So … who really is the Cubs’ best shortstop, Addison Russell or Javy Baez?
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If you’re like me, you occasionally get sucked down the YouTube rabbit hole only to emerge hours — sometimes days — later and find that no one had the decency to do your work for you while you were mindlessly watching videos of drunken brawls, epic dance-floor fails and Javy Baez highlights.
One thing led to another for me the other day, and before I knew it I was tweeting such a video of the Cubs’ electric infielder. What I particularly enjoyed about it: Most of the plays Baez made were at shortstop.
All of us well know that Baez is used primarily at second base by Cubs manager Joe Maddon. Many of us, though, have wondered how much he’d thrive defensively at a position as important as shortstop. The Cubs have a good one in Addison Russell, who, along with Baez at second, gives the team a top-tier middle infield. But who is the team’s best shortstop?
I hinted at that question, and the feedback was mixed.
“It’s not even a debate,” wrote @Kaalberg8. “The switch [to Baez] needs to be made based on arm strength alone.”
“He’s not the Cubs’ best shortstop,” wrote @JChierici84. “Flashier doesn’t mean better. And I love Javy. But Russell is clearly a better defensive shortstop.”
There’s no debate. It’s crystal clear. The answer is definitely one guy or the other.
One fan pointed to Russell’s No. 9 ranking among major-leaguers at all positions in defensive runs saved from 2015 onward.
“Is No. 9 good?” @CityHall03 wrote. “Not good enough?”
It’s very good, needless to say. Still, the Cubs eventually will have many important choices to make. Among them: Double down on Russell? Double down on Baez? Maybe they’ll be one of those all-too-rare middle-infield pairs that lasts a decade or longer. Or maybe Baez will wake up tomorrow to an epiphany: He was born to be a big-league shortstop, and that’s what he’s going to be — for somebody.
“Of course he’s the Cubs’ best shortstop. He is currently with the Cubs,” wrote @J92_25, the implication being that Baez would be the best at that position no matter what team he played for.
Fun topic, if you ask me. Then again, I sometimes think I watch cat videos for a living. I’m easily entertained.
Any day (or week … or month …) now, baseball’s biggest free-agent-pitcher dominoes will begin to fall. But you knew that already, because we’ve been talking about it for days. No, weeks. Make that months. Frankly, the whole thing is starting to get kind of old.
But there’ll be brand-new energy and excitement surrounding the Cubs if and when they finally get their man. Will it be old pal Jake Arrieta? NLCS nemesis and friend-of-the-Astros Yu Darvish? The lesser-known Alex Cobb?
More to the point: Whom would Cubs fans rather have? We asked, you answered.
Somebody ought to find Arrieta, throw their arm over his shoulders and make sure he’s OK. He’s merely the player most instrumental to the Cubs’ enormous success over the last three seasons, yet clearly he’s no Darvish — not according to the Yu crew that voted in this poll. Thanks for nothing, bub.
My questions: Are these results purely about pitching? Or is there a grass-is-greener effect leading many to prefer Darvish?
I suspect there’s a good bit of the latter at play, but then I’m one of those super-annoying types who never misses an opportunity to play pop psychologist.
And now, on to a few Your Turn questions:
I continue to be a bit surprised that Dillon Maples isn’t being penciled in for a spot in the 2018 Cubs bullpen. The kid got his feet wet last season and showed his 100-plus fastball and a wipeout slider. I’d much rather see Maples in the ’pen this season than another year of Justin Grimm, for example. What’s the deal? —Mike, via email
Yeah, what’s the deal? Here’s what Gordon Wittenmyer, the Sun-Times’ Cubs beat writer, had to say about it:
“Nobody’s ignoring Dillon Maples. He’ll get a long look in spring training and a chance to be an important part of the bullpen this year as his command develops. Keep in mind the Cubs used 23 guys in relief last year. He’ll get his chance.
“The fact he’s not talked about more prominently heading into camp probably says more about the kind of bullpen the Cubs think they’ve put together. It’s theoretically deeper and more versatile than any they’ve had during this competitive window, the kind of ’pen designed to take even more weight off the rotation.”
Do you think Mitch Trubisky will thrive under Matt Nagy’s leadership? Could he be the next Tom Brady? —Raquel, via Facebook
Which question should I address first, the one about Trubisky and Nagy or the one about whatever it is that you’re smoking?
It has been exciting to read so many good things said about Nagy by players and coaches who have worked with him. It’s certainly encouraging to know that Nagy was a Trubisky fan during the draft process.
But this is about Trubisky, isn’t it? If he works and excels on the strength of his own determination and talent, everyone around him — especially Nagy — will look good. No one matters more than the quarterback. Then again, if Nagy is the next Bill Belichick, he might make a heck of an impression in this town, too.
You’re a bum. I wish you’d go to Minnesota. Take your snarkiness elsewhere! —@Illini101458
Well, that’s not very nice. Also, it’s not a question. And for the record, I’d prefer Wisconsin.
Follow me on Twitter @slgreenberg.