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Anthony Rizzo | Bryan LaHair | Jordyn Wieber

By bullpenbrian - July 30, 2012 - 3:15 am Leave a comment.

It wasn’t the Sandberg Game, but Anthony Rizzo’s walk-off home run against the Cardinals will hold a similarly special place in our hearts.

The kid’s flair for the dramatic has been simply unreal since his call-up on June 26 and seems to grow stronger with each opportunity to deliver when it matters most.

Rizzo quickly collected three game-winning RBI in his first five games (the first Cubs player ever to do so) and four game-winning RBI through his first 10 games as a member of the Cubs.

His walk-off blast Sunday marked his sixth game-winning RBI–second only to Alfonso Soriano’s team-leading 10.

Additionally, Rizzo wrapped up the Cardinals series going 5-for-12 with 2 HR, 5 RBI and 3 runs scored. His first home run came Friday against one of the NL’s toughest starting pitchers, a first inning two-run shot against Lance Lynn giving the Cubs a brief 3-1 lead.

Rizzo, not to forget, was also twice robbed of hits during the series. The first, a spectacular diving catch by CF Jon Jay on Friday. The second, a nifty play in the hole by SS Daniel Descalso on Sunday.

It’s only been a small 27-game sample for Rizzo, but it’s head-shaking to imagine how much better things will get for the calm, cool and collected 22-year-old budding star.

WHAT’S WRONG WITH BRYAN LAHAIR?

I’ve started to wonder if Bryan LaHair’s steady decline offensively has anything to do with Rizzo’s arrival, which forced LaHair from first base to right field?

It’s not uncommon for players to struggle offensively when asked to play out of position, and LaHair has clearly slumped since June 26: .214, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 8 walks vs. 29-K.

Although LaHair did play some outfield in the minor leagues, he spent the majority of his time at first base, perhaps suggesting one reason he’s struggled so mightily since a blazing hot start to the season.

I noticed some Twitter followers point out LaHair’s altered batting stance since the beginning of the season, a possible attempt to help him hit inside breaking balls?

I suspect advanced scouting has something to do with his slump as well, updating ‘the book’ on how to get the once hot-hitting LaHair out.

Of course, it could be any number of issues plaguing LaHair: new fielding position, new stance, better scouting, or even something as simple as Rizzo stealing LaHair’s early season thunder? Or maybe LaHair’s experiencing some personal guilt with not performing the way he believes a first time All Star should?

Whatever the case, LaHair’s looked miserable at the plate the past several weeks. No confidence, it appears, whatsoever. This couldn’t have been more obvious Sunday as LaHair went an ugly 0-for-3 at the plate with three strikeouts while stranding three runners on base.

KEEP LAHAIR OR TRADE HIM?

My hope for LaHair is that whatever change(s) needs to happen for him to get back on track offensively is anything but a return back to first base.

Rizzo is far and away the better fielding first baseman, his left-handedness is also a plus, and there’s no way Sveum’s moving Rizzo to the outfield or platooning him with LaHair at first base.

In fact, the more I think about it the more I believe the best fix for LaHair is a change of scenery before the trade deadline.

OLYMPICS A REMINDER THE BEST DON’T ALWAYS FINISH FIRST

The luster of the Summer Olympics wore off on me some time ago. I’m not sure why it happened and I don’t care to bother you flushing out the details in a blog post, either.

However, I still enjoy watching the Olympics from a distance, catching whatever events happen to be televised at the time I tune in.

Sunday night it was the USA women’s gymnastics team (in favor of yet ANOTHER Yankees vs. Red Sox broadcast on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball).

The headline story was Jordan Wieber, the defending world all-around gymnastics champion, failing to qualify for the same event at the London Games.

A silly and very controversial rule allowing only two team members from one country to compete for the gold medal in the all-around competition squeezed Wieber out of the hunt.

The television analyst felt Wieber had been judged too critically during her performance and the silly two-member per-team rule deprived not only Wieber of the chance to defend her world title, but the rest of the Olympic women gymnast from legitimizing the gold medal with the world’s reigning champion on the sidelines.

HEARTBREAK

Wieber was emotionally crushed, rightfully so, teary-eyed and heart-broken in front of the world. It was brutal television watching this 17-year-old girl trying to collect her emotions for what I considered an ill-advised television interview.

