(CBS) Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo joked Wednesday night that he’s “statistically the greatest lead-off hitter of all time.”
“I’d like to retire there and talk smack,” Rizzo told reporters in New York after he hit a lead-off homer for the second consecutive game since being moved to the lead-off spot for the Cubs.
While Rizzo spoke in jest, there’s plenty of truth to this: The Cubs don’t view him as the answer at the lead-off spot. They view him as a short-term spark amid prolonged struggles that currently see them sitting at 32-33 and in second place in the NL Central, two games behind the Brewers.
“I will admit that having a guy that can lead off and get on base and sort of set the table for guys like (Kris) Bryant and Rizzo, it is important,” general manager Jed Hoyer said in an interview with Mike Mulligan and David Haugh on 670 The Score. “We just haven’t gotten that consistent production. I think Joe (Maddon) is trying to mix it up and spark us a little bit by putting Riz in that spot. You know, listen, it’s obviously worked for two games. It’s not a long-term solution. But we do need to find someone who can do that consistently. Because we want Kris, we want Anthony to come up with guys on base, and hopefully that starts getting us going in these games. I think we’ve fallen behind so much this year, and we feel like we’re scrambling from behind a lot.”
Rizzo is the seventh player the Cubs have used at lead-off this season after stalwart Dexter Fowler left for the Cardinals in free agency in the offseason. Like Maddon, Hoyer doesn’t know who the long-term solution is at lead-off after Kyle Schwarber won the job out of spring training before struggling mightily.
“We have guys that get on base,” Hoyer said. “One thing with lead-off that’s different from other positions, other batting order spots is that I think guys put a lot of pressure on themselves to get on base. For some guys, that really takes them out of the right approach. They feel like they’re not as quite as aggressive. And so I do think that lead-off is one of those spots that can mess with a guy’s mind. I think hitting three and four does that too. The guys will put too much pressure on themselves to be run producers, and they might get out of their game. So in general, one of the things that was pounded into my head in Boston is you spend a lot of time worrying about batting order, and it’s really — of all the things you can worry about — probably the least important. You’re talking about fractions of runs over the course of a season. And so I try not to worry that much.”
Listen to Hoyer’s full interview below.