Once upon a time, folks freaked out because the Chicago Cubs dared to trade a quality starting pitcher for a relatively unknown prospect named Anthony Rizzo.
Fast forward about five years, with a supremely team-friendly extension thrown in, and we have been fortunate to track the growth and explosion of a perennial All-Star and MVP candidate, a Gold Glove defender at first base, and one of the most genial and generous personalities in all of baseball. It’s not just that he’s good at baseball; people genuinely like Anthony Rizzo, because he’s never (at least so far) made himself out to be a bad person. On the contrary, he’s someone that you just want to hang out with, even if he weren’t so famous already.
It helps that he can do stuff like this:
But in the long term, perhaps stuff like this is even more important:
I’ve been thinking about this for a while as I consider how MLB can increase the appeal of baseball to the next generation of fans. While some folks feel that Kris Bryant could possibly be the next face of baseball (and he’s quite an attractive man), a recent article suggested that the more likely candidate to take over that mantle is Rizzo.
The article was based off a survey of America’s most popular athletes, not just baseball players, but there were quite a few retired (or even dead) baseball players before the tally even got to Rizzo. This is alarming on the surface, but I think the Cubs, and MLB as well, could take advantage of this and do something positive (financially and in terms of outreach).
We know that Anthony Rizzo can very likely sell merchandise, at least in the Chicago area. We also know that Cubs fans not within the Chicago area also want this stuff for themselves. In a few days, the family and I will be on the hunt for this:
— Jewel-Osco (@jewelosco) April 24, 2017
And unlike last time, you’re gonna have to pay us first to get your box if you live outside Chicago…that got really expensive! Also, if Jewel-Osco and area stores aren’t kidding about this, we will also be on the lookout for this:
— Anthony Rizzo (@ARizzo44) April 1, 2017
Between all the random Rizzo jerseys, shirseys, bobbleheads, posters, and whatever else MLB can throw into a ready-made package for mass consumption, this is probably as marketable of a star as they have. While Bryant leads the way in terms of popular jerseys, Rizzo is close behind:
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) April 21, 2017
— #MLBPA (@MLB_PLAYERS) April 21, 2017
With such a photogenic personality who is actually good at baseball in a large market already raking in the dough, why not try to use his image and prestige more effectively across all of North America? It certainly can’t hurt, except for the few fans who are still butthurt that the Cubs won the World Series…
And barring that, maybe let’s get him into more silly comedy acts!
As the nearly undisputed leader of the baseball excellence and random silliness on the North Side, I think making Anthony Rizzo the new face of baseball is a pretty good idea. Heck, they should just make the entire Cubs team the face of baseball at this point. What say ye?