’s final night game at HoHoKam Stadium. First pitch is scheduled for 9:05 CST, and fans can listen to the game live at Cubs.com. Jeff Samardzija will be on mound for the Cubs, opposite Reds ace Johnny Cueto. Here’s what manager Dale Sveum’s lineup will look like:
CF David DeJesus
SS Starlin Castro
1B Anthony Rizzo
LF Dave Sappelt
RF Nate Schierholtz
C Welington Castillo
3B Luis Valbuena
2B Darwin Barney
P Jeff Samardzija
(Photo by Stephen Green)
If you’re in the Phoenix area this week for Spring Training, join Cubs outfielder David DeJesus, first baseman Anthony Rizzo and other big league ballplayers for a drink—for a good cause, of course.
The David DeJesus Family Foundation will be hosting a Celebrity Bartending Night on Wednesday, March 20, at the American Junkie Bar in Scottsdale, Ariz., to benefit families in need. Featured celebrity bartenders include Darwin Barney, Anthony Rizzo, Travis Wood, Adam Eaton, Javy Guerra, David Hernandez, Casey Kelly, George Kontos and Wade Miley.
The event goes from 9-11 p.m., and general admission tickets are available for purchase at the door for $50 per person. VIP tickets are $150 and include a preparty cocktail hour from 8- 9 p.m. with food and a private mix-and-mingle as the players learn how to bartend.
“We are excited to raise funds to support our mission from this fun event,” said DeJesus. “My wife, Kim, and I started the David DeJesus Family Foundation and are excited to be continuing its growth here in Arizona.”
The event is being hosted in conjunction with Issues Concerning Athletes and MiCamp Merchant Services. American Junkie Bar is located at 4363 N. 75th St., in Scottsdale, Ariz.
The David DeJesus Family Foundation was created by Cubs outfielder David DeJesus and his wife, Kim, in order to help families in crisis in Chicago and in parts of the world where people lack basic human needs. DDFF is committed to helping alleviate suffering for those that face devastation due to illness, poverty or disaster as well as those who seek a voice to be heard. In particular, DDFF has been actively involved in the fight against ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.
(Photo by Stephen Green)
Baseball fans and writers alike have taken notice of the emergence of Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo. Now baseball statistics website Fangraphs.com is calling him one of the best first basemen in the game.
The 23-year-old came up with the Cubs in late June, and wrapped up 2012 with a .285 average, 15 homers and 48 driven in. He also impressed in a short stint with Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic.
This week, Fangraphs is ranking organizations by positional strength, using projected WAR (wins above replacement) as its baseline. The objective is to rank all 30 teams by how much production the publication feels they will get out of each position on the field.
Fangraphs unveiled its first base rankings on Thursday, and rated the Cubs fifth best at the position with a total WAR of 3.8 (Rizzo accounts for a 3.9 WAR, utility man Brent Lillibridge a -0.1 and converted catcher Steve Clevenger a 0.0 WAR at first).
Here’s what Fangraphs had to say about the Cubs’ first base corps:
Who had the Cubs fifth in the pool? Don’t lie. 23-year-old Anthony Rizzo is a young hitter who had a nice debut for Chicago last year, but it is a bit shocking to see the nearly universal jump in power projected by all the systems. They must be really impressed by his Triple-A numbers, which look pretty stunning when it comes to his power. Minor league translations are a tricky matter, so there’s a great deal of uncertainty in play. Rizzo needs his power to to be for real if he’s going to be a star, because so far, his walk and strikeout rates are not exceptionally impressive. Still, even if Rizzo only repeats his rates from 2012, the Cubs will have an above-average performer at first base who has room to improve. Bryan LaHair left for Japan in the off-season, so there is no safety net if Rizzo has an Eric Hosmer-esque sophomore season.
(Photo by Tom DiPace/Getty Images)
In a heartbreaking come-from-behind affair, Puerto Rico knocked out Team Italy 4-3 in an elimination game Wednesday night in the World Baseball Classic at Marlins Park in Miami. Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo did everything he could to keep his adopted country’s Cinderella run alive, plating all three of the Italian squad’s runs with a fifth-inning double. Rizzo was 1-for-3 with two walks on the day.
(Photo by Barry Gossage/Getty Images)
Anthony Rizzo is going to be away from Cubs Spring Training camp a little longer than most anticipated.
The slugging first baseman is representing the Italian squad in the 2013 version of the World Baseball Classic, a tournament which has seen the European country fend off favorites Mexico and Canada to reach the second round. And Rizzo, who has hit in the heart of the order for the Azzurri, has played a key role in his squad’s success.
In the opening matchup against Mexico on Thursday, the 23-year-old finished the day 2-for-5 with two RBI, accounting for the game-tying and winning runs. Trailing by a run with men on first and third in the top of the ninth, Rizzo hit a soaring fly ball to left field, which looked like a sacrifice fly. But Mexican outfielder Edgar Gonzalez lost the ball in the afternoon sun, and it bounced off his glove, scoring both runners and ultimately giving Italy the 6-5 win.
