Why Anthony Rizzo has a chance to be this generation’s Mr. Cub

The main reason why Rizzo could become Mr. Cub of the 2010s/2020s: He has the best shot to join the elite #5 spot on Cubs all-time home run list.

All-time Cubs Home Run list (before 2021 season)

  1. Sammy Sosa 545
  2. Ernie Banks 512
  3. Billy Williams 392
  4. Ron Santo 337
  5. Ryne Sandberg 282
  6. Aramis Ramirez 239
  7. Gabby Hartnett 231
  8. Anthony Rizzo 228
  9. Bill Nicholson 205
  10. Hank Sauer 198

At the start of this season, Rizzo needs only 55 more HR to pass #5 Sandberg on the list!

In all the talk if the Cubs will re-sign Bryant, Rizzo, and Baez; I haven’t heard anyone mention that Rizzo could become the #5 on the all-time Cubs HR list.

Rizzo certainly won’t hit 55 home runs this season. He’ll most likely pass Sandberg in two seasons. Of course, this is currently Rizzo’s last contract year with the Cubs. The Cubs would need to resign Rizzo for him to reach the 5th spot.

What does his career trajectory look like? Is he hitting enough home runs lately to pass Sandberg in two seasons?

Rizzo’s home run history

  • 2012: 15 home runs
  • 2013: 23
  • 2014: 32
  • 2015: 31
  • 2016: 32
  • 2017: 32
  • 2018: 25
  • 2019: 27
  • 2020: 11 (over a full season this would have been 29)
  • 2021: 5 (current season in progress)

If he hits 27 HR a year, he would be #5 at the end of 2022. Cubs sign him up quick! You’ll soon have a top historic Cub!

What about Kris Bryant?

Bryant hits more home runs than Rizzo, right? Bryant is currently 29 years old. All that youth, all that power. Let’s see where Rizzo stood in home runs at Bryant’s age.

  • Rizzo through age 28, hit 190 Cub home runs.
  • Bryant through age 28, hit 147 Cub home runs.

Wow. Rizzo has hit a lot more more home runs than Bryant! How could that be? Simple. Bryant gets injured too much. Rizzo is much more consistent.

What about Javier Baez?

Baez has that hard fast swing. He’s younger than both Rizzo and Bryant. He’s gotta have more homeruns, right?

  • Rizzo through age 28, hit 190 Cub home runs.
  • Baez through age 28… well, he’s 28 now and the season is not done. To match Bryant’s 147, he needs to hit 29 home runs. To match Rizzo’s 190, Baez needs 72 home runs.

Ok, clearly Rizzo has more home runs at age 28 than both Rizzo and Baez.

Bryant and Baez both are CAPABLE of hitting lots of home runs in a season. If they do that, then BAM, they’ll pass Sandberg in no time. Let’s see what it would take to pass Sandberg.

  • Rizzo at age 33 will pass Sandberg if he hits 27.5 HR/year for two years
  • Bryant at age 33 will pass Sandberg if he hits 35 HR/year for four years
  • Baez at age 33 will pass Sandberg if he hits 33 HR/year for five years

35 HR/year for Bryant sounds doable, right? But that’s for four CONSISTENT years. Can Bryant really be THAT consistent? I doubt it. Same goes for Baez. Sure, Baez once hit 34 HR, but he did that just once. Baez is just to erratic to hit 35HR/year for FIVE YEARS STRAIGHT.

Rizzo is the most likely to pass Sandberg at age 33. And he’ll do it for two years of salary. For Bryant and Baez to achieve that feat, they would need four and five years respectively.

Should the Cubs sign Rizzo, Bryant, or Baez?

Putting money aside, if the Cubs were to sign one player from the trio of Rizzo, Bryant, and Baez, who would you like to see them sign? Given these stats, I would pick Rizzo. It’s a hard pick, because Bryant is two years younger, so you should get more production out of him. And I flat-out enjoy Baez.

Why would I pick the older Rizzo? Long-term, Rizzo is better for the brand of the Cubs. I’d love to see a player rise up from this generation to be the Mr. Cub.

Why Rizzo could be this generation’s Mr. Cub

#5 on this HR list. Is number five really all that great? When you consider who is on this list, yes, being number five is great. Landing at the #5 spot would put Rizzo among some elite Cub class: Ernie Banks, Billy Williams, Ron Santo, (and cough Sammy Sosa). Higher than Sandberg!

  • My dad’s generation of the 50s/60s/70s had Ron Santo.
  • My generation of the 80s/90s had Ryne Sandberg.
  • The generation of the 2000s should have had Sammy Sosa, but that got messed up.
  • Today’s generation of the 2010s/2020s could have Anthony Rizzo.

Sounds odd, eh? Rizzo as a Mr. Cub. He’s not quite there yet. Put him in a Cub uniform for another five years, and if he stays productive, he WILL reach that level. His home runs are consistent. He’ll get to the #5 all-time Cub spot. It might even be possible that he passes Santo and reaches the #4 spot. He’s 110 home runs behind. Could he hit 22 home runs for the next five seasons? That would mean he would have to hit 22 home runs when he’s 37 years old. Possible.

