The Cubs have accepted President Barack Obama’s White House invitation and will go to Washington next week as part of their World Series victory tour.
Two sources confirmed the decision – first reported by NBC Chicago – before Obama’s farewell address on Tuesday night at McCormick Place.
The team will visit the Oval Office on Monday, which coincides with the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and the end of Cubs Convention weekend, the only obvious offseason time where it would be logistically possible to coordinate so many players’ schedules.
This also negates a photo opportunity with Donald Trump, who plans to install Cubs board member Todd Ricketts as his deputy secretary of commerce after the Jan. 20 inauguration.
Obama, the world’s most famous White Sox fan, made the offer over Twitter and called Cubs manager Joe Maddon from Air Force One after the franchise won its first championship since 1908.
A surreal season began in spring training with Trump cryptically threatening the Ricketts siblings over Twitter – Pete is the Republican governor of Nebraska while Laura is active in Democratic politics and backed Hillary Clinton – and telling The Washington Post editorial board that the family has done a “rotten job” running the team.
Either way, the Cubs would be making a political statement after a bruising and polarizing election that saw the billionaire Ricketts family flip-flop from bankrolling an anti-Trump Super PAC to fundraising for the Republican nominee and ultimately grabbing a Cabinet position.
During Tuesday night's 7-2 Cubs win, Baez turned five different ground balls into outs...from the outfield grass. One such play nabbed Cody Bellinger by a split second at first base to end a bases-loaded threat in the eighth inning.
And there was his seventh homer of the season — his first at home, surprisingly — to give the Cubs some more breathing room as he continues to hit the ball with authority the other way. He now has 15 hits in his last 33 at-bats and 9 of those knocks have gone for extra bases (5 doubles, 3 homers and a triple).
But back to that play at first base — how did he do it?
After pausing for a few seconds, Baez shrugged and said, "I don't know," before trying to find the words to explain what was going through his head in those few seconds as he was hurtling down the basepath:
"I just saw him really close to the line," Baez said. "Usually on that play, you go around [the base] like it's a base hit. I think if I would've kept going, he was going to run me over because he's a big dude.
"I saw a play — Billy Hamilton did it like 3 or 4 years ago. I saw it and that was the first thing that came to my mind — to stop or see a reaction and he couldn't stop. I know I didn't leave the line. It was everything good."
It's the last part that's most amazing.
Here's the play Baez was referencing, from July 11, 2014:
So as he's running down to first base, he has the wherewithal to dip into his encyclopedic cache, pluck out the perfect play from his memory and execute it in glorious fashion...all in a matter of maybe a second-and-a-half.
"I think we all feel his energy all around the place — not only on the field, but in the clubhouse," catcher Willson Contreras said. "We call him The Mago for a reason. I love this guy. To me, he has the best instincts in the game. What he did today was just awesome. That's one of the best base hits ever."
Joe Maddon said he and the Cubs coaches were comparing Baez to legendary Bears running back Gale Sayers in the dugout for that juke move.
"That's him playing on a playground in Puerto Rico somewhere," Maddon said. "That's what I love about him. There's no fear in his game. His game is a game and he sees things in advance and he's fearless. He could strike out three or four times in a row and that is not going to impact his fifth at-bat."
Just about every week throughout the season, Baez shows the baseball world something it's never seen before.
From his lightning quick tags to his swim move slides to hitting bombs left-handed during batting practice to his rocket arm that has been clocked as high as 98 mph on the infield — even he has to surprise himself every now and then, right? Especially like this play Tuesday night?
"Nah, not really," he said, smirking. "I think if it's in your mind, it's possible. I see a lot of things that people can do and they don't realize it. I realize everything I can do and everything I can't do."
If you ever want to know what makes Baez "El Mago," read that last sentence again:
"I realize everything I can do and everything I can't do."
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During the 4th inning of the Cubs’ 7-2 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night, LA right fielder Cody Bellinger took a 92 mile per hour fastball from Jose Quintana and sent it right back his way at 96:
After a quick (maybe unintentional?) grab, Quintana calmly tossed the ball in his glove a few times before walking off the mound without even a grimace.
It was just that kind of night for Quintana, who pitched 7 strong innings while allowing only two runs on four hits and striking out seven. He’s now gone seven innings in three straight starts, all Cubs wins - two of which were against teams that currently sit in 1st place.
“We needed that kind of performance tonight,” Manager Joe Maddon said after the game. “They have a very difficult lineup to navigate and he was once again on top of his game. Great focus - he kept coming back with good pitches. Really the curveball was very pertinent tonight and then he had some good changeups to go with the fastball. He’s pitching.”
Quintana flashed an impressive amount of control while working through one of baseball’s toughest lineups. After walking six batters through his first two starts, Quintana has now only walked three since. 71 of his 114 pitches -- the most thrown by any Cubs pitcher this season, per team notes -- went for strikes.
“I feel great,” he said after the game. “I know I’ve been throwing the ball really well the last couple of starts. All my stuff’s worked really good.”
“This year he’s been really good,” Willson Contreras added. “He’s using all his pitches which he didn’t do last year very often. I think he has his mind in the right place right now, and we’re in a good place.”
Quintana’s offspeed repertoire was firmly on display all night. Per Statcast, after throwing two changeups to Dodgers leadoff hitter Enrique Hernandez, he didn’t show the pitch again until the 4th. On the night, he threw the change up 12 times; the Dodgers failed to put a single one in play.
“We’ve been in these types of situations and conversations since Spring Training,” Contreras added. “I saw him working out his change up in [there], which is good. He was a little harder than 84, but today I think was one of the best games he threw with the change up.”
Through 28 innings pitched this season, the lefty now sports a sub-3 FIP (2.89) and is striking out over 11 batters per nine innings. Some pitchers that have a higher FIP include David Price, Jacob deGrom and Stephen Strasburg.
“He’s absolutely pitching right now,” Maddon added. “Where in the past I thought he would just pretty much rely on his fastball. He’s becoming a pitch maker.”