Not only was last night’s game perfectly Javier Baez – 1-6 with a homer and three swinging strikeouts – but it was also probably the best possible outcome for Cubs fans’ sanity. Had Baez gone off with a 5-5, three homer explosion, the crown may have become too heavy or fan expectations could have grown to absurdly unrealistic proportions. There’s nothing good about that. On the flip side, had Baez gone 0-5 with five ugly strikeouts, the meatballs would have been out in force.
Of course, tempered, thinking fans know that one game – whichever of those outcomes it may have been – is virtually meaningless. That’s baseball. But the fact that Baez showed us both ends of the spectrum last night is pretty good for everyone. We can be thrilled and ecstatic about the homer, but can also see the strikeouts and remember that this is going to be a process.
Among the other bits from Baez’s big league debut …
- Cubs.com’s recap of the game has the money quotes from Baez, his manager, and his teammates. Baez’s strategy for combatting any nervousness? Treat it like a Spring Training game with a few more people in attendance. Indeed, it sounds like Baez really wasn’t nervous at all, which is an excellent trait to have in The Show (considering the MLB logo tattooed on Baez’s neck, this was probably to be expected).
- Theo Epstein spoke before the game about the decision to promote Baez now, and this was music to my ears (Cubs.com): “We all know it can be very difficult to make in-season adjustments as a big leaguer. This timing allows Javy to go play for eight weeks, and then take a deep breath this winter. He can take a fresh look at his performance in the big leagues and take it all in and start to make any adjustments if necessary.” I am very glad to hear that the Cubs deemed Baez ready for this opportunity, and that the timing works out nearly perfectly from a developmental standpoint. That Cubs.com piece has a great deal more from Epstein on the call-up, including his thoughts on Baez’s baseball maturity (he’s got a lot of it for a 21-year-old), and thoughts from Anthony Rizzo on his new teammate.
- Epstein tossed some credit to former Cubs GM Jim Hendry, Tom Ricketts, current front office member (then Scouting Director) Tim Wilken, and the scouting staff at the time for pursuing and signing Baez back in 2011 as their first round pick (Tribune). I do think the current regime deserves a lot of credit for developing Baez over the past three years, but, yes, getting him in the first place: really well done, gentlemen.
- Baez was sure to talk about the impact Manny Ramirez had on the young slugger while working together at AAA Iowa (Tribune).
- Patrick Mooney writes about the Kris Bryant question in the wake of the Baez promotion, but Epstein wasn’t really biting (he focused on Baez’s promotion as being something very specific to Baez, and not signifying anything else). Assuming health, you can expect Jorge Soler to be up with the Cubs in September (if not sooner), and Bryant to be up with the Cubs in late April. That’s just the way it’s going to be.
- I almost don’t even want to say it, because we’re talking about the tiniest of sample sizes – one play, really – but it is still worth keeping an eye on Baez’s defense at second base for evaluative purposes. The chopper that he couldn’t handle last night in extras was called a single, and it was definitely a tricky play, but, on replays, it looked like one Baez should have handled. Remember: he’s been playing second base for just a few weeks. Just as he will at the plate, there are going to be some adjustments at second. His potential, defensively, at second base remains very high.
- And the moment of the homer: