Who is Anthony Rizzo?


Who is Anthony Rizzo?

The biggest indicator of who Anthony Rizzo is cannot be found from looking at the back of his baseball card. Statistics don't tell the whole story.

Rizzo, a first baseman and former sixth-round draft pick of Jason McLeod (as well as Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer) in Boston, struggled early in his career with cancer. Limited-stage classical Hodgkin's lymphoma to be specific.

He underwent chemotherapy for six months after the diagnosis in 2008 and resumed his playing career in 2009.

"He's got a fantastic makeup," Hoyer said on a conference call following the trade. "He obviously went through a lot by overcoming cancer when he was 19 years old. He's a very strong individual. Certainly acquiring him in San Diego, I got to know him even better than I knew him when I was with the Red Sox.

"He makes a big impression on his teammates. He's an incredibly hard worker. He's a very strong person. I think he's a leader. He's someone that can really help put this organization or our team on the right path as far as our culture."

Rizzo may have been drafted by Hoyer and Co. with the Red Sox in 2007, but he only spent a couple of years there before being traded to San Diego -- where Hoyer was the GM at the time -- as one of the main pieces in a deal that sent superstar Adrian Gonzalez to Boston.

Now, he's on his third HoyerMcLeod organization.

"We're very excited to acquire Anthony Rizzo," Hoyer said. "He's a player Theo, Jason and I know very well. This is now the third organization that Jason and I have been with with Anthony, which speaks to how much we speak to his ability and his character.

"We believe Anthony has the potential to be a middle-of-the-order run producer for the Cubs for a long time. He still has some development left, but we feel like what he's done at age 20 at Double-A and 21 at Triple-A was remarkable. He did struggle in the big leagues a little bit last year when he came up, but we feel like that's just an adjustment period and that he has a bright future."

Rizzo, whom McLeod once described as having the best makeup of any player he's ever drafted, has certainly torn up the minor leagues lately. In Triple-A last season, he raked to the tune of a .331.404.652 slash line with 26 homers, 34 doubles and 101 RBI in just 93 games and 356 at-bats.

Of course, he was playing in Tucson, Ariz., which is a great place to hit.

"That Triple-A enviornment he was in was a bandbox," Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus said. "It was just a pinball machine. And that created some bad habits...He ended up getting loopy with his swing and getting pull-conscious."

Those bad habits were part of the reason he struggled in his first stint in the majors late in 2011.

In 128 at-bats with the Padres, Rizzo batted just .141 with only one homer and nine RBI. He also had a whopping 46 strikeouts. But that didn't deter Hoyer and his staff from wanting to acquire Rizzo, who just turned 22 in early August.

"It's really hard for a player to make adjustments before they fail," Hoyer said. "One of the things you talk about with young players is you actually want them to fail. Because once they fail, they can make adjustments. For Anthony, it took him getting to the big leagues at age 21 to have that failure, which is impressive."

Some around baseball may be wary of Rizzo's future. After being voted the Padres' top prospect last season, San Diego went out and traded Mat Latos for several prospects, including first baseman Yonder Alonso. That fact suggests the Padres organization holds Alonso higher than Rizzo.

Obviously Hoyer and his staff don't necessarily believe that and Goldstein isn't buying it either.

"I disagree with that notion," Goldstein said. "If I was starting a team and they said you could either have Rizzo or Alonso, I would take Rizzo."

He’s back: Kyle Schwarber takes center stage at World Series

He’s back: Kyle Schwarber takes center stage at World Series

CLEVELAND – Kyle Schwarber walked into the Progressive Field interview room at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, becoming the biggest Game 1 story at the World Series. He didn’t have a hit all season – and hadn’t played for the Cubs in almost seven months – but there was his name in the No. 5 spot in the lineup against Corey Kluber and the Cleveland Indians.

“Once I hit that line, a lot of emotions will come pouring out,” Schwarber said. “I’ll probably cry at some point today. It was a long road, but once we step in between those lines, it’s game time. I’m going to be locked in. I’m going to be ready to go (and) try to win this.”

It’s hard to overstate how much the Cubs love Schwarber’s energy, presence and powerful left-handed swing, from the time they saw his hard-charging style and football mentality at Indiana University. Theo Epstein’s front office drafted him fourth overall in 2014 – at a time when that almost looked like a reach for a designated hitter with an unclear defensive future behind the plate or in the outfield.

