EMERGENCY JAVY BAEZ EDITION
ALERT ALERT ALERT EL MAGO ALERT THIS IS NOT A DRILL
STICK TO SPORTS
A few minutes ago, I got a rather benign score alert from the Cubs app that said “Javier Báez hits into fielder’s choice, Willson Contreras scores. The Cubs lead the Pirates, 2-0.”
And technically, that is accurate. But that’s like describing “Forrest Gump” as “Former Alabama kick returner learns to appreciate ice cream, chocolate candy.”
Here is what actually transpired, and you’ll probably need to sit down for this:
Ednel Javier Báez, you mad genius. Let’s break this down:
It’s 0-2 with 2 outs, the 2 outs being the most important part. A force out ends the inning.
Báez’s sharp grounder finds its way to Pirates 3B Erik González without incident. Gonzalez’s throw to first is slightly off-target, but in plenty of time and only off enough to pull 1B Will Craig away the bag by a step or two.
Báez is not beating the throw to first. He doesn’t even try. A forceout, as anyone attending the game could have told you, ends the inning. All Craig has to do is step backwards once or twice and the Pirates give up zero runs.
Somehow, Báez coaxes Craig to chase him back down the first-base line, ball in hand, to tag him for the third out instead.
The first base bag, which remains the automatic, inning-ending third out as soon as a defender with the ball steps on it, remains stationary as Craig runs directly away from it.
None of Craig’s teammates run over to put him in a headlock and demand that he just step on first base instead.
Willson Contreras has begun sprinting for home at the same time that Baez and Craig are jaunting their way back there, and his dash and slide prompt Craig to throw the ball to C Michael Perez to try to tag Contreras out, a wholly unnecessary effort as long as Báez — who is now once again nearly 90 feet away from first base AND within tagging distance of both Craig and Perez — cannot reach first base safely.
Perez misses the tag, obviously, because why would anything go right for the Pirates. Meanwhile, Craig ends whatever program his brain was running and wanders away from the play.
Báez, having completed Steps 1 and 2 of this supremely ridiculous ploy, takes a moment to signal Contreras safe in the middle of the play before realizing he still needs to get to first base and the catcher still has the ball.
Somehow, Pirates 2B Adam Frazier never picks up on the fact that first base is the automatic out place, and has to sprint toward the bag to try to beat Javy there.
Perez’s throw to Frazier (a nearly impossible play, compounded by the fact that assuredly they’ve never had to practice it, why would you, there’s supposed to be a first baseman, catching the ball at this base is his job) goes behind him and bounds lazily into right field as Javy slides safely into first.
Only at this moment does Contreras’ run finally count.
Pirates RF Gregory Polanco, who I just have to assume has been watching this play unfold through the webbing of his glove in abject horror, now has to retrieve the missed throw and try to catch Báez at second base.
Obviously Polanco also overthrows his target, because the Pirates rolled a nat-1 on their constitution and dexterity checks, but it doesn’t harm the play any further; Báez would have been safe and he had no shot at taking third.
The final insult comes on the next at-bat, as Ian Happ bloops a cheap single into shallow centerfield to easily score Báez, as boos cascade down from the Pittsburgh faithful. How they didn’t just walk out of the park, never to return after that Báez play is just beyond me.
As of the moment I’m hitting send, the Cubs lead this game 4-3. So yes, those two runs are, right now, kind of important.
I… I love this stupid sport.
STICK TO AFFIRMATIONS
Thanks for joining me today. We’ll always end on a kind word.
Believe in yourself as much as Javy Báez believes in himself, and remember, you’re not out until the umpire says so. Be well and be magic, friends.
As amazing as the play was - and it was truly amazing - the write-up was every bit its equal. Great stuff, Adam. You, sir, spin some excellent yarn
This write up is better than the play. Thank you, Will Craig, for making it possible.