Javy Báez Not Trying to Suck as Cubs ‘Searching a Little Bit’
José Abreu has hit as many home runs in two games against the Cubs as any Cub not named Ian Happ has hit on the season. Hell, the slugging first baseman hit as many dingers Saturday night as Javy Báez has knocked all season. Javy did manage to draw a walk, his second in 11 games, and even recorded a hit as part of a two-out rally in the 8th inning that ended up meaning nothing after Yasmani Grandal and Abreu clubbed homers the following inning.
Except that it might have meant something for a player who’s clearly been lost at the plate for much of the season. Javy struck out once Saturday, his 17th K in the last 11 games, but it’s possible the clutch hit served to shake something loose. The Cubs had better hope so, anyway, because Javy has put up a -6 wRC+ in that time.
“I’m not trying to suck,” he said after the game. “I’m not trying to struggle.”
His frustration has been apparent as he plays like a man trying to swing in beach sand. Everything just appears to be so frustratingly off about his game and he’s clearly pressing, something he admitted to the media after the loss.
“I think we’re just trying too much, you know?” Javy said. “We care. We care a lot. As a team, we’re trying to do too much. And individually, we’re doing it, too. That’s why we’ve got so much pressure on us. We’ve just got to let the game get back to us and just get in that rhythm again.”
Damn right, you do. I’m not making some meatball declaration, just acknowledging the reality that the Cubs as a whole look like a team that can’t find its collective ass with two hands and a flashlight. They’re trying to win each game with every swing and missing both the ball and the point with equal frequency. It probably doesn’t help that every time the Sox swing, they hit a home run.
“I just think you’ve got a lot of guys that are searching a little bit right now,” Anthony Rizzo explained after Saturday’s loss, per Jordan Bastian of MLB.com. “It happens to pretty much be a lot of us at the same time. We’re all grinding, and we’re all grinding together. That’s the thing, we’re all in it together.
“When the ship is sinking, you feel like you’re all just about to drown. That’s the beauty of this game. You get to come back tomorrow and keep paddling and keep playing.”
Togetherness is a wonderful thing when everyone’s paddling in the same direction, except the Cubs seem to be paddling against the current while also going the wrong way. It’s just uncannily bad, almost to the point that you just have to laugh it off and forget about the losses.
— Evan Altman (@DEvanAltman) August 23, 2020
Not that it’s easy to laugh in the face of mounting anxiety, but perseverating on failure will only breed more of the same. As much as it has appeared at times as though they’re completely lost and are about to paddle their boat right over a waterfall, all it takes is one little break or big game to change the perspective. Since Javy is struggling the most and also has the greatest capacity to carry the team with his play, he probably has to be the catalyst.
The Cubs have gotten big production from David Bote and Jason Kipnis at times this season, but those guys simply don’t generate the momentum Javy does. They can’t weigh the team down in the same manner, either. With Kris Bryant out for at least another few days and Rizzo performing steadily, someone other than Happ needs to step up.
That could obviously be Rizzo or Willson Contreras or even Jason Heyward, but Javy has literally been the Cubs’ worst hitter this season and that absolutely must change in a big way. Why not today?