By Ben Finfer-
(CBS) The big summer release this year isn’t going to be “The Amazing Spider-Man,” “The Dark Knight Rises,” or “Katy Perry: Part of Me.” It won’t include Will Smith, Nicolas Cage or be directed by Michael Bay. This summer the most highly anticipated blockbuster is Anthony Rizzo. At least for Cubs fans.
From the production company that brought you such flops as Ty Griffin, Gary Scott, and Corey Patterson comes an epic tale of overhype and expectation featuring the newest first baseman of the future.
In a world where losing and heartbreak runs rampant arrives a savior who aspires to change it all. He survived the minor leagues, two trades, and Hodkin’s lymphoma. Now he’ll attempt to do the impossible…bring a World Series championship to Wrigley Field.
That happy ending won’t happen right away obviously. This is just the first of a new, long-running franchise. The Cubs are already in production of future projects like Brett Jackson, Javier Baez, and Jorge Soler. And talks are underway for Albert Almora as well. Those are all down the line. Rizzo is now.
People in San Diego have seen this story before. Last year the Florida native made his Major League debut and struggled mightily in 49 games. But that was for the Padres where the lights don’t shine quite as brightly as they do with the Cubs. This time he will be noticed.
This is a bigger deal. He will be introduced at a point when Cubs fans have nothing else for which to cheer. They’ve spent most of the season with one sleepy eye on the Major League club and the other on Iowa Cubs box scores. Rizzo represents an interesting story arch.
He begins that arch against the Mets. And presumably will be in the lineup every game the rest of the season, but for a few. All eyes will be on him now. He’s the story.
If Rizzo thrives Theo Epstein will finish his first year on the job with a first baseman in place. This would make 2012 a success, even more so with the emergence of Jeff Samardzija and an improved farm system.
If the year concludes with Rizzo once again struggling at the Major League level then only questions will remain. Is he a 4-A player? Is he a bust? Who else will they find to play first base?
Those questions won’t necessarily be fair. But they will be asked. And while the remaining games this year are not a do or die proposition for Rizzo, another bad three months would be a let-down.
The Cubs are looking for a smash hit. This isn’t a trade for Ian Stewart or the signing of David DeJesus. They believe in Rizzo and the role he can play for this franchise. It’s why Epstein drafted him in Boston, why Jed Hoyer traded for him in San Diego, and why both of them wanted him again in Chicago. He’s their guy.
So the date is finally here. No more previews, no more hype. It’s time to see the product. Summer releases can go either way. Will Anthony Rizzo be “Gladiator” or will he be “Waterworld”? It’s time to find out.
Ben Finfer is a weekend host and associate producer of The McNeil & Spiegel Show, heard Monday-Friday from 9am-1pm on 670 The Score and 670TheScore.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenFinfer.