Rizzo, Lead Off Man? Not So Fast

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One of my favorite conversations about athletes is the idea that if you’re good, you’re good, and that’s the end of the story. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about baseball, football, etc, if you’re good, you’ll find a way to be successful no matter what.

This is probably true. No doubt the greatest of our lifetimes (LeBron, Jordan, Gretzky, Crosby, Kershaw, Bryant, Brady, Serena) were going to be good regardless, but I don’t believe that it is entirely up to them. I do believe where they land as far as franchises and cities matter, and that it matters a lot. It’s EXACTLY why I’m so worried about how we’ll treat Glennon and more so Trubisky when the time comes. QB’s are the obvious frontrunners for this topic, but it happens to everybody in every sport.

Take Zeke Elliott, for example.

Sure, he’s a great football player who came from a successful college program, so no doubt he would be a stud, right? That’s fine, but it’s not the whole story. Take Zeke and put him on the Browns and I bet you’d see a difference (side note: The Browns are going to be a decent team before too long at all), so don’t tell me location isn’t important and that the best just do it no matter what.

Of course this isn’t’ to say that Elliott WOULDN’T be successful in Cleveland. I’m simply saying he would not be AS SUCCESSFUL in Cleveland. QB’s, often labeled the most important position in sports, are the most susceptible to this. Like I said yesterday, when Trubisky struggles, and he will struggle, our reaction might be the second most powerful rectifying or damning force behind what lies between his own ears. Time will tell.

Bringing this back to baseball, I want to revisit the chaotic lineup that the Cubs have been putting out there lately (or all year). It almost seems haphazard, unplanned, and random, but I believe Joe is doing the exact right thing by letting Rizzo give it a whirl, at least for a bit, until a better solution can be found. He’s keeping them loose in the face of adversity. I think we can find some common ground in the idea that Rizzo leading off isn’t ideal. Yes, I know, “you only lead off once.” I’ve heard that a million times. And while that may be true, I don’t know of a single MLB franchise who puts their best players at the back of the lineup, so Rizzo isn’t going to have as many opportunities for RISP, which, ahem, we’ve sucked at anyway.

This is also why I didn’t love, but understood, Schwarber leading off when we started. I said I’d watch and be willing to see it otherwise, and that maybe at the beginning of the year it was even a decent idea, but I remain steadfast in my belief that Kyle isn’t that guy, and that location in the lineup can have an enormous impact on a player’s performance. It isn’t like football where Zeke’s location of Dallas and that offensive line helped him out, but the location that these guys hit in inside the lineup may be as equally a powerful force.

Again, yes, great players will be great, and if Schwarber is as good as we all hope he is, he should’ve figured it out no matter where he was, but you what? He didn’t. At least not by the time he was moved. But then he WAS moved, and now he’s hitting much better. June has been good for Kyle, and I don’t think Maddon was being completely honest when he said he still feels Kyle is the best leadoff hitter they have (notice he said “have,” not “could have” or “will get”). I don’t see him adjusting the lineup to put Schwarber back up front now that he’s started to play better. Not that fast. Let him get comfortable for a while, but say that out loud so Kyle hears it, providing Kyle with the notion that his manager never gave up on him and still believes in him.

Don’t tell me Joe isn’t elite.

As you can see, location is a factor, and something about that “one” spot can mess with your head. So for now, if Rizzo can provide an emotional lift until Theo and Jed can mold this clay into a masterpiece, so be it. It’s better for the immediate future, but like Schwarber and leading off early this year, it isn’t best for the long haul. Something has to give, and I trust in the leadership we have to make it work.

Great players will be great, but it doesn’t mean you can’t help them get there a little faster than they would on their own. It’s not just where you play, but the order of the lineup itself matters, and if Joe can find any twist he can to get a little more flash out of his boys, it’s worth the try.

Get ‘em, Joe.


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