Maddon: Rizzo needs to represent Cubs in All-Star Game


Maddon: Rizzo needs to represent Cubs in All-Star Game

Joe Maddon wants to see Anthony Rizzo at the All-Star Game in Cincinnati next month.

Even if that means Rizzo has to play some shortstop.

Maddon made his case for the Cubs first baseman Sunday in Minnesota — "The guy's gotta be on the All-Star team. Let him play shortstop, I don't care." — and continued it before Monday's game against the Dodgers.

In fact, Maddon wouldn't even give a true endorsement to anybody else on the Cubs roster. Just Rizzo, whom Maddon said is having a "remarkable" start to the season.

[MORE CUBS: Schwarber ready to work back in minors after 'perfect' situation with Cubs]

"His year is definitely above and beyond," Maddon said. "I've not seen it, personally, the kind of year he's having right now. Among the group on the field, of course, (Kris Bryant) is going to get some noise at third base.

"Among the pitchers, we've had a lot of good performances. I thought Jason (Hammel) was in the running, but obviously the last couple outings probably may have knocked him out just a little bit.

"And the bullpen, I can't tell you for sure anybody definitely deserves to go there. So just being perfectly honest, Rizz is the one guy that should be there absolutely."

That's a stark change of pace considering Rick Renteria last year said all his players are All Stars and deserved to go.

[MORE CUBS: 'Iron Horse' Coghlan has become unheralded contributor for Cubs]

Maddon wasn't bashing any of the other Cubs players or anything. He was simply being honest and realistic about the chances.

Rizzo is hitting .310 with a .419 on-base percentage and .587 slugging percentage, good for a 1.006 OPS. Even with a stacked NL first base deck that includes Los Angeles' Adrian Gonzalez (.888 OPS, 12 home runs, 45 RBIs) and Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt (.365 AVG, 1.129 OPS, 19 home runs, 57 RBIs), Rizzo has made a strong case for himself.

"Yeah, I want to go," Rizzo said. "Of course. But there's a lot of competition. So whoever's deserving usually doesn't get to go all the time. It is what it is."

Another NL All-Star voting update will come out Tuesday, but in the last official results, Rizzo was fourth, behind Goldschmidt, Gonzalez and Cardinals slugger Matt Adams, who is currently on the disabled list.

[MORE CUBS: Jon Lester has no problem with Joe Maddon's decision]

Maddon admitted the All-Star voting method is "skewed," which is obvious at first glance at the AL voting update, which has a Kansas City Royal starting at just about every position.

Maddon feels the All-Star voting method will be addressed and changed at some point. But that won't be this season, and the Cubs still want to find a way to get Rizzo on the roster in Cincinnati next month.

"I want to believe that, regardless of what those votes say, he's going to be put on that team somehow, because he deserves to be there," Maddon said. "So we're all sifting through this methodology regarding voting for an All-Star team, which I totally understand and believe in the fan participation.

"But I've always believed that peer recognition is the best you can possibly receive in any occupation. ... I'm even excluding coaches and managers. Just the peer group — the players — I'd be really interested to see what they had to say about that in regards to sincerely voting who should be in the game or not."

[SHOP CUBS: Get an Anthony Rizzo jersey right here]

Maddon believes the All-Star voting process is "ripe" for discussing right now on ways to improve the method. And he feels Rizzo will end up representing the Cubs in the Midsummer Classic.

"Guys like him — he's got to be on the team," Maddon said. "I know these other guys are good — I've watched them, I've seen them — but he cannot not be chosen."

As he decides what's next, it's clear Ben Zobrist has something left in the tank

As he decides what's next, it's clear Ben Zobrist has something left in the tank

When Ben Zobrist rejoined the Cubs active roster on Sept. 1, it was fair to wonder how much he could provide offensively. After all, he spent the previous four months on the restricted list while tending to a family matter, last playing a big-league game on May 6.

Zobrist did no baseball activities from May to mid-July, only working out to stay in shape. Although he eventually ramped things up, he played in just 12 minor league rehab games in August before returning to the Cubs, a small number compared to the length of his absence.

