Anthony Rizzo has been identified with Theo Epstein’s Chicago Cubs like no other player, and with good reason. Epstein drafted Rizzo out of high school in 2007, as the Boston Red Sox were on their way to a second World Series win. Epstein also acquired Rizzo from the San Diego Padres, shortly after taking the helm in Chicago. Since the Epstein era will likely be defined by Rizzo and his accomplishments, all Cubs fans have a vested interest in his performance.
So, it was with great trepidation that we all watched the collision in Houston Tuesday evening. Rizzo hit a bouncer to Astros second baseman Jimmy Paredes, who ranged to his left, gloved the ball and threw across his body over to first base. But his throw sailed high, and first baseman Brett Wallace leaped high to catch it. What happened next was as ugly a collision as you’re likely to see on a baseball field.
Wallace’s foot swung around into the path of Rizzo, who was hustling down to first base, and appeared to catch Rizzo flush on the helmet. The result was Rizzo soaring through the air in a way that would be impressive for a ballet dancer. But Rizzo, at 6′-3″ and 220 pounds, is closer to a football player than a ballerina. And he hasn’t worked on his landings, either.
Rizzo collapsed in a heap, and then didn’t move for quite some time. After some tense moments he eventually came around, and was escorted off the field and removed from the game. But how well he is, after a trauma to his head and an awkward landing on the ground, remains to be seen.
Knowing how much of the Cubs’ future is riding on him, in both a real and psychological sense, I’m hoping he’s back in the lineup soon. But if he needs to be observed for a few days, and sits out the rest of a rather meaningless Houston series as a result, it’s better to err on the side of caution.
The Cubs have already shut down Jeff Samardzija for the rest of season, although he’s in a different position than Rizzo. However, if they can do without Samardzija, they can also get along without Rizzo, at least for the remainder of this season. The future is a lot more promising than the present, at least for this Cubs fan.