Emotionally charged as the scene was, I had to fight back tears. My heart was heavy for Wieber. Four years of hard training for this–a technicality keeping her from achieving “her dream to win the all-around gold medal.”

It’s a saddening feeling I’ve felt many times as a sports fan, and particularly when thinking back on the Cubs quick exodus from the 2008 playoffs.

Wieber, as sad and unfortunate as the case was Sunday night, is just another reminder that the best team doesn’t always win top prize, as our Cubbies should have four years ago.

Sometimes, it’s just not your day. Other times, often when least expected, it turns out everything you touch turns to gold.

It happens in October all the time.

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May The Cubs Fourth Be With You

By bullpenbrian - July 5, 2012 - 8:15 am Leave a comment.

Anthony Rizzo

Fireworks from Anthony Rizzo, Bryan LaHair and Jeff Baker backed six strong innings from Paul Maholm helping the Cubs do something they’ve accomplished only six times in the last 20-years—win on the Fourth of July.

Granted the Cubs have never been known for timely wins, but they are (117-96-3) all-time on Independence Day, including Wednesday’s 5-1 victory against Atlanta.

For all the hardships this season, it was nice for a change to sit back and enjoy a good, all-around Cubs win on our Nation’s birthday. Yes indeed, God Bless America!

Cubs’ Record on Fourth of July Last 20-years:

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Rizzo Reminding of Eric the Red

By bullpenbrian - July 2, 2012 - 8:15 pm Leave a comment.

RizDav44

Eric the Red was always one of my favorite players. Loved his batting stance: hands held low until right before the pitcher released the ball.

I do remember my Little League coaches being less impressed with Davis’ approach, which of course, my teammates and I mimicked, albeit temporarily (Gary Sheffield’s bat waggle was another popular stance not fully appreciated by our coaches!). 

Even by today’s standards Davis’ batting stance is unconventional. And I’ve yet to see any big leaguer who’s held his hands as low–until the arrival of Anthony Rizzo.

Although Rizzo’s batting stance does remind me of Davis’ stance, the similarities end rather quickly, aside from the two sharing the No.44.

Rizzo is a left-handed batter, he’s absent of an exaggerated leg kick and he’s far from Davis’ skeleton frame.

But if Rizzo is equally as good as Davis was offensively during his 17-year big league career (282 HR, 934 RBI) I’ll take it.

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Timely Win Clutch For Rizzo, Cubs

By bullpenbrian - June 27, 2012 - 2:30 am 1 comment.

Anthony Rizzo

For once the Cubs actually had a timely win.

Not the kind with huge implications in the win/loss column, those are nice too, but the kind of victory that feels right in the moment.

A timely victory entails winning on Opening Day, winning on national television, winning the cross-town series, winning when the lights are brightest.

It’s the keen awareness to understand that big moment or special occasion and deliver the best possible gift any fan in attendance could hope for—seeing the home team win.

It’s been awhile since that’s happened on the North Side, which is why a 5-3 win against the Mets was just what the organization and its fans needed on the evening Anthony Rizzo made his Cubs debut.

It was something to root for, something exciting, a reminder of what Cubs baseball should truly be all about: good times, good memories–a good win.

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And Rizzo Was His Name, Oh!

By bullpenbrian - June 26, 2012 - 4:30 am Leave a comment.

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The Mortality of Anthony Rizzo

By bullpenbrian - June 24, 2012 - 7:05 am 4 comments.

This is a Guest Post by John Guminski. He’s a Junior at the University of Missouri majoring in Journalism.

As the Cubs dropped 2 out of 3 to the Red Sox a few days ago, I was sitting in my seats during the Sunday night game and heard the usual banter that seems to come after every error, strikeout, or loss.

“Did you hear Rizzo had another home run tonight? That’s 23! Bring him up! This can’t get any worse!”

Well, the time is almost here for the arrival of Mr. Anthony Rizzo. Manager Dale Sveum said, “It’s obvious he’s coming soon but we don’t have a date yet.” With all of this hype, I am afraid Cub fans are setting themselves up for potential disappointment.

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Chicago Cubs Anthony Rizzo Watch

By bullpenbrian - June 22, 2012 - 6:00 am 2 comments.

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