Anthony Rizzo had a belly full of deli as he sat in the visitors’ dugout Thursday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field.
The Yankees first baseman — an ex-Cub, in case you’d forgotten — was delighted to have popped into Bari’s in West Town, his favorite Chicago lunch spot, and happier to be back in the city for the first time as a player since he was traded away at last year’s deadline. Rizzo was out with COVID-19 when the White Sox hosted the Yankees last August.
“It always feels good being here,” he said. “This is obviously a special place for me and [wife] Emily and my family. That will never change.”
Everything has changed for the Cubs, of course, since Rizzo, Javy Baez and Kris Bryant were ripped from the equation all at once. In the throes of a rebuild, they are 11-19 and have receded into baseball’s shadows. The Yankees — who re-signed free agent Rizzo in March to a two-year, $32 million deal — began a four-game series against the Sox at 22-8, the big leagues’ best record.
Rizzo, off to a huge start with nine home runs, would rather be playing for the team that’s hot on the trail of the World Series.
“Now that it has happened,” he said, “I’m very happy with where I’m at.”
And he doesn’t miss the uncomfortable feeling — a “bigger burden than I realized,” he called it — of not knowing if the Cubs intended to keep him around. But he maintains there are no hard feelings.
“They had to make tough business decisions,” he said. “As a human being, was I pissed off? Of course. But as a baseball player who sees what happens in this business, that’s the way it is.”
Has he had a chance to hash things out with Cubs president Jed Hoyer?
“I don’t think there’s much to hash out,” he said. “I wish them well. I want Jed to have success being the president there.”
Rizzo keeps tabs on Ian Happ, one of his closest friends, and the rest of the Cubs, even the newcomers. He says he wants to see them do well, too. His feelings toward the club as a whole softened after he signed his free-agent deal. At 32 — and with a lockout making him wait — the not knowing had become understandably stressful.
“I think once I signed again, I was really able to shift to being able to root for the Cubs again and root for everybody there,” he said.
For a decade — and what a decade it was — Rizzo was the model Cub. Then, it felt almost like he blinked and was watching from first base as Kyle Schwarber homered for the Red Sox off Yankees ace Gerrit Cole in the 2021 American League wild-card game — just as Schwarber had done for the Cubs off Cole in the 2015 National League wild-card game.
“A ‘what the hell’s going on?’ moment,” Rizzo called it.
What’s going on? Rizzo is long gone and not coming back. And so it goes.