A myriad of emotions flows through Cub fans when they think about the Jim Hendry era. A few great years and an abundance of star players were mixed with heartbreak, curses and playoff failure. A lot of fans try and block it out considering how good the Cubs have been lately and it’s understandable.
What’s hard to block out though is that one of Hendry’s final draft picks, Javier Baez, is taking the league by storm. Whether it’s pissing off old man yelling at cloud Clint Hurdle, making defensive plays like this, making Houdini like tags, avoiding them with crazy baserunning or being fifth in MLB in RBI, he seems to be in the middle of every big Cubs story this year.
It has been a great early go for Baez both on and off the diamond. He and his current girlfriend got engaged and are expecting their first child this year.
Through the first few weeks of the season, it appeared that the Cubs were having the same old issues: Good at-bats from the leadoff spot, hitting with runners in scoring position and moving runners over. The Cubs were hovering around .500 and Joe Maddon had to make a change. Ian Happ hitting leadoff and Baez hitting between 6th and 8th just was not doing it for the Northsiders.
After the 800th rainout, Maddon shuffled up the lineup on April 19th and put Albert Almora Jr. at leadoff and moved Javy all the way up to second. Since then the duo has been red hot sparking the Cubs to an 8-2 record over 10 games, including a four-game sweep of Milwaukee, in which they both had simultaneous 10-game hitting streaks.
What changed for Baez according to Joe Maddon?
“You’re seeing the ascension,” Maddon told The Athletic. “I’ve talked about this for a bit where the moment he starts laying off the down-and-away slider, he’s Manny Ramirez. He’s got that kind of abilities at the plate. It’s just a matter of maturing as a hitter, which he will.
“He might take that out-of-control swing, but then he comes right back to reality pretty quickly now, whereas that one would lead to the second one, then to the third one, then he’d come walking back [to the dugout]. He’s making in-at-bat adjustments. His approach has been entirely different.”
Javy has been known to go through hot and cold streaks at the plate but Maddon and Co. know what they get every day on defense and on the basepaths. They get an extremely talented player who has a knack for making a play during any game that can swing the result in the Cubs’ favor.
He really can pull a W out of a hat. Hence the nickname, El Mago (The Magician).
“You just got to be you,” Baez said. “To be honest, I have fun, but it’s because it’s me. A lot of people put a lot of pressure on themselves. But you’re going to make mistakes. And I think you got to make them to learn.”
While the starting pitching has been lights out lately, it’s hard to argue who has been the most consistent Cub this year. It has to be either Javier Baez or Kris Bryant. However, Baez has shown his ability to get clutch hits and hit the ball out of the ballpark with seven homers.
The Cubs are hoping that the day off on Tuesday night rejuvenates Baez after a minor slide. They need him to continue being that spark plug at the top of the lineup. With Rizzo, Contreras, and Happ scuffling they desperately need his bat to heat up again as their pitching staff gets hot.
Now here’s a sick Javier Baez slide just because.