The search term ‘Bryant Rizzo’ yields 43 full pages from the Getty cache alone in SB Nation’s photo files. There are 8 photos per page, too, and I didn’t even dive into the USA Today set.
Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo have formed the backbone of the Chicago Cubs we’ve come to know for most of the last decade, the club that eschewed their century-old curse and brought a World Series title back to the north side. As the Cincinnati Reds belly-flopped into their deep, dark rebuild, those Cubs rose to the top of the National League Central division, finally becoming the behemoth that their big market and national brand suggest should’ve been around long before.
Ben Zobrist has walked away from the game of baseball already. Kyle Schwarber - who is from Middletown - joined Jon Lester in exodus to the Washington Nationals. Theo Epstein, meanwhile, has taken up residence in baseball’s commissioner’s office, anxiously awaiting his chance to put his stamp on the game as a whole after brilliant stints with Chicago and Boston before. There were cracks in the dynasty before this season, is what I’m saying, but the Bryant/Rizzo core surrounded by Javy Baez and Kyle Hendricks Craig Kimbrel and Willson Contreras still remained for 2021.
For the start of 2021, that is. After 100 games and with the trade deadline just days away, however, that’s not likely the case any longer, not with the Cubs a pair of games under the .500 mark and in 4th place in the division. And with each of Bryant, Rizzo, and Baez set to reach free agency at season’s end, there’s a very real chance this group is playing their final set of games together.
They’ll play host to the Cincinnati Reds for much of that final hurrah, should it end up as such. A 4-game set takes them through Thursday afternoon, when a classic day-game at Wrigley will wrap the series between the two bitter rivals. For the Reds, it’s something of a final push before the deadline to show they’re still in a playoff chase, seeing as they’re 5.5 games out of a Wild Card spot and 6.5 games back of Milwaukee in the division. They’re playing with a laundry list of important injuries hampering their already thin roster, too, making this a very interesting slate of games for both sides.
As we sit and scream about the Reds decision, so far, to abdicate going for it this season, the idea that the Cubs Era is coming to a concurrent end just makes that decision that much more confounding. The beast of the division’s recent history is willfully letting the candle burn down, and the Reds are seemingly in a perfect place to seize control for the near future. Maybe, just maybe, that’s something that plays out in actual transactions on both sides during this very series given the unique timing of it during hug season.
What’s crucial to point out here, though, is that the Reds not only have a chance to sink the Cubs season, they might well sink this recent golden era of Cubs ball in the process with a series victory, too. At least, that’s surely what Reds fans are hoping for in what may well end up the final time they watch their club take on Bryant, Rizzo, Baez, and the crew in blue while they all wear the same uniform.