El Mago

Javy Baez is now the face of baseball

Javy Baez is now the face of baseball

Javy Baez is one step closer to becoming the unquestioned face of Major League Baseball.

For the next year, El Mago will be the cover boy for video-game-playing baseball fans, as Baez announced on his Twitter Monday morning he is gracing the cover of MLB The Show 2020:

On the eve of Game 1 of the World Series, Playstation released a video depicting why they chose Baez as the new face of the game:

Last year's cover featured Bryce Harper, announced before he even signed with the Phillies. 

Baez also joins the likes of Aaron Judge, Ken Griffey Jr., Chipper Jones, Barry Bonds and David Ortiz as cover athletes for the PS4 game.

The 26-year-old Baez has become one of the most recognizable figures in the game, playing with a flair and swag that includes mind-bending baserunning maneuvers and impossible defensive plays. 

Case in point:

Baez missed the final month of the 2019 season with a fractured thumb, but still put up 29 homers and 85 RBI while ranking second on the team in WAR. In 2018, he finished second in NL MVP voting while leading the league in RBI (111) and topping the Cubs in most offensive categories. 

Theo Epstein said he never deems any player as "untouchable," but Baez is about as close as it gets for this Cubs team right now. He made the switch to shortstop full time this year and wound up with elite defensive numbers to go along with his fearsome offense and an attitude and mindset the rest of the Cubs hope to emulate.

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Pedro Strop adds another chapter to the Legend of El Mago

Pedro Strop adds another chapter to the Legend of El Mago

The Legend of El Mago continues to grow. 

Two days after Javy Baez's pinch-hit walk-off, Pedro Strop gave us a behind-the-scenes account of the ordeal.

Baez did not start that Tuesday night game because of a heel/ankle injury suffered two days earlier, but he was called on to pinch hit with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning. The Cubs had just battled back to tie things up when Kris Bryant hustled home on Albert Almora Jr.'s tapper in front of home plate.

It was the second straight game in which Baez didn't play, but as the ninth inning approached and the Cubs began to mount their comeback, he talked the Cubs training staff into taping his ankle and letting him pinch-hit. 

At the same time, Baez was telling fellow injured teammate Strop that he was going to make sure the Cubs won the game before extra innings.

"Oh my god, that was crazy," an animated Strop said. "We were just sitting [in the clubhouse] watching the game. We were getting ready to go to the dugout and support the boys and I was like, 'Let's go, we don't want to go to extra innings.' He's like, 'No extra innings, I'm gonna end this game right now.' 

"He started putting his shoes on and I'm like, 'Javy, you're not playing today.' And all of a sudden, I hear on the TV and they're like, 'Joe Maddon's going to his bench; Javy Baez is pinch hitting.' I was like, 'What?! Is this really gonna happen?'

"And then first pitch, it happens. Oh my god, it was crazy. I started running like crazy in here and was just screaming. It was unbelievable."

Strop — who is recovering from a hamstring injury — joked that the celebration was more proof he's nearing 100 percent health.

As for Baez, he assured everybody he would've been able to stay in Tuesday's game to play defense if it went into extra innings and he was in the starting lineup for both Wednesday and Thursday's games against the Phillies.

"I told Stroppy I was gonna end the game and he didn't believe me," Baez said. "And then everything happened and Stroppy told me, 'I thought I saw everything in baseball, but I've never seen this.' It was a great moment and I was swinging first pitch — like always."

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Cubs win in extra innings with a little help from El Mago

Cubs win in extra innings with a little help from El Mago

The Cubs pulled out a nail-biting 4-3 victory over the Washington Nationals in their makeup game on Thursday. The contest was tied at 2-2 in the 5th inning and 3-3 in the 7th, before being decided in extras.

Mike Montgomery started the game for the Cubs, and he pitched four innings, giving up three hits, one walk, two earned runs and racked up a pair of strikeouts. He was pulled for Jesse Chavez by Joe Maddon in the bottom of the 5th inning after giving up a single to Nationals 2B Adrian Sanchez. Chavez ended up giving up a run before escaping the inning.

This was the first of several decisions that had Cubs fans nervous.

In the top of the 8th, with the bases loaded, Maddon made perhaps his most intriguing decision of the game, choosing to pinch-hit the struggling Willson Contreras for Victor Caratini. Perhaps the most confusing part of the choice, was that Caratini hit a grand-slam against the Nationals just five days ago.

The Cubs ended up winning the game on- believe it or not -a bunt single from Javier Baez, who added yet another notch on his NL MVP resume, finishing the tough game with three of the Cubs four RBIs.

Randy Rosario came in to shut the door on the Nationals, getting a pop out, a groundout and a strikeout in a clean 12-pitch 10th inning for his first save of the season.

It’s not all smiles for the Cubs though, as some bad news came out of postgame. While trying to run out a double play, closer Pedro Strop suffered a hamstring injury. Even tougher news considering that Maddon used a total of eight relief pitchers during Thursday's matchup.

The Cubs will be back at it on Friday, starting up a three-game series with the Cincinnati Reds. And while the Reds are one of the worst teams in baseball right now, no team can be taken for granted as Chicago holds on to a slim 1.5 game lead on the Milwaukee Brewers, and will be in search for a consistent closer with Strop going down.