In the tenth inning of a game last week between Toronto and Chicago, Javier Baez came streaking around third base as the potential winning run. Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista came up firing, and he’s got a cannon. His throw was slightly up the first base line, which allowed Baez’s foot to sneak in just under the tag. It was one of the slickest slides I have ever seen, one that I could watch on a loop until the end of time (which you can do right here).
This is not the first time that ‘El Mago’ has made the mundane feel magnificent. Since arriving on the scene in late 2014, Javier Baez has been a player that you must see to believe. He smashed a game-winning home run during his MLB debut, but he really made his mark during the 2016 regular season and postseason This was when he was able to show off his talent on a national stage. This culminated in Baez being named co-NLCS MVP, thanks to plays like this. If that’s not enough to prove to you he is a must-see player, let me break it down a bit more for ya.
Something Baez does better than anybody in the league is tag. He is quick as a whip when it comes to nabbing would-be baserunners. He has turned it into an art form, even once allowing Miguel Montero to actually throw somebody out who was trying to steal on him. The most spectacular instance of this came during the 2017 World Baseball Classic. Playing for his native Puerto Rico against rival Dominican Republic, Baez covered second on an attempted steal by Nelson Cruz of all people. Catcher Yadier Molina came up firing and Cruz was toast, but the best part of the play came from Javy Beisbol.
In one fluid motion, Baez caught the ball and tagged out Cruz, while also giving Molina props for his on the money throw. He never even looked to see if he had him, he just knew! He is not only a great tagger, but one of the most jaw-dropping defensive players in the game today. No matter if he is at second base, shortstop, or manning the hot corner at third base, Baez is a highlight machine. He possesses cat-like reflexes and a rocket arm, which only serve to make Javy even more electrifying.
Javy also brings his effortless swag to the batter’s box, where he has become one of the best power hitters on the Cubs. While many baseball traditionalists scoff at the idea of ‘pimping’ your home runs and advise that players should run it out. However, when you’re Javier Baez and can hit the ball 450 feet, you have earned the right to appreciate your work. It definitely helps make the play seem way cooler and shows off the confidence that this 24-year-old stud possesses.
This can sometimes leave Cubs’ fans seething, especially when the ball barely scrapes over the fence or doesn’t even get out at all. However, it normally works out for Baez and his excellent base running ability can usually save him in the end.
It is not all great for Baez, as he has a nasty habit of swinging at breaking balls that are a foot outside. He can also try and do TOO much on defense at times, attempting to make the flashy play and getting burnt as a result. While this can be frustrating, it does not change the fact that Javy is one of the most exciting players in the game today.
The 2016 regular and postseason were the national coming out party for Javier Baez, where he was able to showcase his skills and wow fans on a big time stage. He has continued to improve and shows a passion for the game that is always special to see. Baseball is a sport that loves to hold onto the past, but if they want to attract a younger viewing audience, they need more players like Javy. Any time that he steps out onto the field, you can be sure to see something magical.