We’re 12 games into the MLB season, so no good team should panic, and no bad team is too far gone — one would think. The Detroit Tigers were projected to be especially awful, but you’d hope to at least get through *checks calendar* April 14 without the manager having to intervene like A.J. Hinch did Thursday when he had to sit Javier Báez for a baserunning error that’s inexcusable at the Little League level.
The shortstop recorded his first-extra base hit of the season, loafed it out of the box because he thought the ball was leaving the park, ended up with a double, then ran as if there were two outs on an Akil Baddoo lineout to center, and got doubled up to end the inning.
Sending a message
Hinch predictably sat his star player as a “message” to the rest of his group that everyone needs to clean up their mental mistakes. You know it’s going to be a long season when you have to remind your team that the season has actually started.
Báez — who has yet to hit a home run and has driven in a lone RBI through 41 at-bats — is Detroit’s biggest name who’s not a semi-retired relic, and is likely a shoo-in for the club’s token All-Star spot unless Miguel Cabrera earns a career-achievement bid. He’s also the highest-paid player behind Cabrera, who’s making $32 million in the last year of an eight-year deal.
I know Tigers fans know the details of Miggy’s deal all too well, but just wanted to remind the casual fan because it’s funny. Did you know he has vesting rights for $30 million for the next two years? He won’t hit the necessary threshold, yet a part of me wishes he miraculously finishes in the top 10 for MVP. Again, never going to happen because he’s currently listed as the team’s backup DH and is slashing .208/.269/.333.
To be fair, that makes Báez’s .122/.182/.146 facepalm look serviceable — just like Cabrera’s contract makes Javi’s deal look like good value. I don’t need to get into all the reasons why Báez has been a disaster because Tigers’ fans are already triggered, and I’d like to avoid crossing into self-loathing before May.
Cubs’ supporters know intimately about the two-time All-Star’s inconsistency and pension for fielding errors (he led the league last year with 26). My guess is they’d tell you that if Báez is the grizzled adult in the clubhouse, your clubhouse is probably in trouble. He claimed to have lost track of outs because he was hitting sixth; a drop in the lineup prompted by the fact that he hadn’t barreled a fucking baseball until yesterday.
This is not the logic you want to hear out of your “best” player.
“Anybody can make mistakes,” he said. “At this point, the way we’re playing, and the way I’m playing, it’s obviously going to be worse. If I’m hot, and I have seven homers, and I make that same mistake, I would have stayed in the game. I’ve got no excuses. It’s just part of the game.”
Alright. I guess my response is, what was that shit about hitting sixth if not an excuse?
While Báez isn’t wrong that Hinch would likely stick with him if his bat justified the fuck up, he’s still saying, “I can fuck up if I’m playing well enough.” That’s not accountability, that’s entitlement.
A fielding error here, or overly aggressive baserunning there, I can understand. Admiring a double and then getting doubled up because you didn’t know how many outs were left is neither of those things. You can be in a hitting slump and still be engaged in the game — it’s literally the bare minimum, and something no manager should have to remind you of two weeks into April.