Herm Edwards was addressing the potential pitfalls of social media when he exhorted the attendees of the NFL’s rookie symposium with the mantra: “Don’t press send!” Ah, if only Bretty Favre had been there too. Also missing, understandably so, was Royals third base coach Mike Jirschele, who was doing his best impersonation of the late, great Wendell Kim on Sunday afternoon.
The overzealous coach waved two runners home from third in the third on Sunday, neither of whom had a prayer. That’s all because the Cubs’ second baseman was throwing darts. While he’s yet to hit his stride at the plate at the big league level, Javier Baez is making a case for a roster spot with his glove and his arm.
With one out and Jarrod Dyson on third in the bottom of the third, Alex Gordon cracked a sharp grounder right to Baez, who was perfectly positioned at the edge of the grass for just such a situation. Dyson broke for the plate on contact but didn’t even bother to slide when Javy’s throw beat him by 10 feet or so.
The very next batter was Kendrys Morales, who roped a double to deep right for the only hit against Cubs starter Edwin Jackson. Yes, you read that correctly: E-Jax made it to the game on time and went 4 2/3 innings, allowing the lone hit and issuing just one walk while striking out three. Not a bad bounceback, eh.
But uh, back to the lecture at hand. Perfection had been perfected on the earlier throw, but Javy apparently still needed to make the Royals understand. Having reached on the previous play, Gordon was off and moving on the two-out rifle-shot from Morales. Unfortunately for him, Ryan Sweeney fielded the ball cleanly off the wall and got it in quickly to Baez.
Alex Gordon is a far better baseball player than I could ever dream of being, and I know it’s just Spring Training, but I’ve got to question the choice to blow bubbles while running the bases. Then again, it’s hard for me to do so while just walking, so I suppose the task is much easier for someone of Gordon’s advanced dexterity and coordination.
And to be fair, I’m not sure even Billy Hamilton would have beaten the perfect relay the Cubs put together, a combination that saw Gordon nailed dead to rights with about 20 feet to spare. Were Bobby Valentine calling this game, we’d likely have borne witness to a diatribical smear campaign related to the player’s hustle and focus.
Stuff like this just brings a smile to my face, and not just because it’s comical to see just how badly these guys were thrown out. Poor fundamentals from the Royals notwithstanding, it’s nice to see the Cubs making solid plays in the field. And with the obvious and oft-repeated caveat about exhibition baseball, this is the kind of stuff that will pay dividends over the course of the regular season.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the home runs. But guys like Glenallen Hill and Wily Mo Peña launched plenty of moonshots without ever really providing much real value to their various respective teams. If Javy can solidify his defensive foundation and then let the offense grow from there…whoo, boy, that could be fun.
I just wrote a short while ago about how Jorge Soler has been overshadowed by Kris Bryant, and that’s doubly true for Baez. His debut last year was easily the most-anticipated moment of the season for the otherwise lackluster Cubs, and now everyone has already come to terms with the fact that he could potentially flame out.
And you know what? That’s a good thing. It’s good because it means fans have no longer pinned their hopes to the lone prospect in the system’s immediate future. It also means that the expectations heaped upon Baez from about the same time he walked into a tattoo shop and had the MLB logo indelibly inked just above his axis vertebrae have been lifted somewhat.
But rather than opine further about the possible implications of a couple plays on the career trajectory of the player who made them, let’s just enjoy the ridiculousness. After all, we’ve only got one more week before these games start counting and we start biting fingernails instead of just flipping over to the finale of The Walking Dead.