Any time you draw a comparison to one of the greatest players in the history of the game, whatever the reason, it’s a mighty high compliment.
After another Javy being Javy moment last night, where Baez scored from first base on a dribbler up the middle that barely made the outfield, his manager was ready to heap deserved praise on the heady infielder.
“We’ve seen that before, man,” Maddon told NBC. “He’s got eyes in the back of his head. He’s gonna make a great parent. He’s just got that stuff. He just knows what’s going on. When he does that, it doesn’t surprise. At all …. If you watch him, he will look behind to see what’s going on. Going back in the day, you saw Willie Mays doing that a lot. He’s got extraordinary instincts on the bases.”
Mays, who also happened to have an incredible bat, incredible power, and incredible defense, was renowned for his baserunning ability. So, yeah, that’s extremely lofty praise from Maddon, who has seen many good players in his day.
With Baez, it’s not just that he’s fast and quick-twitch, it’s also that he almost always seems to make the right decision in that split-second. I remember hearing from readers back when he was in the minor leagues that we were going to love watching Baez run the bases. I am not exaggerating when I say that people told me he was the best baserunner they’d ever seen. At the time, I thought it was just a bit of Cubs-prospect-cookie hyperbole, but it has become so easy to see why people would say such things.
Whether Baez really is the best baserunner we’ve seen or not, I can’t think of anyone I’ve watched on the Cubs who was more enjoyable to watch on the bases. Baez just makes things happen – and then he throws in a brilliant slide at the end.
I just felt like running. pic.twitter.com/43Ald1P7oZ
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) April 6, 2018
Maddon added that, when you pull something off like that – take advantage of a tiny defensive miscue and turn it into production – it hits the other team right in the chest, and they can feel it. I think anyone who has played any kind of sport – even just for fun with friends – can understand that feeling, and how it could make it just a fractional bit harder to get yourself back on track and focused for that next pitch. It’s the added bonus of what Baez doing things like this can provide for the Cubs.