For years, detractors bemoaned the Yankees’ lack of justify-handed batters, claiming that the lineup was unbalanced. It turned out that what they actually needed was an old Italian to spend the day on the porch.
Anthony Rizzo has started the season looking like an energetic version of his immediate post-2021 trade deadline self, fresh off a third-place finish in the 2022 Offseason First Base Race (according to Yankee fans and rivals).
Do you recall the Riz who no one could beat? He arrived from Chicago, energising the Bombers during a tense, well-pitched road series in Miami, then returned home and tested positive for COVID almost immediately.
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) April 27, 2022
Then he sat in the same slightly above-league-average OPS+ zone for the rest of the season, dooming him to also-ran status in the truncated free agency cycle of 2021-22.
But now that he’s been granted the keys to the Yankees’ kingdom for at least a year at a fraction of the price of Freddie Freeman or Matt Olson, he’s outpacing his main rival for the job.
Rizzo capped off his early impact with a three-homer game unlike any other in league history on Tuesday.
While his detractors will point to the fact that Rizzo hit three home runs in the shortest total distance in MLB history. That’s why his comeback to the Yankees was so significant.
This is the location where they have their home games (and, of course, where the road teams also play, and can take advantage of the short porch if they so choose). And this is where Rizzo, made of Italian leather, fits like a glove thus far in 2022.
Do the dimensions of the stadium owe something to Rizzo’s home runs? Yes, of course. Was his third home run, a hooking, spinning dinger, one of the strangest we’ve ever seen? Yes, even Rizzo couldn’t get a sense of it.
Is his effect currently outpacing Matt Olson and Freddie Freeman, the two high-profile first basemen who overshadowed him this offseason, in comparison to the rest of the league? Absolutely.
The Yankees won’t be able to rely on it for the rest of the season. Olson and Freeman are both in their primes, mashing from the justify side for two of the top lineups in the National League.
But, at 32, Rizzo is still in his prime, something the rest of the league seemed to have overlooked. When you consider the perfect roster/stadium fit, as well as the intangibles/adjustments he can make in the middle of a game, Rizzo is far from a consolation prize — especially for this Yankees squad.