Javier Baez returns to the Cubs’ lineup today after a precautionary week off due to “hamstring tightness.” Be honest, your heart also stopped for a split second at the idea of El Mago being sidelined at the start of the season. Luckily for Cubs’ fans the MRI came back negative, the tightness was attributed to dehydration, Javy seems ready to go and the Cubs have restocked his drink cooler to prevent future problems from the Chicago Sun Times:
Just how bad is the hamstring situation Javy Baez is dealing with? How devastating is the pain? How dire is the outlook?
“I didn’t even get hurt,” the Cubs second baseman said with a wry smile on Wednesday, Day 6 of his shelving since experiencing tightness in his left hamstring during a game. “It was just cramping. I was dehydrated and they just decided to give me a few days. I’ve just been getting water in my system.”
Baez gestured at a cooler full of drinks a few feet from his locker in the team’s spring clubhouse and lamented, “They took all the sodas from my fridge. I’ve got no other choice now.”
This is a relief for a number of obvious reasons, but it’s worth noting that prior to being sidelined for drinking too much soda, Baez was having an incredible spring defensively. Every time I looked up it seemed like another Javy highlight was dropping on my newsfeed. At one point I was pretty sure he’d made two plays of the week in three total innings played.
While we wait for Javy to return to the field this weekend, let’s take a look at some of the plays he’s already made in the Cactus League.
Javy hadn’t played baseball in almost four months but you’d never know it watching the beginning of his first game back on February 24 against the Rangers. By the third inning he’d already reminded us why there is a shirt that says: “2/3 of the Earth is covered by water and the rest is covered by Javy Baez.”
In the first inning, as the ball sailed softly over Anthony Rizzo’s glove I was sure it was a bloop single, and then out of nowhere: Javy. He slides effortlessly and then tosses the ball to Rizzo for the third out of the inning.
Honestly, that play, in Javy’s first inning of spring training, is ridiculous.
But this is Javy Baez, so by the the third inning he’s already re-raising. Jurickson Profar must have believed he had an infield single after the ball deflected off of the glove of Cory Mazzoni. Ninety-nine percent of the time, that is a reasonable assumption. Unfortunately for Profar, Javy forgot it was February and made an outstanding barehanded play to throw Profar out at first.
First of all, this looks way too easy for how hard of a catch it is. Javy is already sprinting to exactly the right spot by the time the camera angle shifts. He’s well under the ball when it descends. It’s like “oh, of course that’s an out for a second baseman.” Except, it’s not. That’s singles territory.
Second of all, what is this wizardry with the “Javy kneel, slide, basket catch” that looks so smooth it just looks routine? I’ve watched this play a few times and I can’t believe how effortless it looks.
Finally, you can see Jason Heyward, one of the best defensive gloves on the planet, just casually trotting in from right. Now, maybe he’s doing that because collisions are a bad idea and spring training collisions are a worse idea, or maybe he’s doing that because by the time he realizes where the ball is going to land he knows that Javy has it.
I’d like to think it’s the latter.
I don’t know what to say.
This is a single.
That ball is supposed to drop just outside of the reach of the second baseman and it’s supposed to be a single.
But it’s Javy, so it’s not a single. It’s an out.
Incidentally, I love how casual Javy is about this. He just robbed a guy of a sure hit and he’s like “hey, guys, that’s one.”
Not a game, but still notable: Tagging gets some love
Honest to God I watch Javy Baez and I’m convinced the game hasn’t caught up with his magic. The stats we would need to understand what he does with a glove literally haven’t been invented.
He’s the reason we talk about tagging. We have no tagging stat. In the 150+ year history of this game, no one’s invented a stat for this [VIDEO].
I mean, there is a lot of awesome here beyond seeing what tagging looks like through Javy’s eyes, or seeing that amazing World Baseball Classic play again. (Aside, if any non-Cubs fans are reading this, check us out sometime when your team isn’t on the air, Javy does tags like that a few times a week.)
Some moments I love:
If the ball is up, “I go faster down.” - Of course...”go faster down” I’m sure that will work for the rest of the league’s second basemen.
“This hand (glove hand) is going to be loose, all the time.” - Again, something tells me “loose” isn’t a thing you can teach.
I don’t agree with Kevin Millar on much, but “tags with swag” is a perfect description of a Javy tag.
Welcome back, Javy. We’ve missed your tags, we’ve missed your swag. Stay away from the soda and if necessary, remember the Royals are also in the Cactus League and Jason Hammel might have some potato chips you can borrow to stave off that dehydration.