After Javier Baez goes viral again, how will Cubs handle their defensive star?

After Javier Baez goes viral again, how will Cubs handle their defensive star?

MESA, Ariz. – How will Javier Baez handle going from World Series star and viral sensation to utility player and defensive replacement?  

That's a nonissue for manager Joe Maddon when it's not even St. Patrick's Day yet and the Cubs are still more than two weeks out from Opening Night. But it's a question worth asking again after Twitter exploded on Tuesday night with another spectacular Baez highlight – the celebratory point at Team Puerto Rico catcher Yadier Molina before even catching the ball and the no-look tag in the World Baseball Classic.

"We've already had that (conversation)," Maddon said Wednesday at the Sloan Park complex. "That was part of the meeting that we had with everybody, to talk bluntly about how this is all going to play out. He understood that. And he's fine with it." 

That means no repeat of the breakout playoff performance where Baez started all 17 games at second base and emerged as a National League Championship Series co-MVP. The plan is Baez will help preserve Ben Zobrist – who will turn 36 in May and has played through back-to-back World Series – and give All-Star shortstop Addison Russell some days off this season.

"He's going to play a lot," Maddon said. "But we've already had that method of conversation with him before he even practiced here. We explained everything clearly to him. He was really good about everything. He gets it.

"He will remain ready. Even if he doesn't start a game, he's going to probably play in it at some point. And then he's going to get his share of starts, too." 

That sounds great in theory. But Baez is coming off the high from a World Series run where he proved he's one of the game's most dynamic young players, a whirlwind offseason tour that took him to Disney World, the Latin Grammys and the White House, and now this World Baseball Classic showcase.

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Of course, the Cubs built layers into the roster with versatile players like Baez, Zobrist and Kris Bryant. Maddon plays matchups and believes in the concept of rest. The analytics may show that Baez should play third base on certain nights.
It only took until Game 3 last season before the Cubs experienced their first roster crisis here in Arizona, when Kyle Schwarber crashed into Dexter Fowler chasing after a ball blasted into Chase Field's left-center gap.

"These are nice problems to have," Maddon said. "Last year, nothing stands out more significantly than Schwarber and: ‘How are we going to play Dexter? And how are we going to get (Jorge) Soler at-bats?' And then all of a sudden you're getting (Chris) Coghlan back, so all these things happen. 

"We'll let it play. I'm not worried right now. I just want them to all be healthy and then make it a difficult choice. That would be great."

Yadier Molina is sad and Cubs fans have a new favorite GIF

Yadier Molina is sad and Cubs fans have a new favorite GIF

ST. LOUIS — The game was over and Yadier Molina knew it.

As Ian Happ turned on Sam Tuivailala's two-strike pitch in the 7th inning, Molina crumbled to the ground in defeat.

Happ's two-out double gave the Cubs a 4-3 lead they did not relinquish in a 6-3 victory Saturday night at Busch Stadium.

The Cubs had to claw back all night against the Cardinals, fighting to tie the game at two separate spots before Happ's breakthrough off Tuivailala.

Molina couldn't contain his disappointment:

Molina is a common target of ire from Cubs fans in the heated rivalry with the Cardinals, so you can bet his #SadFace led to some glee in the Chicago fanbase (just look at the comments on that Tweet):

The 35-year-old catcher just returned recently from a nearly month-long stint on the disabled list when he took a foul tip off a Kris Bryant swing to the groin on Jordan Hicks' 102 mph pitch the last time the Cubs were in town.

Molina has drawn 3 walks and has a single in this weekend's series with the Cubs, but he also committed a miscue in Friday's game, when he threw wild to first base on Jon Lester's squeeze bunt.

The Cubs are now 24-12 since they were swept in St. Louis on the first weekend of May.

Summer of Sammy: Relive Sosa's 25th homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Relive Sosa's 25th homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

After victimizing poor Cal Eldred for three solo shots in the first game of the series, Sosa wouldn't let the Milwaukee Brewers leave town in June 1998 without one more dinger.

He connected in the 4th inning of the series finale on June 17, 1998, a solo shot off a pitcher named Bronswell Patrick (yes, that's his real name) that went 430 feet down the left field line.

The Cubs wound up losing the game 6-5, though Jose Hernandez did make it close with a 2-run shot in the bottom of the 9th inning.

Through this game, Sosa sported a .300/.348/.917 slash line (1.265 OPS) with 12 homers and 25 RBI in 15 June contests that season. (Yes, that's a .917 slugging percentage.)

But believe it not, those June numbers are about to get even better...

Fun fact: The Cubs lineup on June 17, 1998 featured 4 hitters with a batting average of .320 or higher — Sosa (.333), Mark Grace (.347), Mickey Morandini (.320) and Matt Mieske (.323), though Mieske was a part-time player. 

The 2018 Cubs currently feature only 1 player (part-time or full-time) hitting at least .320: Albert Almora Jr. who entered play Saturday at .321.