The Italian squad crushed Canada 14-4 on Friday, and though Rizzo didn’t have a hit, his impact was still felt. The first baseman finished 0-for-3 with a pair of walks. He got the scoring started in the bottom of the first when he grounded out with a man on third. He also scored two runs as the Italians clinched their trip to the next round.
On Saturday, Rizzo’s team jumped out to a 2-0 lead against the USA, but was ultimately overmatched by an American side some have favored to win the tournament. Rizzo had a single in the 6-2 loss.
Italy begins play in the double-elimination second round on Tuesday against the Dominican Republic.
(Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
No position player in Mesa has more of a lock on his Opening Day roster spot than 2012 rookie phenom Anthony Rizzo. But after hitting 15 home runs in 87 games for the Cubs in 2012, the 23-year-old was invited to play for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic, which means he’ll be away for a few weeks. That has opened the door for some fringe players to capitalize on his absence.
One of those players is 30-year-old journeyman Brad Nelson. A fourth-round pick in the 2001 draft, the lefty slugger has compiled a boatload of games and stats in his minor league career—a dubious honor. A career .269/.350/.451 hitter, Nelson has a 181 minor league homers, including 24 in each of his last two years in Triple-A Round Rock (Texas). In 621 games played primarily at first base, he’s committed just 44 errors for a .992 fielding percentage.
Though it’s still a long way from Opening Day, Nelson has put himself in as good a position as possible to claim a roster spot. In 19 plate appearances, the first baseman is hitting .333 with two homers, a triple, a double and five RBI. He’ll be starting at first base as the Cubs host the crosstown rival White Sox for the first time in the new year on Thursday.
The North Siders will face the Sox one more time this spring, when they travel to Camelback Ranch on March 15. During the season, the Cubs will face the South Siders in a newly formatted, four-game, home-and-home series. The Cubs will travel to U.S. Cellular on May 27 and 28, and then the teams will face off at Wrigley Field on May 29 and 30, with the BP Crosstown Cup still on the line.
First pitch for Thursday’s game is scheduled for 2:05 CST, and the game can be heard at Cubs.com. The Sox will send lefty Jose Quintana to the hill. Here’s the lineup he’ll be facing:
CF David DeJesus
2B Darwin Barney
RF Nate Schierholtz
LF Alfonso Soriano
3B Luis Valbuena
C Welington Castillo
1B Brad Nelson
SS Edwin Maysonet
P Carlos Villanueva
(Photo by Stephen Green)
The Cubs agreed to terms with all 21 pre-arbitration eligible players currently on the organization’s 40-man roster Monday. Terms were not disclosed.
Right-handed pitchers Michael Bowden, Alberto Cabrera, Rafael Dolis, Trey McNutt, Hector Rondon, Arodys Vizcaino and Robert Whitenack; and lefties Brooks Raley, Chris Rusin and Travis Wood were all signed to new deals.
Catchers Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger; infielders Darwin Barney, Junior Lake, Anthony Rizzo, Christian Villanueva, Josh Vitters and Logan Watkins; and outfielders Brett Jackson, Dave Sappelt and Matt Szczur also earned updated contracts.
(Illustration by Jerry Neumann)
Patriotism is nothing new for athletes.
Take the pregame ceremonies of the Super Bowl. People were so sure Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was going to shed a tear during the national anthem, Vegas bookmakers threw up prop bets on it (he didn’t).
This month, baseball players from around the globe will demonstrate their national pride when they represent their countries in the third edition of the International Baseball Federation’s World Baseball Classic.
The first WBC in 2006 was a cultural hit, pitting nations against each other in baseball’s version of soccer’s World Cup. Though no member of the Cubs was selected to manager Joe Torre’s U.S. squad for 2013, first baseman Anthony Rizzo will be playing for Italy.
“I’d love to play for [the U.S.]. That was my first choice, but they have all the ‘mon-stars’ on there,” Rizzo said during the Cubs Caravan. “Italy is a great opportunity. I come from a strong Italian background.”
Rizzo was selected because his great-grandfather hails from Sicily. Former Cub Tony Campana also wanted to play for the Italian squad, but was unable to produce a birth certificate from his grandparents.
“I think it’s great that guys want to represent where they’ve come from,” said Brandon Hyde, the Cubs’ director of player development. “They take a lot of pride in that.”
Former Cubs Michael Barrett, Derrek Lee, Henry Blanco and Carlos Zambrano competed in the first Classic, while Kosuke Fukudome, Ted Lilly, Carlos Marmol and Geovany Soto represented their home countries in 2009.
WBC action starts March 2, with the finals taking place March 19 at San Francisco’s AT&T Park. Team Italy, which is in Pool D, doesn’t get underway until March 7 versus Mexico. Rizzo won’t have to travel far, as Pool D plays in Phoenix, Ariz. Team Italy will play Team USA March 9 at the Diamondbacks’ Chase Field.