It was almost two years ago when I wrote that Javier Baez’s potential failure exemplified just how far the Cubs had come. Where so many other prospects had come in like lions and gone out like lambs, leaving our hopes sheared and shivering as a result, Baez was different. Washing out still would have been disappointing, of course, but there were so many other talented youngsters that it almost didn’t matter.
The Cubs were no longer a team in need of a savior, a singular figure to come and deliver the them from curses and goats and whatnot. I wasn’t trying to say Baez would fail to live up to the hype, just that it would be okay if he didn’t.
Everyone fawned over him to the point that he might as well have removed the Z from his name. He was bae. Of course, bae is also a Danish word for poop, and that’s basically what the kid’s pitch recognition was. Opposing hurlers had a giant book on him and he looked dyslexic at the plate during much of his time with the Cubs.
Let me say again that I really, truly hope he’s able to figure things out and that he can eventually make it back to the Bigs. At this point, however, I think he’s facing an uphill battle and may end up a victim of his overzealous tendencies. Even if he does become a late bloomer, I think he ends up doing so in another organization. I think Cubs fans would be okay with that too, and that’s exactly why I say that Javy defines this reworked organization.
Sure, people will be upset if he doesn’t pan out (again, I’m not saying that he won’t, but simply taking a hypothetical tack here), but it won’t sting nearly as much as with those other players upon whom we had all heaped such lofty expectations. I mean, Baez was going to be The Man and now there’s a possibility that he could be just meh. And it won’t hurt the organization or drive fans to drink!
While the greater premise I was espousing wasn’t necessarily a flight of hot-takery, the last part of that middle paragraph in the quoted section has now been revealed as such. But that’s really only when viewed in hindsight, so does that still make it bad? It might to the thousands of fans who now view Mr. Ednel Javier Baez as the most interesting man in the world.
I mean, what other player can draw thousands of views by making a tag at second base? It’s unfathomable, really. After seeing the play, I jumped out of bed (it was sometime after midnight ET, if I’m not mistaken) and used my phone to record the play, which I then tweeted. It’s since gotten somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 retweets and likes, which isn’t bad for a small account like Cubs Insider.
“Everyone wants to tag like Javy now,” Joe Maddon said Wednesday.
For his encore performance, Baez helped Puerto Rico defeat the US team Friday night with a broken-bat flair to cap his team’s run of six consecutive singles to open their half of the 1st. He would go on to make a spectacular sliding play at second before turning an HBP into a triple and scoring a run.
Where Javy once helped to define the team by headlining a wave of prospects, he is now doing so by changing and adapting and combining flair with function. If you’ll indulge me a personal anecdote, Baez is like the pair of day-glo yellow shoes that I loved so much I had to hunt down a new pair on Amazon when the first set finally fell apart. They’re flashy as hell, but then you slide them on and they’re just so damn comfortable.
In fact, the only thing wrong with the shoes is that I can’t wear them all day, every day. So too is Javy limited by the desire and necessity to give ample playing time to other members of the Cubs’ uber-talented roster. As much as we’d all love to see him play every inning at any position, it’s simply not feasible. But how does Maddon go about finding the proper balance between propriety and performance?
“That was part of the meeting that we had with everybody, to talk bluntly about how this is all going to play out,” the Cubs manager told Patrick Mooney and other reporters Wednesday. “(Javy) understood that. And he’s fine with it.
“He’s going to play a lot. Even if he doesn’t start a game, he’s going to probably play in it at some point. And then he’s going to get his share of starts, too.”
Maddon went on to say that he’s not worried about how it’s all going to shake out and that he’s looking forward to his players forcing him to make difficult choices. But I don’t care how “good” the problems are, I think this season will present the laid-back skipper with his most difficult task yet. The issue now isn’t getting the most out of the roster, it’s getting a group that’s already stood on the top of the mountain to climb higher.
Baez is going to be integral to this new expedition, whether it’s as a guide or a sherpa. And that’s really what this Cubs team is about, a bunch of guys who aren’t bound by ego or pedigree in their common pursuit of a goal. So I wouldn’t worry about the events of the last few months going to Javy’s head. No, he’s going to go out there and play his game.
And he’s gonna look darn good doing it.