It’s put up or shut up time for Anthony Rizzo.

Oh, sure, it’s January, a long, cold, soggy month of all talk and no action in MLB. But Rizzo’s the one who decided to open his yapper and guarantee the Chicago Cubs, one season removed from a last-place finish, would win the National League Central in 2015.

Here’s the quote in question, per David Schuster of WSCR Chicago:

There you have it, free of qualifiers and about as explicit as it gets.

Here’s more, per‘s Jesse Rogers, “We should be the team. With all due respect to every other team, we’re going to do some things this year. That’s what we’re going to put our sights on, and we’re not going to accept anything else.”

Again, it’s a winter guarantee, more off-the-cuff, between-hot-stove banter and less serious headline news or bulletin-board material for other NL Central contenders. It’s doubtful the defending division champion St. Louis Cardinals even batted an eye.

Still, it’s always bold to guarantee anything in the world of professional sports, where unknowns abound and sure things simply don’t exist.

Certainly, it puts increased pressure on Rizzo to take the promising but inexperienced Cubs on his back—to be a leader, an unmitigated stud, an MVP.

Granted, he’s not the only veteran who’ll play his home games at Wrigley Field this spring.

Ace left-hander Jon Lester (who knows a thing or two about postseason baseball) chose the Cubs over a gaggle of offseason suitors. And seasoned catcher Miguel Montero came over in a trade from the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Plus, there’s incoming skipper Joe Maddon, who guided the upstart, small-market Tampa Bay Rays to a run of success in the stacked American League East before packing his bags for the Windy City.

Chicago, though, is largely pinning its hopes on an influx of youth, a farm system brimming with talent and seemingly ready to bear fruit.

Like, say, third baseman Kris Bryant, who bashed a combined 43 dingers between Double-A and Triple-A last season and appears ticketed for a hotly anticipated big-league debut sooner than later, though he may open the season in Iowa.

“With Bryant,” Bleacher Report‘s Zachary D. Rymer recently noted, “just about everything screams ‘super prospect.'”

But counting on prospects, super or otherwise, is always a risk, as’s Rogers points out:

“[The Cubs] have a group of talented young players ready to break out. But they haven’t yet. And no one knows if they’re ready for prime time. Players like Javier Baez and Jorge Soler might need more seasoning.”

Which puts the onus on Rizzo. Fortunately for Cubs fans, there’s plenty of reason to believe he can deliver.

The 25-year-old first baseman posted a .286/.386/.527 slash line and smacked 32 home runs in 2014. And, along with up-and-coming shortstop Starlin Castro, he represented the Cubbies in the Midsummer Classic.

To be fair, he isn’t the only one predicting big things for Chicago. Sporting News‘ Jesse Spector took things a step further and picked the Cubs to break the Curse of the Billy Goat and hoist their first Commissioner’s Trophy since the Roosevelt administration. 

The Theodore Roosevelt administration, to be clear.

“It’s not just because of Back to the Future 2, when the Cubs were a 100-1 shot, and Marty McFly got the idea to go back in time and bet on sports results for which he already knew the outcome,” Spector wrote.

Still, that’s a pretty cool coincidence, another twist to what would already be a decidedly cinematic event.

If Chicago does turn Marty McFly into Nostradamus, Rizzo will have to make the leap from rising star to superstar, joining the ranks of MLB’s elite, franchise-defining sluggers.

In other words: Put up or shut up.


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