Even Zobrist admitted upon his big-league return that his timing at the plate wasn’t where he wanted it to be. And yet, what he did in September was nothing short of impressive. In 21 games, he posted a .284/.377/.388 slash line, performing at a level many couldn’t have expected, considering the circumstances.

Zobrist's impact on the Cubs' lineup goes beyond what you see in the box score, however. Not only is he a switch hitter with some pop, but he has a keen eye for the strike zone and frequently puts together professional at-bats.

On a Cubs team that tends to expand the zone, Zobrist’s presence mattered. In his second game back, for example, he went 3-for-3 with two walks, helping the Cubs beat the Brewers 10-5. After the game, Brewers starter Chase Anderson pointed out how different the Cubs' lineup looks with Zobrist in it.

"They play the matchups really well and Zobrist makes that team so much better," Anderson said on Sept. 5. "Just bringing his presence to the top of the lineup, it changes their dynamic a little bit."

Where Zobrist stands entering 2020, though, is currently unclear.

Zobrist is set to hit free agency after the World Series and will turn 39 next May. Therefore, it’s possible that he’s played his last game in the big leagues, as he has little, if anything, left to prove at this stage in his career.

Ahead of the Cubs’ season finale on Sept. 29, Zobrist told reporters in St. Louis that he hasn’t thought about how much time he’ll take before deciding what’s next for him. His family situation will obviously play a big role in his decision, but if September showed anything, it's that he still has something left in the tank.

“I’m 38 but I got that feeling all over again,” Zobrist said following the Cubs’ season finale, a 9-0 loss to the Cardinals in which he pitched a scoreless inning. “Just really fun, you know? It’s a fun game. Sometimes you don’t come out on the winning end, but you still gotta have fun with it and enjoy it. I enjoyed it today."

The Cubs roster is expected to undergo changes this offseason, with center field, second base and the leadoff spot being just a few areas the team will look to address. The latter two spots became revolving doors during Zobrist’s absence, as the Cubs struggled to replace what he brought offensively.

Zobrist is past the point in his career of being an everyday player. However, he still could be a useful asset for the Cubs in a supporting role, bringing his veteran approach to the lineup when he plays while still offering an experienced voice in the clubhouse.

“I take a lot of joy in that role, just being a supporting guy and being a part of winning clubs and part of winning atmospheres and cultures,” Zobrist said on Sept. 29. “The Chicago Cubs have been that since I’ve been around. This year we didn’t make the playoffs — we still have a winning record — (but) the kind of relationships that are built here and the culture that’s been built here is definitely a winning one.”

After the Cubs announced that they wouldn’t retain Joe Maddon for 2020, Zobrist acknowledged that more changes were likely coming in the offseason. Only time will tell what that means for the veteran utilityman — should he continue playing.

Whether he retires or joins a different team for 2020, though, Zobrist will look back on his four seasons with the Cubs fondly.

“(They’re) just the most passionate fans I’ve ever met,” he said of Cubs fans. “They’re very loyal, very passionate and it’s been such a pleasure to be a part of that team that beat the curse back in ’16, so I feel that still, when I see Cubs fans, there’s a lot of them that hug me and thank me for being a part of that.

“I’ll always look back at [my] time here — I don’t know what’s going to happen in the offseason — but look back at these four years and [be] very grateful to be able to be part of a group like this and be able to do what we did while I was here.”

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Cubs games easily on your device.

Cubs Talk Podcast: An ode to Joe Maddon and looking to the next era

USA Today

Cubs Talk Podcast: An ode to Joe Maddon and looking to the next era

On the latest Cubs Talk Podcast, Tony Andracki, Kelly Crull, Scott Changnon and Jeff Nelson give us their memories of Joe Maddon's time with the Cubs and discuss David Ross and Joe Espada's candidacy to be the next manager.

01:30 Kelly's memories of Joe from the perspective of a reporter

06:00 Going back to Hazleton with Joe

07:45 Joe's legacy as manager of the Cubs

16:00 How Joe impacted Javy Baez' career

18:00 David Ross and Joe Espada may be the leaders to replace Joe Maddon.

Listen here or via the embedded player below:


Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream Cubs games easily on your device.