If Rizzo is able to continue to produce into his older years he MIGHT get into the Hall of Fame. That’s the only downfall here. He’s currently 31. During his prime years, he didn’t put up dominant numbers to get into the Hall for peak performance. The only way to get into the HOF is if he magically has a long career with continued home runs, and he somehow continues to rack up four or five more Gold Gloves (to bring his total to 8 or 9).

But let’s say he doesn’t make it into the HOF. Is it possible to become a generation’s Mr. Cub and not be in the HOF? Mark Grace could have almost achieved that feat if he didn’t burn the bridges with the Cubs at the end of his career. Grace is not a Hall of Famer, but he was very well liked. I’m curious what Cubs fans would think of Grace if he finished his career with the Cubs.

Can Bryant or Baez be a better Mr. Cub than Rizzo?

2017 Topps Throwback Thursday #TBT - Online Exclusive [Base] #147 - 1959 Topps "Baseball Thrills" Design - Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, Kris Bryant /591

Who will end up being this generation’s Mr. Cub? Let’s compare Rizzo, Bryant, and Baez.

World Series

  • +2 Rizzo caught the ball for the final out
  • +2 Bryant fielded the ball for the final out
  • +1 Rizzo played so well in the World Series, he could have been the World Series MVP
  • +1 Bryant was the sparkplug in game 5 that turned the Cubs around
  • +0.5 Baez was NLCS MVP in 2016, but didn’t do much in the World Series
  • +3 for all three. They were on the World Series championship team that ended the 108-year draught.
  • +1 for all three. Rizzo, Bryant, Baez all appear in the iconic celebration photo. Yeah, this doesn’t seem like it should matter much, but being Mr. Cub is all about optics. They are each in this visual burned into our memories. They each get a point for it.

Off-the-field donations

+3 Rizzo donates to hospitals and regularly visits kids with cancer.
+0 Bryant: I’m not sure what he does.
+0 Baez: Not sure what he does either.

Chance of passing Sandberg by age 33

Yeah, the age 33 is sort of an artificial constraint. Maybe I should say by age 35 or 36. But man, if it takes Bryant until being age 36 to pass Sandberg, that would be seven years from now. SEVEN.
+3 Rizzo
+0 Bryant
+0 Baez

Fielding

  • +1 Rizzo: Gets one point for his Gold Gloves
  • 0 Bryant
  • +4 Baez: Baez’s fielding is purely once-in-a-generation level fielding. Baez is like an Ozzie Smith sort of caliber in terms of being memorable. Thus, I’m giving him the most points for any of these categories. Don’t say I didn’t underplay Baez’s fielding!

Base running

Normally this would not be a category of consideration to become Mr. Cub, but Baez is so elite with this incredible slides and daring speed, you gotta give him a point here.
0 Rizzo
0 Bryant
+1 Baez

Awards

We must factor in Bryant’s Rookie of the Year and MVP. We aren’t including Rizzo and Baez’s Gold Gloves, because those are under the “Fielding” category
0 Rizzo
+1 Bryant
0 Baez

Fun persona

A simple way of putting this is… who do the Cubs want to see become the face of the Cubs franchise?

+2 Rizzo: clearly shows that he loves to have fun. He’s often mic’ed up. He had total fun striking out Freddie Freeman.
0 Bryant: who… is kinda quiet.
+1 Baez: also loves to have fun. But do you have any specific memories of him having fun? I actually can’t think of any that stick out where he’s goofing around.

Fire passion

+0.5 Rizzo: The “RESPECT ME RESPECT ME” moment. He voices his opinion loudly on the field with the opposing team does something
0 Bryant: Ryne Sandberg is considered the Mr. Cub of the 80s, and he showed zero fire. Thus maybe the “Fire passion” category shouldn’t really count. That’s why Rizzo gets just 0.5 points and Baez 1 point.
+1 Baez: The dude is all fire.

Summary

Spreadsheet of categories to determine who is the better Mr. Cub: Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, or Javier Baez

Totals

Rizzo: 16.5 points
Bryant: 8 points
Baez: 10.5 points

Yup, Rizzo has the most stuff to become Mr. Cub.

I almost want to give Rizzo an extra point for being part of the Cubs during their bad years of 2012, 2013, and 2014. Especially that 2012 year when the Cubs lost 101 games. There’s something about being a guy who was on the really bad Cubs teams, and then being part of that transition into a champion. He rode along the bad teams WITH US.

The question of who the Cubs should re-sign in 2021 (Bryant, Rizzo, or Baez) is such a hard question, but that makes it a thought-provoking question. It gets down to the roots of why you follow baseball. All three have unique angles that satisfy different motivations. 

