When the Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo looked across the field at the White Sox this week, he could see further into Sox’ future than perhaps any other player, coach or manager in either organization.
All he had to do was recall the first few years of his own career.
“They’re obviously on a rebuild, and there’s no secret that they’ve acquired a lot of [minor-league] talent in the last two years,” said Rizzo, who sees his own career arc in the likes of young Sox players Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson. “The good thing for them is they’re going to get the opportunity to just keep playing and work through [struggles], like I got.”
Rizzo sees a potential “good for the city” collision course between the teams if the Sox pull off the same feat that Rizzo’s Cubs did over the last five years under Theo Epstein’s guidance. The Cubs’ two-year surge from last place to a historic World Series championship over the 2015-16 seasons has given Sox general manager Rick Hahn cover for the extreme overhaul that included trading Jose Quintana to the Cubs at the All-Star break and trading two more veteran pitchers this week. At least one prospect evaluation says Hahn has amassed 10 of the top 68 prospects in baseball.
But Rizzo, one of the first prospects acquired by the incoming Cubs front office in the winter of 2011-12, offers a significant word of caution to anyone else trying the Cubs’ approach — especially
The word is “patience.”
“People lashed out at the Ricketts [ownership] family and Theo and [GM] Jed [Hoyer], calling for their [heads], telling them they’re idiots and that it would never come to fruition,” Rizzo said of the leanest, darkest years, when last year’s title was nothing but a vision seen through the lenses of Rizzo’s left-handed swing and the potential returns on annual flip-guy free-agent signings.
“And they stuck with it,” Rizzo said. “That’s not easy to do, especially in a market like this. They didn’t try to alter [the plans]. They didn’t try to jump the gun early. And it obviously paid off.”
Rizzo has a unique perspective on how much discipline that might have required. He’s one of only two players in franchise history to play on a 100-loss Cubs team (2012) and a 100-win Cubs team (2016).
“Back in 2014, people were calling for Theo to get out of here,” he said, referring to the last-place season that also led to a turning-point offseason for the Cubs. “You’ve got to preach patience, which they did.
“But as a sports fan, it’s [not easy],” added Rizzo, a Miami Dolphins season-ticket holder. “When the Dolphins aren’t winning and they’re saying all these things [about their plans] and it’s not happening, as a fan you get [ticked] off. But [as a team], you really have to stick to your guns and know what you’re doing is right. I’m a football fan, but I’m not a football GM. So I don’t know how the moves work. It’s the same with other fans.”
If the Sox pull off a Cubs 2.0, they could be ready to compete for center stage in Chicago baseball by 2019. Rizzo embraces the idea.
“The best of both worlds for both teams,” he said.
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