I’ve got Pedro Strop on the brain today, and I wanted to share something nice.
Consider this article from Patrick Mooney at The Athletic from last month, which is perfectly enjoyable for the purposes offered in its making:
— Patrick Mooney (@PJ_Mooney) October 10, 2018
That article was re-shared this week as the MVP award approached and was ultimately handed down to Christian Yelich, with Baez finishing second. I saw and read the article back when it first came out, but only on looking at it again in this re-share did something else entirely jump out at me: the tenor of the quotes from Cubs reliever Pedro Strop.
The 33-year-old righty has already established himself as one of the best Cubs relievers in modern history, and he’ll be back again in 2019 to do his thing at the back end of the bullpen. He is good, hats to the left, everything is groovy when Pedro is on the mound.
But I was thinking about how over-the-top laudatory Theo Epstein was in his praise of Strop after the season, not for what he does on the mound, but for the guy he is in the organization.
“He’s such a big part of the heartbeat of this team,” Epstein said of Strop in his season-ending press conference.
“I mean, this guy – I hope he can be a part of this organization when he’s done playing. That’s how impactful he is to the other relievers and to the team as a whole. Just a great disposition, great heart on that kid and a great pitcher.”
Now turn to the quotes from Strop in Mooney’s article about Baez.
“He’s really been like the leader we were expecting him to be,” Strop told Mooney. “As a veteran, that’s what I’ve been trying to teach him to be: ‘You’re going to be a leader of this team. You’re going to be here maybe forever. You’re one of those franchise guys, (like) KB, Rizzo.’ (People) really don’t know the effort he puts in to win a baseball game. Yeah, it’s flashy. It’s natural. He’s a naturally flashy guy. He has style. But he does play with heart, and he does whatever he can to win a game.”
Even as Strop is talking about how he was seeing Baez as a future leader of the team, he was himself being an exceptional leader for a 25-year-old breakout star. That quote came after a discussion about how it was Strop who pulled Baez aside early in the year when he didn’t run out a pop-up, and explained to him how it looked and the player Baez needed to be.
And it occurs to me that I’ve seen a number of quotes like that over the past couple years – from Strop, about talking to Baez – that demonstrate the relationship they have, and also the important role Strop plays in the clubhouse with all of the players, not just the relievers.
So, then, it’s very easy to see why Epstein would single out Strop – even though he’s only just 33 years old – as a guy he already wants to see sticking around the Cubs organization past his playing days. Strop is a special dude.