The amazing Javier Báez; 2019 Edition, Volume 1


The amazing Javier Báez; 2019 Edition, Volume 1

2018 had no shortage of lists of impressive (and sometimes odd) Javier Báez feats of strength. On Thursday, it seemed like he picked up where he left off last season.

Here are five lists and/or facts from Javy’s dynamic season debut:

Báez is one of four Cubs shortstops to hit cleanup on Opening Day

1914 Heinie Zimmerman
1956 Ernie Banks
1957 Ernie Banks
1960 Ernie Banks
1961 Ernie Banks
2015 Starlin Castro
2019 Javier Báez

And prior to 2019, the Cubs were 0-6 on Opening Day when a shortstop hit cleanup in an opener.  Javy did his part to stop that trend.

Just as there are seven seasons in which a shortstop hit cleanup for the Cubs on Opening Day…

Báez is the seventh Cub to hit multiple home runs on Opening Day.

1927 Earl Webb 2 HR
1936 Frank Demaree 2 HR
1950 Andy Pafko 2 HR
1969 Ernie Banks 2 HR
1994 Tuffy Rhodes 3 HR
2003 Corey Patterson 2 HR
2019 Javier Báez 2 HR

The Cubs are 6-1 in those seven games listed above. The one loss was the one game on the list where the player hit three home runs – back when Tuffy Rhodes hit three off D. Gooden, MD.

By the way, Banks played first base in that 1969 opener, in case you were wondering.

Also by the way, none of the previous six players homered in the next game. Keep an eye on that.

One more thing in case you weren’t aware: Tuffy Rhodes went on to hit 464 home runs in Japan, including 50 or more twice.

Báez is the fifth shortstop since 1900 to hit multiple home runs on Opening Day

1969       Don Money, Phillies

2007       Edgar Renteria, Braves

2016       Trevor Story, Rockies

2018       Tim Anderson, White Sox

2019       Javier Báez, Cubs

And if you were wondering where the power went in Arizona this spring, worry no more:

Báez equaled his 2019 spring home run output in a single game.

  Games Plate Appearances HR
2019 spring training 18 50 2
2019 regular season 1 5 2

Spring numbers don’t mean much, but still…

From the oddly obscure department:

Interleague games on Opening Day go back to only 2013, so there haven’t been many opportunities, but Báez is the first (and only) National League player ever to hit two home runs in an American League ballpark on Opening Day. So there’s that.

If 2019 is anything like 2018, there will likely be several more collections of Javier Báez feats throughout the season. Stay tuned.

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Joe Girardi steps down as manager for Olympic qualifying team to pursue MLB openings

Joe Girardi steps down as manager for Olympic qualifying team to pursue MLB openings

Joe Girardi’s name has come up for just about every managerial opening in Major League Baseball and it sounds like he is all in on pursuing that opportunity.

Girardi was set to manage USA Baseball’s Olympic qualifying team. He was named the manager of Team USA in August. His first tournament was going to be the upcoming Premier12 tournament, which is the first chance to qualify for the Olympics. Camp was set to begin on Oct. 21 and the U.S.’s first game is Nov. 2.

Instead, Girardi has stepped down. USA Baseball broke the news with a press release that announced Scott Brosius, a former teammate of Girardi’s on the Yankees, will take over.

The reason is the interesting part. He stepped down “as he pursues open managerial opportunities in Major League Baseball.”

At the very least, it sounds like Girardi is interested in at least one of the openings in MLB. He interviewed with the Cubs last week so this won't quell any speculation that he would come back to the North Side as a manager.

David Ross may still be the odds on favorite to fill the Cubs’ vacancy, but Girardi’s apparent interest in rejoining the ranks of MLB managers is certainly noteworthy. One would think if Girardi wants to get back into managing in MLB, at this indicates, he will get a job. Now the question is where he will land.

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Joe Maddon already has a new job, signs on with Angels

Joe Maddon already has a new job, signs on with Angels

Barring a Cubs-Angels World Series, the Wrigley Field faithful might not have much of an opportunity to welcome Joe Maddon back to The Friendly Confines.

It didn't take long for Maddon to find a job, as he reportedly agreed this week to join the Los Angeles Angels as their next manager. This was a widely speculated move after the Angels let go of manager Brad Ausmus just one year into a three-year contract immediately after the Cubs announced they were parting ways with Maddon. 

According to ESPN's Jesse Rogers, Maddon's deal will likely be for three years at $4-5 million a season:

Maddon came up as a coach in the Angels system, referencing his three decades there often during the course of his five years in Chicago.

Once the Cubs got rid of Maddon, it was obvious he would have plenty of suitors, as just about any team with a managerial vacancy would be interested in the future Hall of Famer. But instead of going to an up-and-coming team like the Padres or a squad on the cusp of the playoffs like the Phillies, Maddon opted to return to his baseball home.

That means he will most likely not face off against the Cubs over the next couple of seasons, as the Cubs hosted the Angels in 2019 and are not slated to play each other again until 2021 (which will take place in L.A.). Barring the aforementioned World Series meeting, Maddon and the Cubs likely won’t cross paths in Chicago for the next few seasons.

It also means Maddon will get to team up with the best player in the game (Mike Trout) and an exciting young two-way star (Shohei Ohtani) while inheriting a roster that otherwise has some major flaws. The Angels have struggled to build up a roster around Trout over his nine seasons, making the playoffs just once in 2014 and getting bounced from the ALDS by the Kansas City Royals that season.

But the Angels do have some intriguing prospects coming up the system — led by outfielder Jo Adell — and Maddon has experience taking a team and elevating them to contender status immediately. He also carries immediate clout that will help draw free agents to L.A., as he did in Chicago with Jon Lester.

Maddon will be reunited with former Cubs fan favorite Tommy La Stella, who was starring for the Angels earlier this season before a leg injury sent him to the shelf for several months.

In many ways, this is an ideal fit for Maddon, who will get to stay in a big market with a team willing to spend and a roster that at least has some incredible talent from Day 1. It would obviously be a difficult task to try to overtake the juggernaut Houston Astros in the AL West, but he accomplished a similar feat in Chicago when he led the Cubs past the Cardinals in Year 1 (and kept the Cards out of the playoffs for the next three years until their return to October baseball this fall).

The Cubs, meanwhile, have not yet announced a new manager, though David Ross still looms as the favorite to take over Maddon's former gig. Theo Epstein's front office interviewed Mark Loretta, Will Venable, Joe Girardi and Ross earlier this month and also planned to talk to Joe Espada and Gabe Kapler this week.

Epstein said the Cubs are "full speed ahead" to hire a new manager, so expect them to move quickly to finalize Maddon's heir.