The Cubs have had some very different types of seasons over the past few years, identified or marked by equally different moments or feelings.
For example, I’d say that this season, so far, has been about the expectations and the success. Last season was all about the rookies and the surprise. The 2014 season was about turning the corner, and 2012-2013 was all about the rebuild.
But let’s pause on 2014 for a moment, and remember some of those corner-turning moments. Of course, Jake Arrieta had his first big season (flirting with a couple of no-hitters on big stages, including one in a turning point series in Boston), Kris Bryant was carving up the minors, Kyle Schwarber was being drafted, Addison Russell was being acquired, and Anthony Rizzo was slowly becoming the leader of this team.
Case in point on that last one, that moment when Rizzo headed toward the Reds’ dugout alone:
Many people, including Tom Ricketts at an ensuing Cubs Convention, have pointed to that very moment as the turning point for the Cubs in the rebuild. Not only were they about to a very good team from then on, but starting that day, they were no longer allowing themselves to be pushed around. But in case you didn’t watch that video, you’ll note that the team doing the pushing was the Reds and the pitcher that started it all (although seemingly unintentionally) was Aroldis Chapman. Which is interesting to think about, in light of the recent Aroldis Chapman to the Cubs trade rumors.
In case you missed those rumors, there were some rumblings over the weekend, and, although the breaks have since been pumped, there remain multiple genuine reports that the Cubs have some interest in the three headed monster of Dellin Betances, Aroldis Chapman, and Andrew Miller at the back of the Yankees bullpen. Given the Cubs’ expected needs in that area the Yankees’ bountiful crop of pitchers, and the Yankees’ potential uncompetitiveness (or maybe that’s just wishful thinking), I’d say the rumors make sense.
But would Chapman and Rizzo’s history be a problem?
We often discuss the importance of good clubhouse chemistry, but I’m not sure we always lend it much credence. It’s not too common to get along as well as the Cubs have over the past two years, but it’s not the end of the world if everyone isn’t best friends, either. That said, there’s a difference between not being best friends, and having an actual problem between two players. Chapman isn’t on the Cubs yet (if ever), but more importantly, even if he was, there wouldn’t be a problem.
There were reports way back at the 2014 All Star Game, attended by both Chapman and Rizzo, that the two had patched things up. After all, it’s just a game. Sometimes attitudes spark, tensions rise and two talented athletes get a little heated while representing and defending their team. But just to tidy this up, Patrick Mooney asked Rizzo about how he’d feel if the Cubs did trade for Chapman, like the rumors suggested, and Rizzo was expectedly cool with it.
In fact, you can say Rizzo thinks quite highly of Chapman’s play on the field. “He throws 100, and he pretty much locates it (wherever),” Rizzo said via Mooney at CSN Chicago. “And then if you happen to hit his fastball, he’ll start wrinkling in his slider or curveball. He knows how to pitch. The game’s over when he comes in.”
Chapman is a highly interesting target, but clearly one that comes with a lot of baggage having nothing at all to do with that Rizzo-related moment in 2014. Everything, including personal relationships and off-field actions are/will be taken into account for any trade that happens, but for Chapman to the Cubs, it doesn’t sound like any lingering beef with Anthony Rizzo would be a problem.