Javier Baez isn't changing -- no matter what anyone thinks

From ESPN - April 16, 2018

CHICAGO -- Cubs rising star Javier Baez has made it clear that he is not changing his style. From the big swings to the flair he shows in the field and on the basepath, it's simply how he goes about his business.

He does not care how it's perceived.

"People that talk about me can save it," Baez said last week in response to criticism.

You can add his teammates to that sentiment. What some -- such as Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle -- think is over the top, others find entertaining. Baseball is a sport, but like all sports, it's also an entertainment vehicle. Right now, Baez is a one-man show.

"It's just fun to watch him play baseball," teammate Kyle Schwarber said. "He always has so much fun out there. It does not matter if he's 0-for-20 or 20-for-20 or has four homers in two games or whatever. ... I get wowed by him all the time. It's great to have him on our side because he plays with joy."

That joy usually comes from Baez doing something spectacular, such as scoring from first on a ball that squeaked through the infield or making an acrobatic play at second base or even a simple tag play. Then there are the big swings -- or rather, BIG swings. Contact or not, they draw oohs and ahhs from the crowd, as well as those in the dugouts.

"He's not going to get cheated," Kris Bryant said. "Some people might think that makes you easier to pitch to, but you saw the other day, he took a bad swing at a curveball in the dirt, then gets another curveball, and he puts it over the fence. That does not happen with a normal baseball player. It makes a pitcher think. He's super-talented and only getting better."

In the span of two days last week against the Pirates, Baez displayed his incredible instincts and flair for the game -- and wreaked havoc in the process. There were the four home runs, a few pats of his own back, a bat flip on a popup and at least one time when he pointed at a fly pop on defense -- just for the fun of it -- as he settled underneath it.

"The other day he's pointing at a popup," Schwarber said. "I am on the bench just dying laughing."

Baez's bat flip on an out was less of a laughing matter, and it led to Hurdle's criticism and a talk from teammate Pedro Strop. OK, once in a while Baez will go over the line. So what? Is not it worth the laughs and entertainment?

"He laughs at himself all the time," Bryant said. "He has a tremendous amount of joy playing the game. He gets it. It's so nice to see."

With Hurdle upset by the errant bat flip, you wonder if he noticed what else Baez and other Cubs were doing at times after they reached base or hit a home run: patting themselves on the back. It's their latest thing.


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