Cubs

Following in Rynos footsteps, Barney wins Gold Glove

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Following in Rynos footsteps, Barney wins Gold Glove

Darwin Barney has entertained teammates by doing backflips like Ozzie Smith, a trick he learned as a kid in gymnastics.

Barney was smart enough to start out on a pre-dental track at Oregon State University before he realized he should major in baseball and helped the Beavers win back-to-back College World Series titles.

Barney had pretty much played shortstop his entire life until he saw Starlin Castro make the leap over him in May 2010, directly from Double-A Tennessee to The Show.

So Barney went to work at second base at Triple-A Iowa with Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, the last Cub to win a Gold Glove at that position (nine straight between 1983 and 1991). Barney may not be at the beginning of that kind of run, but he has forced his way into the potential team picture for 2015, or whenever the Cubs are good again.

Winning a Gold Glove on Tuesday only reinforced the belief that Barney should be a core player in Theo Epsteins future plans.

Ryno meant a lot when Starlin got called up, Barney said. Ryno was really one of the guys that kept me confident in my ability and the fact that theres a spot for me in the big leagues some day.

Barneys mix of athleticism, intelligence and intangibles proved to be a good match for Dale Sveums program. The managers stronger emphasis on breaking down video and analyzing spray charts helped put Barney in position to win this award.

By going 141 consecutive games at second base without an error, Barney tied the major-league, single-season record held by Placido Polanco. Barney probably needed a big number like that to grab the attention of National League managers and coaches.

Brandon Phillips thinks hes the best defensive second baseman in the game just ask him and had won the past two Gold Gloves, and three within the previous four seasons.

Barney beat out finalists Phillips (Cincinnati Reds) and Aaron Hill (Arizona Diamondbacks). The Fielding Bible had already recognized Barney for saving 28 runs the most by a major-league second baseman by a wide margin which shows you can be a game-changer defensively.

Barney isnt one to beat his chest. He downplayed the Phillips question, showing the diplomatic skills that should make him a clubhouse leader in the years to come.

You dont expect to pass a guy like Brandon Phillips, Barney said. Hes exceptional at what he does. I cant sit here and say that Im better than him or anything like that. I dont think it has anything to do with that. I had a good season, and I think either one of us could have won it.

Barney led all second basemen in the majors with a .997 fielding percentage, committing only two errors in 731 total chances covering 1,270.1 innings. His 3.6 defensive win above replacement rating led all players in the National League.

I felt like the transition would happen eventually, (but) I didnt think it would be as smooth as it was, Barney said. You always hope that its not the last (Gold Glove, that its) the first of some or many. But for me, Im just going to enjoy this, because you never know if it will happen again.

At the end of the season, while the Philadelphia Phillies promoted Sandberg to their coaching staff for 2013, the Cubs didnt renew Pat Listachs contract. The third-base coach had been responsible for studying video, going over scouting reports and positioning infielders before each pitch, but Sveum had his own ideas.

I wouldnt say bittersweet, Barney said. Theres a place for Pat at the big-league level somewhere, and its going to happen real soon. Im not worried about him at all.

Generously listed at 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, Barney knew that a job wouldnt be handed to him. He understood that he would have to fight for it. With Castro at his side, Barney thinks the Cubs could one day have the best middle infield around.

Its been a long path, Barney said. (But) you cant be satisfied. Winning a Gold Glove doesnt necessarily satisfy me for the future, (but it) makes me hungry to try and get another one some day.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Former Cubs GM Jim Hendry 'we had Baez ahead of Lindor in the draft'

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Former Cubs GM Jim Hendry 'we had Baez ahead of Lindor in the draft'

David Kaplan and Luke Stuckmeyer are joined by former Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry.  In part 1, Hendry looks back at some of the players he drafted during his time with the Cubs and getting a deal done with Theo Epstein at the trade deadline in 2004.

00:45 - What he does now for the Yankees

02:30 - How involved is a GM with drafting a player

04:30 - Looking back at the drafting of Javier Baez

05:45 - What made Javier Baez so appealing as a draft pick

09:00 - Josh Donaldson moving to 3rd base after the Cubs drafted him

11:45 - On having to trade prospects at the trade deadline to put the team over the edge for a postseason spot

13:10 - Looking back at the 2004 3-way deadline trade that brought Nomar Garciapara to the Cubs

14:35 - On Willson Contreras' growth in the Cubs organization

16:40 - On going over budget to sign Starlin Castro

17:20 - Carlos Zambrano's growth within the Cubs organization

19:10 - How good could Gleyber Torres be?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below:

Javy Baez loses out on NL MVP to Christian Yelich

Javy Baez loses out on NL MVP to Christian Yelich

Javy Baez had an absolutely fantastic 2018 campaign, but he is not the National League MVP.

Brewers star Christian Yelich was deemed the best player in the Senior Circuit, receiving 29 of the 30 first-place votes. Baez finished second with no first-place votes. Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado finished third after leading the NL in homers (38) and posting a .935 OPS for a Colorado team that lost out on the division in Game 163 and then beat the Cubs in the NL Wild-Card Game.

It may not be popular with Cubs fans who love them some Javy, but it's easy to see why Yelich will take home the highest yearly honor.

The 26-year-old outfielder enjoyed a special season, leading the league in OPS (1.000), batting average (.326) and WAR (7.6 — FanGraphs), finishing 1.3 WAR above the next highest guy (Anthony Rendon — 6.3). For reference, Baez notched a 5.3 WAR.

Baez led the NL in RBI (111) and was among the league leaders in nearly every offensive category while also filling a huge role for the Cubs playing very good defense all over the infield (104 games at second base, 65 at shortstop, 22 at third base and even played an out at first base). 

It's easy to say Baez was the Cubs' most important and valuable player in 2018 and there's no way they win 95 games or maintain a share of first place through Game 162 without his contributions.

But the Brewers surged past the Cubs in the NL Central in large part because of Yelich, who slashed .372/.451/.762 (1.213 OPS) from July 14 on, driving in 68 runs and hitting 25 homers in only 68 games. He was even hotter over the last two weeks of the season — posting a .488/.621/1.116 slash line (1.737 OPS) while Milwaukee went 11-2 and caught the Cubs from behind. 

With both players under contract through at least the 2021 season in the same division, it'll be interesting to see if they can build off their breakout campaigns and continue to battle against each other for future NL MVP voting.