I apologize if the content here at CI seems a little Javy-centric lately, but we write about what we want to write about and Baez is, well, a needle-mover. I don’t mean that in a click-baity way, but rather that this kid just drives people to want to know more about him. He is a very unique specimen, this young man.
For me, there is no middle ground with the Cubs’ super-prospect. I write about him like I coach my son in baseball. With the other boys on the team, I make sure to loft balls in to the point at which I think it’s most likely their bat is going to be. I cajole and I smile and I give tips, but I’ve never harsh or at all hard on them. But with my own son, I’m a bit more demanding. And that’s because I know he can do better.
I’m not talking Marv Marinovich here, but I’m going to be more honest when it comes to Ryne than with the other boys who are only just now swinging a bat for the first time. Of course, when one of the dads is an NFL linebacker, you tend to be very measured in how you treat the kid. But as I was looking back on things, I saw that I have done much of the same when it comes to Javier Baez. I don’t think I’m alone either.
A common critique of most stage parents is that they’re trying to live vicariously through their own children. I suppose one could say the same about me, a guy who didn’t really shed his baby fat or discover any semblance of athleticism until his senior year of high school. I used to switch-hit in Little League, but only in the sense that I’d change sides after one strike in the hopes that the pitcher would get rattled and walk me. I was awful.
I always envied the kids who were up there swinging big and really going for it. I was such a play-not-to-lose guy growing up that I can do little but lament the risks I never took back then. So when I see Javier Baez, I see the kid I never was, never could be. This free-swinging, all-or-nothing baseball player who just exudes a youthful enthusiasm that most have had beaten out of us by the time we reach early adulthood. If you haven’t, good for you; I am, however, starting to get some of it back.
As with my son, a little boy in whom I see boundless energy and joy — not to mention ability — I look at Baez and see someone I wish I could have been. Kris Bryant is great, but at 6′ 5″ and 215 or so pounds, that was never going to be me. Same for guys like Anthony Rizzo and Jorge Soler. But at about 6′ and 190 pounds, Baez is much more of an everyman, at least in terms of his appearance. I think, “that could be me.”
When I last wrote about Baez, it was in light of the hypothetical possibility that he could end up a failure. And while it was more the timing of the piece, I garnered a fair bit of criticism for it. Baez had just lost his sister, who had been born with spina bifida, and was away from the team at the time of my post. I had wondered aloud how he might respond to the loss, whether it would drive him or perhaps set him on edge.
My main premise, however, was that even in failure — particularly in failure — Baez was a sign of what the Cubs have become. For here we had a highly-touted prospect whose flameout would barely register in the face of so many others who were succeeding at the big-league level or who were coming up to take their shot very soon. Looking over the past month or so, it certainly appears that Baez is driven to make the necessary changes, to do better in an attempt to be more than just a footnote to the success of his organization.
By so doing, he could end up being more a testament to his own makeup than to that of his ballclub. Remember, this is a kid who many had said was uncoachable, who was unwilling to do anything other than unleash that hammer-of-the-gods swing and pray that it hit something. Javy wouldn’t just be proving me wrong, he’d be feeding crow to a good number of detractors along the way. Of course, he’s going to have a find a place to play in order to make this all happen, but let’s worry about crossing that bridge when we come to it.
After all, the “What position is there for him” troll is one I don’t mind facing. And if push comes to shove, I’m taking Javy’s club in a fight. Whatever the outcome, this man will be indicative of this Cubs organization one way or the other. Tremendous talent with a great deal of questions, a bit of the old regime being remade in the image of the new, exciting and fun with just enough of an edge to piss people off. Yeah, that sounds like the Javy I know, and the one I want to see back in Chicago when he proves he deserves to be there.
I don’t know what the future holds for Javier Baez, but I can’t wait to see it unfold. Even if it’s not with the Cubs, I want his play to put smiles on the faces of the fans who watch him, though most of the grins will be born of the gaping maws of awestruck wonder. Because seeing him get right is well worth being wrong.