MLB is attempting to legislate as much contact as possible out of slides into second base and Javy Baez is turning avoidance into an art form. His moves are as abstract as Picasso and he’s as versatile as Prince, though I’ll try to avoid any confusing purple prose in describing his latest exploits.
I was in the kitchen cleaning up the pot of gumbo I’d made for dinner when I heard my son jumping around in the next room.
“Safe! He was safe! He got in before that man tagged him,” my 7-year-old yelled. “Daddy, Javy Baez was safe!”
Okay, whatever, buddy. I assumed he was showing his bias and that he didn’t really know what had happened, so I continued with my washing duties. When I finally got around to checking the TV, it was just in time to see the umpire remove his headset and spread his arms in the “safe” gesture. Huh, I guess the kid knows what he’s talking about.
And then I saw the slide and had to sit down for a minute.
Moves like Javy. pic.twitter.com/0um9nu1fPc
— MLB GIFS (@MLBGIFs) June 19, 2016
Woow! The contortionist act was incredible, the kind of play you’ll probably never see again. Then again, you’ve already seen it before.
The announcers in both games (different crews since one was local and one national) referred to it as a swim move, which it was, but that almost makes it seem like something easily described by a common term. This isn’t the kind of thing a normal human being should be able to do, which is probably why Baez was initially called out both times. And these are cases in which I don’t even give the umpires a hard time, since wrapping your brain around the magnificence of what you’ve just beheld is nigh impossible.
And then two innings later, Baez made another slide that required an unfathomable level of athleticism and presence of mind. Noted Gatorade jug hater Sean Rodriguez scalded a ground ball to the left side and Baez broke from his position at third, going to his knees to smother it. Unwilling to waste the time it would take to rise to his feet, Baez fired from a kneeling position and nailed the runner at first. It wasn’t even close, either.
Approximately zero percent of people on the planet could have made either of those plays, yet the guy who just made them look easy isn’t even a starter for the Cubs. That’s deep like Leviathan.
Oh, then he made this play to get David Freese at first. While blowing a bubble. I was simultaneously in awe and nostalgic for Starlin Castro.
In the interest of full disclosure, it wasn’t that long ago that I was unsure of Javy’s ability to mature into a legitimate Major League ballplayer. He’s still feeling his way around the plate approach, but there’s no denying that his baseball IQ and overall ability is nearly unmatched. Seeing plays like those he made on Saturday strengthens my newfound belief that this is a player you can’t trade for anything short of another unicorn.
So ask away, Yankees, Theo Epstein will just laugh as he watches Baez’s highlight reel.