Javier Baez is the 'awesome' Cubs needed

August, 8, 2014
Aug 8
10:00
AM CT
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
ESPNChicago.com
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CHICAGO -- “Get your Javy Nagila T-shirts! Get your Javy Nagila T-shirts!”

Sorry, just practicing for Friday. I printed up 10,000 of those shirts!

Just kidding. I’m having a good time.

[+] EnlargeJavier Baez
AP Photo/David ZalubowskiLong-suffering Cubs fans deserve some new excitement, and Javier Baez is bringing it. 
Not that long ago, "good time" was a word associated with the Chicago Cubs that had nothing to do with top prospect lists or the cavorting of Clark the Cub. It was Aramis Ramirez crushing a homer. It was Carlos Zambrano pointing to the sky. It was even Michael Barrett slugging A.J. Pierzynski.

Rebuilding isn't a good time, and the Cubs aren't anywhere close to where we want them to be. But Friday will be a milepost to that destination.

With three homers in his first three games, Javier Baez is so "Good Times," we should call him "Dyn-o-mite!"

He's just a big-swinging, 21-year-old infielder living his dream, and his arrival has been a breath of fresh air for a clubhouse that has seen mostly subtractions.

"He's awesome, just awesome,” Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro told reporters in Denver after Baez’s two-homer game Thursday against the Colorado Rockies. “We're really happy, not just me, but all the team. It's really fun for all of us.”

So, what was that you were saying about guarded optimism on Baez?

Empty protestations aside, if you knew anything about Baez the prospect, you figured this was the best-case scenario for how Baez the major leaguer would make his debut.

An extra-innings game winner in his first game and a two-homer effort in his third? OK, that's just a little better than expected. After three games, he has three homers and three strikeouts. I'll take that ratio.

Baez is the second player in major league history to hit three homers in his first three games, and the last guy did it in 1954. He’s the first Cub since 1900 with a multiple home run outing during his first three career games.

And, no, Baez isn’t a Tuffy Rhodes or any of the random failed draft picks people have been trotting out for what I call “caution columns.”

[+] Enlarge Javier Baez
AP Photo/David ZalubowskiThe numbers agree with Baez, who has three homers against three strikeouts after his first three MLB games.
He is a real-deal prospect causing a major stir for a minor team.

Friday’s series opener against the Tampa Bay Rays at Wrigley Field means nothing in the grand scheme of things for Baez or the Cubs. But as a singular moment in time, it’s nothing to ignore.

For long-suffering season ticket holders, Baez has helped juice sales on the secondary market, according to analysis from SeatGeek.com. He was called up Monday. And by Tuesday, 1,550 tickets were sold for Friday’s game on the secondary market. For this team and this season, that’s very good.

Hopefully, more fans show up Friday, as well. Remember to tip your vendors! And praise Jim Hendry, if you see him. Baez was his last draft pick.

Wrigley hasn’t been too festive the past few years as attendance and interest have atrophied considerably. But Baez is the kind of player who can create a little buzz just by going to the plate.

With all the talk about flipping veterans and patience, it’s nice to simply watch a talented player and expect big things to follow.

Castro and Anthony Rizzo are fine All-Star players. But they’re not that exciting, not offense guys. But they’ve been here through the muck of the past three years and we’re used to seeing their faces. That’s all.

But Baez is new, and new is exciting. Arismendy Alcantara is new. Jake Arrieta is kind of new and has been a revelation.

I’m ready for Jorge Soler, who should be up in September. I’m ready for Kris Bryant, who we won't see until next April, even though he's ready now.

The Cubs are turning into more than a local real estate collective with a softball team, and it’s heartening to see it.

I chuckled at the stories and armchair analysis warning fans to be cautious with Baez. Or what? Nothing’s worse than a sportswriter turned advice columnist.

Fan is short for fanatic, so they should be excited. There’s been way too much anticipation for these highly-touted and almost mythical prospects; now it’s time for the release.

They’re just baseball players, not butterflies. When they’re ready to come up, they should come up and play. And that’s what happened here. Baez got so hot at Triple-A, it made sense for him to be promoted.

And this isn’t a guy who is cowered by expectations.

"Whatever happens, happens," Baez said after his first game. "I’m ready for anything."

You don’t tattoo the MLB logo on the back of your neck if you think you’re a Four-A player.

Cubs president Theo Epstein admitted as much in a conference call with reporters, saying Baez didn’t need to be treated with “kid gloves.”

“Javy is, in some ways, baseball-mature beyond his years," Epstein said.

The great ones typically are. Will Baez be great? Who knows. All I care about is he’s here and he’s taking big swings. That’s enough for now.

Jon Greenberg

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com. He has lived and worked in Chicago since 2003, and is a graduate of Ohio University and the University of Chicago.

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