by: Tony Leva
email: tonytrucker1969@gmail.com

The Riz’s Big Week

As of this writing, The Riz has played 9 games for the Cubs as the most hyped prospect since Mark Prior burst onto the scene in 2002.  So far, The Riz has put up a .323/.344/.710 slash line with 3 home runs (all of which were impressive for different reasons that I’ll get to) and a kickass OPS of 1.053.  Even though some are calling him Our Savior (I’m not copyrighting that one), he’s not.  He is just a kid still learning how to play the game and tap into that skill set he has.  Being a savior means you and you alone are responsible for a team’s success.  Theo Epstein is not a savior.  Nor are Jed Hoyer or Jason MacLeod.  They, along with The Riz and other young talents on the way, are all pieces of a big picture.  But I digress….back to getting my Riz-boner going.  Let’s take a quick look at his homeruns…

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This was The Riz’s first Cubs home run.  There was undue pressure on this kid to be the Next Big Thing and all us Cubs fans were anxious to see if he could live up to even a bit of the hype.  Getting this first homer out-of-the-way was a load off his mind.  He also hit it a ton and we all watched it soar majestically into the RF seats.  It gave us a lead and we won the game.  Hitting a game-winner for your introduction to Cubs fans absolutely met our expectations.  On to homer two…

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Coming against one of baseball’s better young pitchers, Tommy Hanson, this homer gave the Cubs a 1-0 lead in a game they’d end up winning 4-1.  The Cubs don’t play very well in Atlanta, even when they have a good team, which they clearly don’t this season.   While hitting the homer was important, it carried two impressive factors….the sound and where it went.  Listen again to the sound the bat makes when The Riz makes contact.  That is some serious shit.  It’s a CRACK! that resounded through the park and made you turn your head to ask, “”WHO HIT THAT BALL SO FUCKING HARD?”  Most players don’t produce such a crack-of-the-bat reaction.  The Riz does.  The second factor is where that ball went and how it got there.  Not all players can hit to the opposite field with power, especially at 22 years old.  As CFer Michael Bourn starts back on the ball, he breaks into the “That bitch is gone” jog really quickly.  Bourn didn’t think that ball would carry so, as evidenced by where he was playing The Riz,….more straightaway than shifted over.  I don’t think anyone had scouted the oppo field power.  They now know.  Onto home run number three…

MLB isn’t letting us embed this one.

While this one was pulled, it was a different sort of shot than homer #1.  The first was a soaring, majestic bomb that took a couple seconds to leave the yard.  This was a goddamned bullet that screamed out of Turner Field with a flight-speed velocity that rivaled Katie Holmes’s sprint away from that whackjob she provided the beard for.  This ball traveled so fast that it rivaled myself looking for the new Kate Upton dance video.  (I’m not obsessed, I’m just in lust)  This homer also produced that great CRACK! sound that his second homer made.  In short, this kid can fucking RAKE at 22 years old.

“But Tony,” you say, “what about the glovework?  Can The Riz field or is he just a one-dimensional slugger?”  Well, here’s  a clip answering that question…

That run that The Riz cut down turned out to be kind of large….the Cubs won that game 3-2.  That was the game he hit homer #1, btw.  He’s doing it all!!  Seriously, he looks very comfortable at the big league level so far.  He’s not giving away at-bats.  He’s not been overmatched by anything yet.  He hasn’t been pressing and is letting the game come to him while he gains even more confidence and experience.  His makeup is as important as his baseball skillset and both have been fully displayed thus far.  Here’s hoping he keeps it going.

Minnesota Goes for It.

Hockey’s free agency started on Sunday the 1st and there were two huge free agents available….New Jersey’s Zach Parise, a center, and Nashville’s Ryan Suter, a defenseman.  Both are seen as the type of players who would inject some serious talent into whatever team landed them.  The Hawks had designs on both, especially Parise.  While the salary cap number for either player would be high, on the right team, it would likely be worth it.  Parise is a rugged power forward who can play on all special teams and has a nose for the puck.  Suter is a slick puck-moving d-man who may not be the physical d-man the Hawks need, any time you can add a Ryan Suter to your team, you’re better for it.  The evil bastards known as the Detroit Red Wings were thought to be a lock as the landing place for Suter, which didn’t bode well for the Hawks.  Parise was getting huge offers from various teams.  So what happened?

The lowly (well, maybe not anymore) Minnesota Wild, proud owners of 11 post-season wins since their inception in 2000, managed to land both prizes by giving them matching 13 year/$98M deals.  For those of you who suck at math like I do, that breaks down to a cap hit of $7.538 million per season.  While that much money would serve as an enticement to anyone to go live in Minnesota, the Wild had a couple built-in advantages.  Parise is from Minnesota and has plenty of family there, including his dad, former NHLer J.P. Parise. Suter’s wife hails from Minnesota and Suter himself is from nearby Wisconsin.  Add in the fact that these guys discussed playing together like LeBron and Wade and Chris Bosh did and it wasn’t in the cards for any other team to have a serious shot at these guys.

Too bad, although Detroit missing out on Suter makes me happy.

N.L. All-Star Kudos

Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey recently made the N.L. All Star team for the first time at age 37.  His struggles have been all over the media the past few months with the release of his new book.  I read it and was really impressed by his determination and sheer guts.  Born without an ulnar collateral ligament, kind of an important piece of anatomy for a guy who wants to throw a baseball for a living, living in sheer poverty for years, being sexually abused on numerous occasions as a youth and struggling to make it as a big league pitcher, Dickey never gave up on his dream.  Most other people would have found a job somewhere and taken care of his young and growing family.  Dickey persevered.  Dickey fought.  Dickey did the unthinkable and became a knuckleball pitcher.

For the baseball newbies, going from a conventional pitcher…fastball, curveball, another off-speed pitch….to a full-time knuckler is like nothing else I can imagine.  Not only did he become a knuckleballer, he’s one of the best pitchers in the game this season and earned that trip to Kansas City next week for an honor not many players earn the way he did.  When he enters that players clubhouse and dresses in his All Star uniform and later takes the field with and against young star players like Mike Trout, Chris Sale and Starlin Castro and future Hall of Famers like Chipper Jones and Derek Jeter and knowing he made it on his own terms and that he belongs with those guys, he’ll have me cheering for him as I have been since I finished his book.

I don’t like cheering for a member of the New York Mets, but I’ve no problem cheering for a guy like Dickey.  He’s earned more respect than most of us could ever hope to get.  Well done, R.A.

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