On a random Tuesday night with nothing to play for but pride and development Javier Baez took Boone Logan deep into the Colorado night in extras. The homerun is impressive, Baez ambushes Logan on a fastball down and away. He goes with the pitch to hit an opposite field bomb, showcasing both an understanding of what to do with pitches on the outer half as well as his natural strength and ability to go deep the other way.
Baez’s mere presence on the team signifies the start of something as he is symbolic of the youth movement the Cubs are trying to push forward. His promotion means that these games will be significant and meaningful again, even if the Cubs aren’t going to play in October this year.
It’s been awhile.
Years ago we all watched another Cubs rookie make his debut. The circumstances were different; those Cubs were in win now mode and Kosuke Fukudome made his debut in front of a raucous Wrigley Field Crowd that exploded once the ball left the yard. The very fibers of Wrigley were rocked as hungry Cubs fans finally felt comfortable to believe in something that had only been teased at over the past 100 years. When Fukudome took Gagne deep it was the start of something.
The something was a disappointment, ultimately. Fukudome flamed out and the Cubs failed to win a game against the Dodgers in the NLDS. The greatest (debateable) Cubs offense ever built sputtered out. We know the script after that. There was the Milton Bradley contract, the Hayden Simpson draft, Geovany Soto got busted for marijuana. We found out way too late that Ryan Theriot was bad at baseball. The heights from which the Cubs franchise fell was staggering and it ultimately lead to the firing of GM Jim Hendry.
You can’t see the high water mark anymore. The wave crested long ago and all that’s left are memories of a better time that at times seems like a story we all made up in our head. These games used to matter back then; the back and forth tension of a baseball game had real meaning instead of the somewhat meaningless struggle that’s been presented the past few years.
I got it then, and I get it now. The 2012-2014 seasons were sacrificed in the name of building from within. Early draft picks turned into Albert Almora, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber, not to mention a host of other talent that was acquired in the later rounds as the Cubs draft position afforded them more pool money. The MLB product was bad and painful. I remember the Marmol v. Upton brothers implosion vividly. But I understood it. And I, like you all, waited.
It’s here now-the future teases us with this lineup that features Starlin Castro, Arismendy Alcántara, Anthony Rizzo and now Javier Baez. The future is still an abstract notion when it comes to the Cubs. It’s only just now taking shape as we prepare ourselves for a wave of promotions that will dominate the headlines from 2014-2015. Jorge Soler, Addison Russell, Kris Bryant and Albert Almora are all waiting for their time. We don’t know what the next Cubs winner looks like, but we can start to guess about its features.
It’s different now. In years past around this time all we had to track was the progress of Castro and Rizzo. The other guys didn’t matter much in our minds and they were fungible future assets that could be discarded from our consciousness as soon as they were gone from the team. They weren’t going to be here for the next time.
This next wave of talent will be, however. These guys matter.
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