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Fans should enjoy Anthony Rizzo, but let’s not anoint him just yet

Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo already has had three game-winning RBI. | Brian Kersey~Getty Images

Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo already has had three game-winning RBI. | Brian Kersey~Getty Images

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Updated: August 5, 2012 6:30AM

Is it possible the Cubs aren’t as spectacularly wretched as many of us originally thought? Only somewhat wretched? Rotten, but not epically so?

That might look like a backward compliment, the way a mooning might. I’m sure you’d prefer more positive questions about what’s going on with the Cubs, who, heading into their game Tuesday in Atlanta, had won six of their previous seven games. Something like, How can one player so positively change a team’s culture?

But I’m not going there. I’m not hopping on the Anthony Rizzo Savior Tour Bus. Let’s give the boy king 30 games before we carry him into Wrigley Field on a royal litter. I don’t think I need to tell you what a magnifying glass and the sun can do to a monarch butterfly.

How about this: Are there a few slivers of hope Cubs fans can take away from the throb of success the team is experiencing?

I believe we can work with that without completely relieving you of your dignity. There are indeed some things happening at the big-league level that have nothing to do with Theo Epstein’s grand, long-term vision for the future.

I write all of this before the game, which means that I’m being positively influenced by the Cubs’ four-game winning streak. It’s akin to being hit by a tranquilizer dart.

A month ago — hell, a week ago — if you had told me this team was capable of winning four games in a row, I would have said that your name was Billy Corgan or Ronnie ‘‘Woo Woo’’ Wickers and that there was a very good chance you were wearing a blue Cubs thong underneath your clothing. I don’t believe even manager Dale Sveum thought such a winning streak was possible.

So let’s give the team some credit. It’s only right after all the abuse I and others have doled
out. There are indeed some positives.

Paul Maholm and Travis Wood gave up no earned runs in victories in their last starts. Jeff Samardzija gave up one run in seven innings Monday in Atlanta after giving up nine earned runs in a 17-1 loss to the Mets in his previous start.

Rizzo had three game-winning hits in his first five games.

Carlos Marmol was 4-for-4 in save opportunities in the previous seven days.

But those are just numbers. As someone in a press box said recently: ‘‘I don’t care about his WAR; I want to know if I can go to war with him.’’ Exactly.

Gush all you want about Rizzo’s clutch hitting, but I was more impressed that he came to Starlin Castro’s rescue Monday. The Braves’ Dan Uggla beat Castro’s throw after it appeared the Cubs shortstop had been nonchalant about getting the ball to first base on a routine grounder. When the Cubs were done with the inning, Rizzo hurried to Sveum and took responsibility for being slow to the bag, causing Castro to wait.

It might be nothing or it might be something. The same can be said of this recent spell of winning. But still . . .

It doesn’t matter if the Cubs’ six victories in seven games were a fluke. It’s a matter of record now. It happened. No one could have foreseen that occurring, not even chairman Tom Ricketts, who would be enthusiastic about a compost if it came wrapped in an official Cubs tarp.

Does the recent success have meaning? Long-lasting ramifications?

I’d highly recommend not trying to project at this point. Just appreciate the fact that you’ll always have June 25-July 2, 2012, or, if you prefer, the Golden Era.

There are things that require apologies and things that don’t. For example, if you predicted that the White Sox would lose 95 games this season, as some publications envisioned, you owe the team an apology. If you predicted the Cubs would be god-awful this season, you do not owe the Cubs anything.

Their record going into the game Tuesday was 30-49, tied with the Rockies for the worst in baseball. They likely will be horrible by the end of the season. But, remember, the goal is to not be spectacularly horrible.

The Cubs are still on pace for 99 losses, so, easy there, tiger. On the other hand, this might be the only time this season a Cubs fan will be able to do a halfway decent imitation of a winner. I say, go for it. The bar is set so low it has road rash.

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