  • Offense: By reputation, Bryant has the potential to be the biggest offensive producer (Although, as shown in this blog post, Rizzo will most likely end up with the better career numbers)
  • Highlights: Baez has awesome incredible plays that light up the highlight reel. 
  • Good guy: Rizzo is the respectable model citizen. 
  • Cubs legacy: All three have the potential to be the elite Cub of the 2010s & 2020s (with the slight advantage to Rizzo achieving this long-term reputation)

Most fans watch baseball for a mix of these four reasons. But which one is most important to you? My favorite player is Baez. I love his passion and creativity. But on the whole, as a Cubs fan, Rizzo has the best chance at developing a large legacy with the Cubs. 

In the long run, that’s what we remember the most—is the big legacy players. The guys that continue on beyond their playing years. The players who stick with us for the rest of our lives. I think that’ll be Anthony Rizzo. (we’ll still remember Bryant and Baez, of course. But maybe not on the level of a Banks or Sandberg).

I’d be sad to see Baez go to another team, because he is my favorite player. I’m willing to let him go, because as a whole, I’m a fan of baseball. Yeah, the Cubs are my team, but I love baseball, baseball history, baseball stats, baseball highlight reels, baseball stories. Man, I love it all. I love reading baseball books. The Cubs are just part of my love for baseball. If Baez goes to another team, I can still appreciate his incredible plays.

It’s a lot like how in the 1980s and 1990s, I would collection players from the Cubs, and from other teams. I collected Shawon Dunston, and I continued to collect him when he went to the Giants and Cardinals. I collected Rickey Henderson and loved his career.

The fact that I can enjoy players on other teams, makes me reconsider my criteria when who I want the Cubs to resign. This question really becomes a question about what it means to be a player on a team for an entire career. And what who that players is after he retires. We have a chance to make Cubs legacy history here. Rizzo is probably the best bet.

I’m open to debate on this.

Please leave comments with your thoughts.

6 thoughts on “Why Anthony Rizzo has a chance to be this generation’s Mr. Cub”

  1. If the Cubs sign one of the three after the 2021 season, it will be the one that’s the cheapest to sign. Before the season started that would have been Rizzo.

    As of today, it would be Baez, and it probably would not be long-term. I’m guessing it would be a 2 year deal (or even a 1-year deal). In essence it would be a performace test extension for Javy to prove he’s worth a superstar long-term deal. That’s just a hunch and I could be way off-base. Frankly, it all depends on how he does the rest of this season.

    The Cubs would jump at a one or two year deal cuz it would be a ton less money than 300 over 10 years. 25 for one is easier to swallow. And they would save face by saying that they at least are keeping someone (even if it’s for just a year).

    Of course, it’s a long season and a lot can change over the next five months. We’re only one month in. Unfortunately the 2021 performance of these three players will be the dominant factor in what deals each of them get.

    I’m not convinced the Cubs sign any of them.

    Rizzo is already Mr. Cub of the 2010s. He was more deserving than Bryant for the 2016 NL MVP.

    1. I’m not so sure Rizzo can have the title “Mr. Cub”. Maybe my standards are too high. Maybe I’m romanticizing the past of Sandberg and Banks too much. He should already lay claim to that title. But I feel like he’s not in that elite category of Sandberg and Banks yet.

      If Rizzo is already Mr. Cub of the 2010s, then would Derek Lee be Mr. Cub of the 2000s? Or Kerry Wood?

      The key to Rizzo becoming Mr. Cub is how he ends his career. Both Sandberg and Banks ended their career with the Cubs. I don’t think a player can go play another 5-8 years with another team, and be called a Mr. Cub—that would be like Harold Baines with the White Sox.

      1. Can’t be Derrek Lee. Loved him as a Cub but he was a major part of the team that knocked us out of the NLCS in 2003. That negates the 5 good Cub years.

        1. Hahaha! Yeah, the thought crossed my mind as I typed out Derek Lee and Mr. Cub in the same sentence. Too ironic. One name I’d like to see mentioned more is Stan Hack from the 1930s and 1940s.

          A blogger has an interesting criteria for a team’s Mount Rushmore:
          1) Top four players by WAR
          2) Must have played ALL games for a single team.

          For the Cubs, that results in:
          Ernie Banks (67.8), Stan Hack (54.8), Kris Bryant (24.3), and Charlie Hollocher (23.2)

  2. Very interesting post! I watch A LOT of Cubs and I’m still surprised by those power numbers. I’m still pondering your question on who to sign. I change my mind daily. I’m a fan, not a GM.

    As far as your grades go, I think you’re underplaying Rizzo’s fielding. You mentioned his Gold Gloves but not that he has 4 of them. He also has a Platinum Glove! He makes a lot of hard plays look routine. Plays that wouldn’t be considered errors but would result in baserunners/runs/losses if he didn’t make them. I would give him a 3 for fielding, Bryant a 1(versatile) and Baez keeps his 4. I would give Rizzo 1 for awards(Platinum Glove) 2 for Bryant(MVP and ROY) and Baez 0. Results are the same but it’s even more clear that Rizzo is in the lead.

    1. Ah yeah, good point on Rizzo’s fielding. I didn’t weigh that enough in the tally. Plus, he has that highlight play of standing on the tarp making the catch.

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