No. 1 one reason to keep watching Cubs—Anthony Rizzo
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org June 21, 2012 10:12PM
Chicago Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo works on infield drills as spring training continues for the Cubs at Fitch Park Tuesday February 28, 2012 in Mesa, Arizona. | TOM CRUZE~Sun-Times
The facts: 8:40 p.m.,
Ch. 9, 720-AM.
The pitchers: Jeff
Samardzija (5-5, 4.04) vs. Joe Saunders (4-5, 3.44).
THE REST OF
Saturday: 9:10, CSN, 720-AM. Matt Garza (3-5, 4.07) vs. Ian Kennedy (5-7, 4.13).
Sunday: 3:10 p.m., CSN, 720-AM. Paul Maholm (4-5, 4.88) vs. Wade Miley (8-3, 2.30).
Updated: July 23, 2012 7:52AM
Now that the biggest crosstown series that nobody seemed to notice is done, and long after the Boston Red Sox took Theo Epstein’s memory lane out of town, good luck finding a compelling reason to feel good about that price on the front of your Cubs ticket —much less finding a sucker from Detroit to pay it.
The price seems as high as the bar is low for the final 93 games of this season of Cubs deconstruction. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few telling, even intriguing, storylines worth your attention.
That’s not even counting the return of Carlos Zambrano with the Miami Marlins next month or the Houston Astros’ farewell tour in the National League Central.
Forget the other teams. Take a good look at the Cubs and all of the comings and goings the next three months promise. This is the larval stage of an organizational transformation. Whether the result ends up looking more like a monarch butterfly or ‘‘The Fly’’ (Jeff Goldblum version), some graphic sneak previews could be in store the rest of the way.
Reason No. 1 to pay attention also may be the only reason for some to watch this team going forward: Anthony Rizzo.
One of the top power-hitting prospects in the game hits a key service-time mile marker this weekend, when he finally can be recalled from Class AAA Iowa without the Cubs risking him becoming eligible for free agency a year earlier.
Soon-to-be Cubs teammates have been texting Rizzo in Iowa on the imminence of his promotion, especially after officials acknowledged the Bryan LaHair switch to right field this week was a prelude to the first baseman’s arrival.
But the level-headed Rizzo supposedly wasn’t biting on the anticipation. Look for the Cubs, in trying to keep the disgruntled paying fan base in their seats this summer, to incite the crowds with some Rizzomania when they return home for series against the New York Mets and Astros.
Rizzo not enough for you? Need a few more reasons to watch, a few promotions besides Rizzo’s? Consider these the Cubs’ answer to bobbleheads and fireworks the next several weeks:
1. Guess the All-Star
Worst record in baseball? Doesn’t matter. The rules say the Cubs get an All-Star. Can you find him before Major League Baseball announces the NL roster July 1?
Could be Alfonso Soriano, who ranks among the league leaders in homers and RBI. Starlin Castro is the third-leading vote-getter among NL shortstops and the defending hits leader and is having another good season.
But how cool, if not fitting for this season, would it be to see first-year big-league starter LaHair make it as a first baseman after he becomes the Cubs’ regular right fielder with Rizzo’s promotion?
2. Ryan Dempster’s
Can the Cub Most Likely to be Traded return from the disabled list in time to prove his strained latissimus dorsi hasn’t affected his second-in-the-NL pitching prowess (2.11 ERA) and earn the Cubs a decent trade return by the July 31 deadline?
3. Roster move day
Every day for the next two months is in play for this one. Dempster’s not the only veteran the Cubs are shopping leading to the deadline — and beyond, for those who can clear waivers or are traded via waivers in August. In fact, it would be quicker to list the Castros and Jeff Samardzijas who aren’t on the block.
4. Draft appreciation month
That would be September, when the Cubs chase — stumble toward? — the franchise record for losses in a season (103) and, if they fend off the likes of the San Diego Padres and Colorado Rockies in the process, the top overall pick in next year’s draft.