These Guys Matter

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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  • I remember the Marmol vs. Uptons too, but I didn't understand it. Not until I discovered this blog. Thanks for everything.

  • In reply to edubbs:

    I wish the comments section had a thumbs up feature, because this blog has definitely made me a more knowledgeable and better Cubs fan.

  • In reply to edubbs:

    Carlos Bleepin' Marmol should've gotten a ring from the Cardinals.

    He imploded in a game that would've eliminated them. Walks Theriot of all people with the bases loaded, then uncorks a game losing wild pitch. Instead of not even making the playoffs the Cardinals win the World Freakin' Series.

    I threw stuff. Unforgivable.

  • Had to see what Hayden Simpson had done after he was cut by the Cubs, wow was that ugly.
    15.95 era 7.1 innings over 3 games

  • In reply to carolinacub:

    I remember seeing a game he started in Kane County, back when you had to wait for Peoria to come to town. On the drive down, I was actually excited to see who the Cubs had grabbed. After an inning I was wholly disappointed, figured he was a middle reliever at absolute best.

    Only way you can botch a draft pick more is to do what the Astros did this year.

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    Good stuff Sir! It just feels good to be a Cubs fan right now. We can start to believe in the impossible again.

  • We have waited a very very long time for this type of talent

  • One of the fascinating topics which can lend itself to endless discussion (for me anyway), is the enormous effort(s) that this rebuild put into scouting and player development. Further, the role each has and will have in the coming waves of talent making their way to the big league club.

    How much credit is due to identification of talent? How much of a role has player development had?

  • In reply to MilwaukeeRoad:

    Ultimately, I believe this is what prompted Ricketts to terminate Hendry and seek out Theo. Hendry didn't really do a bad job, with what he was given to work with. Previous ownership wouldn't invest in the scouting infrastructure and player development, etc. With the new CBA on the table at the time, it was obvious a complete organizational overhaul would be needed. Even if Hendry was more qualified for that than Theo (which he wasn't), you would want to bring in a new GM to orchestrate the rebuild.

    Anyways, our farm system, and scouting/player development is now the envy of the league.

  • In reply to MilwaukeeRoad:

    It's both, it'll always be both with this organization. Player eval is a big part of what they do, but they've also shown that they can develop players at the minor and major league level

  • How forgetabble about Hayden Simpson . Just think, if hed been a decent pitcher hed have the oncoming juggernaut putting up runs for him. As it appears, this likely 2016 lineup might be the most powerful in team history.

  • Really feel the same way. Had some same thoughts and was going to write something up as well. But piece is different and I will add future expectations/options as well.

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    I really hope that management helps out the transitioning AAA players, getting them an temporary apartment, setting up a ride with another player or trainer, things so that these kids can fully focus on their task at hand. Chicago can be pretty intimidating to these youngsters, just by itself. Anything that the team can do to lighten the immediate load can really help the kids focus and hopefully prosper!
    Good luck Javy, don't be overwhelmed!

  • In reply to Jeff Wilson:

    They've got people that handle all of that for them. The only Javy had to personally tend to was pack his bag from his Omaha hotel room...

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Great, thanks for that HDaddy! I can't imagine the pressure of being promoted on top of all the press, the fans, and the move. That on top of everything the player already has going on in their life.
    Appreciate the feedback!

  • Lets hope!! In terms of dreaming about the 2016 batting order, the only nitpicking I can do is the lack of a real "burner" at the top. Think a young Pierre on the Marlins...Posednik with the 05 Pale Hose. Having a distracted pitcher facing a loaded line-up like that?? Seemed like the 03 team really took off when Lofton started leading off. Putting up runs in the first inning can't be overrated.

  • In reply to JimmyLeeMcMath:

    Okay, but our "dream" line-up is so stacked with power... 200+ HR's negates the need for speed on the bases. And several of our power guys are capable of 20-25+ SB's if they wanted (Baez, Soler, Russell, etc)

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    In reply to JimmyLeeMcMath:

    I have never been a fan of "speed" unless it REALLY wreaks havoc (think Rickey Henderson early-80's)

    Speed was pretty low on the reasons that the Cubs improved after the Kenny Lofton Trade:
    1. Former lead off man Mark Grudzilanek had a slash line that looked like this:
    .304 /.358/.399/.757

    Lofton had numbers that looked like this:
    .327 /.381/.471/.852 Almost 100 points higher in OPS.

    It seems to me someone else came over around that time, maybe even in the same trade, that had an even greater effect than Kenny Lofton's speed.

    Oh, yeah, that was when we acquired Aramis Ramirez. While he didn't really light things up until the following he was a HUGE upgrade over Bellhorn. Bellhorn showed just how far you could go with your main skill being drawing walks. Going from a .658 OPS to a .805 OPS will help most offenses.

  • Cubs baseball is fun again. With the additions of Alcantara and Baez, the emergence of Coghlan, and the recent positive signs from Castillo and Sweeney, the team is actually running a major league caliber lineup out there for the first time in a few seasons. A game isn't over if a starting pitcher gives up a couple of early runs anymore.

    The team is certainly not back to playoff competitive levels, but they are no longer handicapped offensively. The starting staff, which has kept the team in a lot of games the last couple of years is now the main hurdle to overcome going forward and will undoubtedly be the main focus of the FO in the offseason.

