If you can stand one more article this afternoon about Javier Baez -- and my guess is that you can't get enough of him -- I want to make this one about how this makes me feel as a Cubs fan.
You know that I have, at times, been critical of the way Theo & Co. have approached the rebuild. I have seen it as a complete teardown and rebuild with little attention being paid to the big-league team, and let me acknowledge that a complete rebuild of the Cubs' minor-league system was absolutely necessary.
The result of this was a system ranked No. 1 by many, and recently Kris Bryant became the No. 1 prospect on many analysts' lists. That's all great, but the big-league team suffered while all this was going on, with two straight 95-plus loss seasons under the Theo regime, with another one still possible this year. And watching Cubs farm teams win does nothing for me. I'm a fan of the Chicago Cubs, not the Iowa Cubs, the Tennessee Smokies, etc. Those teams change personnel virtually every year; it's got to be hard to root for any of those teams to win as teams. Sure, you can root for individual players to do well, but that really doesn't mean much until they get to the big leagues.
The Jeff Samardzija/Jason Hammel trade, as I wrote at the time, changed all that, in my view. This deal separated past from future; in addition to bringing prospects in the deal itself, the trade opened up the major-league roster for at least two players who had performed well at the minor-league level: Arismendy Alcantara and Kyle Hendricks. Both have played well in the big leagues so far and I'd guess both are with the Cubs to stay.
The recent trade of James Russell and Emilio Bonifacio, though not directly a "statement," also provided room for another recall, if the Cubs chose to do so.
With the promotion of Baez to the big leagues as of Tuesday, August 5, they have chosen to do so. To which I say: "Loud, sustained applause." Baez has thrilled me with his massive spring-training home runs that have hinted at the kind of power he could bring to Wrigley Field. Now we'll get to see this first-hand. It's exciting. It's changed my outlook from despair to hope. The recall of Baez won't make much difference in the Cubs' record this year; he might struggle at first, as he has done every time he's been promoted. But the simple thing of just seeing him in a Cubs uniform is a reason to be excited to go to Wrigley Field every day, just to see what he might do. He might strike out three times and look bad doing it; or he might crush baseballs onto Waveland Avenue (to the excitement of our own ballhawk).
The future is on display. Now. It'll have Bryant and Jorge Soler added to it before long. It's worth noting that many prospects have struggles at the big-league level and most don't become immediate , and that could indeed happen to any and all of Baez, Bryant and Soler, or any others that come to play at Wrigley. There could be setbacks, two steps forward and a step back, before they all become what we hope they will.
It's the excitement, though. That's something that's been missing from Cubs baseball for several seasons, something you don't get from the acquisition of a Dioner Navarro or a Justin Ruggiano or a Jason Hammel, even though those guys have had good performances for the Cubs, you knew they were (or are) mainly placeholders until the system produced.
It's producing. Now. I'm excited, and I'm sure you are too. You'll be seeing optimistic Al around here more often.