Instead of sending him to Arizona, the Cubs also allowed Schwarber to rehab in Chicago and remain a part of the team after undergoing major surgery on his left knee in the middle of April, making him untouchable in any trade talks, even as the New York Yankees dangled game-changing reliever Andrew Miller, who now looms as another World Series X-factor in the Cleveland bullpen.

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After getting a better-than-expected progress report last week from Dr. Daniel Cooper – the head team physician for the Dallas Cowboys who reconstructed his ACL and repaired his LCL – Schwarber went full speed ahead.

“I called Theo right away and I was like: ‘Hey, I’d love the opportunity to try,’” Schwarber said. “Knowing that I had the opportunity to try and get back, it would kill me deep down inside if I didn’t. And I knew going into it there were no guarantees.

“I didn’t want the media attention. I didn’t want any of that. I did it for my teammates. I did it for me, too. That’s the competitor in me.” 

After playing in the Arizona Fall League in front of about 100 fans on Monday, Schwarber flew on a private plane from Mesa to Cleveland, where he could change franchise history with one big swing, the way he drilled five homers during last year’s playoffs and became a Wrigleyville folk hero.

“It’s going to be a complete 180,” Schwarber said. “You know you’re going in front of a packed stadium here. It’s going to be awesome. That’s what we live for as baseball players. We live to feed off that, especially since we’re in such a hostile environment here in Cleveland.

“I love that. It’s going to be great for our team. We’re in for a really hard-fought battle.”

Cubs confident Indians baserunners won't take Jon Lester off his game

Cubs confident Indians baserunners won't take Jon Lester off his game

CLEVELAND - Jon Lester's yips have been on full display this postseason, but it hasn't mattered.

Lester's issues throwing to bases haven't come back to haunt him in his first three October starts, in part because he's only allowed 16 baserunners in 21 innings.

The opposition can't take Lester off his game if they can't steal first base.

The Indians, however, are one of the game's best baserunning teams and had 134 stolen bases in the regular season, good for fourth in Major League Baseball.

And they don't plan to sit idly by when they get on against Lester in Game 1 of the World Series.

"I can't see us changing now because it's the World Series when it's worked (all season)," said Rajai Davis, who is leading off against Lester in Game 1 and stole 43 bases in 49 chances in 2016.

The Cubs understand the Indians have a clear advantage of the basepaths entering this best-of-seven series.

During Media Day at Progressive Field Monday afternoon, Jake Arrieta brought it up unprompted.

"Their stolen base threats are there," he said. "It's just gonna be up to us to control that."


"I think this time of year - the World Series more so than any other time during the regular season - you don't want to give up 90 feet for free," Arrieta said. "We're gonna have to do our best to hold the ball, vary our times [home], pick when we need to and some good throws from the guys behind the plate."

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Arrieta's attitude embodies the Cubs' mentality all year - embracing the pressure instead of running from it.

The Cubs haven't been able to cure Lester's mental block throwing to first base, but they've found ways to minimize the damage.

Sure, runners stole 28 bases off Lester this season, but they've also been caught 13 times thanks in large part to Lester's quick delivery home and David Ross' excellent throwing and pop-up time behind the plate.

The Cubs also boast maybe the best tagger the game has ever seen in Javy Baez at second base.

In his World Series press conference on workout day Monday, the first question Lester fielded was about pitching with runners on and he put all the credit on his defense behind him.

It's not just when guys get on, however. The opposition is also trying to throw Lester off his game by bunting and forcing him to field his position and make throws to first.

FanGraphs reports Lester fielded 20 ground balls or bunts this season and turned 19 of those into outs without one throwing error.

So it's a risk for teams to weigh - do they want to take the bat out of their hitters' hands in trying to bunt and when they do actually reach base, is it worth the risk to try to run on Lester and Ross?

The Los Angeles Dodgers tried to play all kinds of games with Lester and wound up scoring just two runs off him in 13 innings between two games and lost both.

Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo isn't worried about it now, on the nation's biggest stage.

"We have fun with it," Rizzo said. "I think [Lester is] very underrated in that aspect, to where if he wants to, he could pretty much do whatever he wants.

"He's so quick to the plate where he knows that - especially with Rossy behind the plate - he kinda challenges people to run on him. It'll be interesting to see how it plays out."