  • It's been so long without a fan friendly lineup that I hardly believe what is happening. This line-up is starting to fill up and will be full before we know it. "God just let me live to see it!"

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    I just signed up for DIRECTV's baseball package so that I can watch Baez the last 2 months of the season. I am sure many others are doing the same thing.I predicted 2-3 strikeouts last night and I also predicted a game winning home run. WOW.

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    BA just listed Kris Bryant as the best defensive 3B in the PCL. Gotta mean something...

  • In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    That is a huge vote of confidence in my opinion. All reports have been that Bryant has really impressed with his defense at 3rd this year, and most of the remaining scouts who questioned his future at 3rd have been won over. That is great news as it affords the Cubs a ton of flexibility in terms of future roster construction. I suspect that Bryant will start at 3rd in the majors but will move off 3rd to make room for Castro/Russell (barring a trade) when the latter is called up.

  • Maybe the fleeting signal of the turnaround will be looked upon as the just concluded Dodger series. To take 2 of 3, the way they did, was remarkable considering their roster and the massive investment therein.

    Really great stuff, Mauricio!! The writing and information here is almost too good to be true. And the camaraderie among commenters is just so refreshing!!

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    Jim Bowden ‏@JimBowden_ESPN 2m

    Cubs claim Jacob Turner on waivers

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    I wonder what he will cost us... can't imagine they'd just let him go...

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    I hope they get a deal done as long as it doesn't cost too much. I wonder what it'll take? Does anybody have a list of who the Cubs have already put on waivers? I know the Marlins have interest in some of the Cubs' lesser (non-top)prospects but who? Who would you give up for Turner?

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    In reply to cubbie steve:

    If a player is not on the 40-man roster do they even need to clear waivers? I think waivers is mainly to give other teams a crack at a player--and the player another chance on another team--before he is removed from the 25 man roster. What if we have a couple guys lower down in our system that could nab him?

  • I drove five hours yesterday from western Kansas to see Baez make his debut. There was a buzz in the crowd that was a bit surprising, given it was a road game between two last place teams. The line drive in the 7th was hit very hard, and almost broke the game wide open. The home run was about as much of a no-doubter as you can get (so was Castillo's, by the way). I posted on another thread, but it is buried at the end of 160+ comments. The home run and general excitement gave me the adrenaline to make the drive back home after the game. I got home at 5:30, and STILL couldn't get to sleep until after I'd watched highlights.

    I know that here at Cubs Den, we've been talking about how the franchise has turned the corner and is about to improve. With the call-ups of Alcantara, Hendricks, and Baez, main-stream fans are starting to feel it too.

    I had never really thought about how excited people were about Fukudome, or maybe I'm so jaded that I've repressed his memory. It's a good connection to make. I remember thinking after that 3-for-3 day with the game-tying homerun that I was ready to buy my son (then 1 1/2) a Fukudome shirt. Luckily, I held off. The big difference here, of course, is that Baez is the first of several big-time prospects to hit the show. I really like that Alcantara, Baez, Bryant, and Soler will all hit the MLB at approximately the same time, that way there won't be as much pressure on any one of them to be "the guy."

  • Also, I should note that the Cubs were in a game that they really had no business winning. Of course, it was against another last place team, but when was the last time that the CHICAGO CUBS took 6 walks in an inning? We are starting to see the patient approach paying dividends. They won Hendricks' last start in LA because of a similar approach, maybe not by taking walks, but working the count and capitalizing on mistakes. This is a different Cubs team that is finding ways to win even when they are not hitting the ball effectively. 3 runs on no hits? I'll take that for once. Seems like it always happens to the other team because of Cubs mistakes.

    Also, Felzz isn't here to say it, so I will. I hope the Cubs win every game. I hate losing, and I HATE the "we need to lose in order to secure a good draft pick" argument. I understand it, you don't need to try to convince me of its benefits. I just hate it. I'm glad that Hendricks is pitching every fifth day. I'm happy that Baez and Alcantara will be playing every day. It's one less excuse for people to root for a loss because "most of these guys aren't in the Cubs future plan."

    And I still believe that Welly can come around. He's been putting solid wood on the ball lately. Hope he keeps it up.

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    In reply to TheSinisterUrge:

    I agree, I am glad some were dead wrong that we would see Javier this year due to service time. I am just glad he's going to take his lumps and hit the ground running for the next 15+ years as a Cubbie,

    What a great win that was yesterday. I am glad you can always say " I was there when Javy hit his first MLB home run"

    I must confess, I believed in the Fukudome hype. I couldn't believe what he did that first day, and was trying to imagine if he was going to be a 30-30 guy or push for 40-40. Oops

  • These guys do matter and that is why I had as much fun as ever watching the game last night at Coors Field. There were a lot of Cubs' fans at the game. I knew because around me people were pulling out their phones and filming Javy's first at bat. When the Cubs were a strike away before Rondon blew the save I saw more fans standing around me than sitting cheering for the last strike. When Javy went deep a fan across the aisle came up to me and gave me a high five. It was awesome!

    Just an all-around fun game to watch because half the starters are now core players for the near future.

  • "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."

    That was a little Hunter S. Thompson-esq. I liked it.

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