Goodbye to the Soul of the Team

By Lloyd Graff

I vowed not to write so often about baseball and the Cubs, but this is about Anthony Rizzo, the soul of the Cubs team that won the 2016 World Series, being traded last week to the New York Yankees for the last 60 games of the 2021 season. 

The Cubs received two Minor Leaguers, decent prospects from the lower Minors, for a young man who symbolizes the magic of the game. Anthony Rizzo graduated from Parkland High School in Fort Lauderdale. After 17 students were killed in a shooting there, he went back to console the student body. 

Anthony Rizzo is a very good ball player, but his value to the Cubs and the Major Leagues is who he is as a person. Rizzo was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at 18 years old, one year out of high school, while playing in the Boston Red Sox minor league system. He underwent six months of grueling chemotherapy in 2008 before he received the great news that he was in remission. He was traded to the San Diego Padres in 2010 and then traded a year later to the Chicago Cubs.

In Chicago, his ebullient personality became a symbol of the team when they were awful, then rebuilding, then blossoming into a contender in 2014 and 2015. He caught the final out in the 2016 World Series in Cleveland.

Rizzo established a family foundation for pediatric cancer in 2012, which was a rare philanthropic deed for a 21-year-old cancer survivor, but even more important was that he became a volunteer at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. 

His family’s foundation also donated $3.5 million to Lurie in 2017.

Anthony Rizzo, former Chicago Cubs first baseman

He was not a PR hound looking for exposure to enhance his image. Rizzo really spent time with the kids struggling with cancer. His smile lit up the floors, just like it did at first base when he would kibbutz with the opposing players, umpires, and coaches. Whoever he could connect with.

Anthony Rizzo was so much more than home runs, picking up throws in the dirt, fearlessly rushing home plate to snatch a sacrifice bunt, or leading the league in getting hit by the pitcher while at bat. Anthony Rizzo was the most charismatic player in the game and a cancer survivor.

He signed a long-term contract with the Cubs soon after making his debut with the team. It was his insurance policy against another bout of cancer, but it also tied him up with the team for a long tenure because he was an underpaid star when he started hitting 30 homers a year.

As a fan, I love watching Anthony Rizzo because he loves playing the game like I love watching him play it.

Very few ballplayers generate pure joy, game after game, like Rizzo. And the Cubs traded him for a bag of balls for the last 60 games of the season. 

My daughter texted me that she was in mourning. She had come in from San Francisco to see a World Series game in 2016. We were planning on going to a game in two weeks when she would be back for a family vacation. She said now she doesn’t want to go with Rizzo gone. 

A player like Anthony Rizzo makes baseball more than just a game.

Question: What past sports trade made you sick?

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5 thoughts on “Goodbye to the Soul of the Team

  1. Brian Adams

    Rizzo, Bryant, and Baez all gone in late July. I’m betting the season ticket holders are feeling a bit swindled right now!

     
  2. John Ribic

    I’m from Cleveland, we lose all of our Stars to the larger, higher paying franchises.

    Francona has been a miracle worker, losing his stars every year and maintaining a winning team! I hope he recovers from his health issues and is able to return to the team next year.

     
  3. Jerry

    This one makes me absolutely sick. I expected Bryant to be traded and I wasn’t surprised when Baez was dealt but Rizzo was, as you said, the Soul of the Team. Those don’t come around very often and are worth so much more than their performance on the field (of which Rizzo’s was quite good). I’m afraid the modern game has made a serious miscalculation between there being zero loyalty from team to player and player to team and the blackout policies that keep young fans from watching games. Both of these decisions, while possibly penny smart will be found to be more than pound foolish in the long run.

     
  4. Joe Leslein

    Cry me a river! My team traded self respect for wokeness. Two more games in my expiring season ticket package for the Guardians. (it’s about a statue on a bridge, honest)

     

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