August 3rd Ivy Drip Editorial
This is the From The Editor for this week’s Ivy Drip. If you like what you see, you can get the whole thing for $2 and/or sign up for the rest of the season for just $15 right here.
The trade deadline passed on Friday, and I found myself heavily relieved that Javier Baez was still in the organization. Of course it doesn’t guarantee his future with the big league club, but I’m glad the possibility still exists.
There are a few reasons for this. Obviously, Javy has been through a lot this season. He had just started to figure it out when he broke his finger, which could possibly scupper any promotion to the Cubs before Sept. 1 as well as playing a meaningful role. That would clearly pale in comparison to the loss of his sister, which came right after a spring training where he failed to earn a big league job.
Also, I wonder how it plays with him that he’s watched all of his contemporaries make it to Wrigley this year in Bryant, Russell, Soler, and Schwarber. Javy was definitely supposed to be part of this wave and still might yet, but he’s clearly behind the rest. They would never admit to jealousy, but how could it not be there? Sure, Javy had his chance before all of them last season and it was not pretty. Had he hit better then he might be here now, so it hasn’t been just bestowed upon him.
But mostly I just can’t ignore the ceiling of Baez. I recognize that it may never be reached, and the chances of it seemingly get just a tad smaller every day. But he really does have a chance to be perhaps the most fun Cub. Because he could be so spectacularly good and so spectacularly bad at the same time. The balls he actually does make contact with just look different than everyone else’s. The violence in that swing makes your heart skip a beat every time. He could be tremendous in the field and on the basepaths. There’s an assuredness with Bryant. It’s all so smooth. Same with Russell. But Baez? He could be Mad Max out there.
Tyson Ross or Carlos Carrasco are certainly not to be dismissed, and they may yet end up Cubs one day. And maybe they’ll be more productive over their careers than Baez could ever hope to be. But with Starlin Castro looking like he’s just not going to make it totally happen here, I guess I’m looking for a new candidate to overcome the doubters. Because no one has ever really doubted Bryant or Russell, and nor should they. Soler and Schwarber come with smaller questions. Some wrote off Baez after last year’s less than impressive debut. It would be just aces if he could consign that to something we laugh about in five years, like Robin Ventura’s 2-for-48 debut or whatever it was in his rookie year. I know it’s there, I just want to see if we can find it.
–So we finally have it: meaningful baseball in the season’s last two months. No, they don’t really mean anything more than the games the Cubs have been playing against last-place clubs the past 10 days; but this week is certainly shaping up to be the most important played around these parts in a good six years. It’s only August, admittedly, and a lot can happen in just a couple weeks that could make September a mere formality (though I’m not expecting that).
Seven games, all against fellow wild card competitors. You would expect they would be up for it in Pittsburgh. At least we’ll find out just how seriously the Cubs are being taken if PNC Park is a little more charged than normal. And then four against the defending champs whom the Cubs are currently tied with for the 2nd bonus playoff spot. Shouldn’t Wrigley be rocking to the foundations from the get go for that series?
You’d hope so, because if there’s one thing that’s been lacking is a frenzied state of the fanbase. And mostly that’s a good thing. About the only evidence of it was when everyone lost their mud after the sweep by the Phillies. And there was some charge after the Cubs beat Kershaw and Greinke back-to-back. But that was quickly extinguished by the Cardinals.
Maybe that’s the problem. The Cubs have had two at least measuring-stick series against St. Louis this year, and fell on their face in one of them and had a devastating loss in the other that kept them from really saying something. So we’re a bit bruised, I get it.
But this should be the time to embrace and start to feel it. I will be there Thursday night, and I expect some pretty loud noises. Wrigley is a special place when the Cubs are good and the fans are excited. Sure, a spot in the coin-flip game isn’t something you should normally get all up in a bunch over. But good God people, the past five-six years have been such a slog. We’ve watched far too much terrible baseball to not at least enjoy this week a little more than we will next year or the one after that when this will just be least of our expectations.
Maybe the moment will be too much for the Cubs right now, especially against two teams that have made the postseason regularly lately and won’t be awed by it in any way. But what if they don’t? What if the Cubs themselves have as much fun with it as we should? What if they revel in it? What if they’re just too young and dumb to know any better?
I can’t wait.