With the 2013 edition of the World Baseball Classic almost finished through the semi final stage, I still cannot shake what could have been for Cub Anthony Rizzo and team Italy. My only rooting interest for Italy was because of Rizzo and the tendency to root for the underdog. Team Italy was just a solid bullpen away from potentially being a part of the final four. Instead, a couple of late blown leads in games two and three of their Second Round showing led to their elimination.
The positive was that Rizzo played a big part in the surprise success of Italy. Despite going 0 for 3 against the Dominican Republic, he was still able to contribute a walk and a run offensively. He then seemingly provided the winning blow in the game against Puerto Rico, driving a double into the right center field cap to clear the bases and put the Italians up 3-0 in the fifth. Rizzo would also walk in the top of the ninth to represent the game tying run, but his team would fail to advance him any further. On a bit of a side note, this Puerto Rico team would go on to knock out the Japanese and their bid for a three peat. A little bit of karma for a team that poked fun at the Cubs World Series drought a couple days ago?
It is a bit unfortunate that Italy’s exit from the WBC almost had a Cubbie occurrence like feel to it. The late blown leads and especially the sloppy play in what was the fateful eighth inning in which Puerto Rico would rally for the lead. Thankfully Rizzo had no part in the errors and the collapse. As I mentioned in my last Rizzo WBC post, this tournament experience was only going to help Rizzo’s development. That includes more than just on field production. Rizzo showed leadership skills when he was seen on camera talking to his shortstop Anthony Granato in the dugout after a particularly rough fielding half inning for Granato. Rizzo’s back was to the camera, so there was no chance for any lip reading, but you can bet from the body language that Rizzo was not pulling his best Carlos Zambrano meltdown impression.
As Rizzo gets more and more at bats and playing time at the highest level of competition, it is becoming more clear that he is the real deal and not just the teacher’s pet of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer, the front office duo that have made sure to get Rizzo on their team at each of their respective prior positions. And unlike the Greg Maddux situation back in 1992, this Cubs ownership will have no hesitation to pay Rizzo fair market value and keep the lefty slugger in Cubs blue pinstripes for years to come.