CHICAGO -- He may not have gotten much recognition in terms of National League Most Valuable Player Award votes, but the Cubs know Anthony Rizzo is the heart and soul of the team.
"To be honest, his name should be in the MVP running. Absolutely," teammate Jason Heyward said. "I tell him all the time, he's an MVP."
In 2017, Rizzo played in the most games for the Cubs (157) and led the team in home runs (32) and RBIs (109). The first baseman will be a key factor again next year.
"He's been underrated," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "For me, he always should be in the MVP consideration. Always."
Rizzo made sure everyone knew how he felt in Game 3 of the NL Division Series against the Nationals. In the eighth inning, the Cubs had a runner on, first base open, and Willson Contreras on deck with two outs, but the Nationals chose to pitch to Rizzo. He delivered a game-winning bloop single in the 2-1 win, and yelled, "Respect me!" as he came off the field.
"That's just Riz," Maddon said. "He's very confident and there's not a thing wrong with that. In this game, there's so much failure involved that you have to have that self-confidence to overcome the negative moments."
Rizzo knows something about overcoming negative moments. He beat Hodgkins lymphoma, which he was diagnosed with in April 2008 as a Minor Leaguer in the Red Sox organization. Rizzo turned that into a positive by creating the Anthony Rizzo Family Foundation, and his efforts to help kids and families dealing with cancer earned him the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award in 2017.
"Baseball is my passion, I love playing baseball, and I want to be the best I can be," Rizzo said. "To be able to reach out and help so many more people on a different level is something I never overlook. Baseball awards are amazing, I work my tail off to be the best I can be, but to be a part of this type of award, I can't even imagine that."
This season was Rizzo's fourth straight with 30-plus homers and his third in a row with more than 100 RBIs. He's only the fourth Cub ever to reach 30 doubles, 30 homers and 100 RBIs in three straight seasons, joining Hack Wilson, Billy Williams and Sammy Sosa.
Rizzo also likes to enjoy the moment. On Sept. 28, when the Cubs were in St. Louis, Rizzo went down to the bullpen to throw. And he wasn't playing catch as an infielder, he was pitching. He tries to do that at least once during the season for fun.
The Cubs are young, and Rizzo, at 28, is still a big kid, but he's also become a leader on the team.
"I think sometimes people overlook consistency," Chicago pitcher Jonathan Lester said. "They overlook people who go out and do their job every single day, who don't do anything flashy. [Rizzo's] face is around, but he's not a 'Look at me' guy. He's just an average dude who goes out and plays every single day, and I think that gets overlooked at times."