Dan's Dugout: Baez Bursts Into NL Lineup With Fast Finish • Latino Sports

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Dan’s Dugout: Baez Bursts Into NL Lineup With Fast Finish

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Versatility did not hurt Javy Baez with the voters who picked the National League’s All-Star lineup.

Javy Baez was co-MVP of the 2016 NL Championship Series

After trailing Atlanta’s Ozzie Albies throughout the balloting, the fleet Puerto Rican purloined the Albies lead in the final week to become the starting NL second baseman for the 2018 All-Star Game.

Teammate Willson Contreras also pulled a last-week upset, suggesting that Cubs fans may have stuffed the ballot box – especially when the internet-based format permitted fans to vote up to 35 times.

The Baez-Albies argument was thisclose, according to statistics.

Although Albies has more home runs and extra-base hits, Baez is a close second in both departments. Through games of July 8, he had a .294 average, 17 home runs, and 16 stolen bases, plus 27 additional extra-base hits.

A relative bargain at $657,000, the 25-year-old Baez also stole home twice in one week.

The co-MVP of the 2016 NL Championship Series, Baez also became the first Cub this season to be named NL Player of the Week. It was the first time he won the award.

For the period ending July 1, he hit .483 with 10 runs scored, six doubles, two home runs, and 11 RBI over same games. That spurt, coupled with Atlanta’s recent skid, gave Baez the same last-minute lift at the polls that George W. Bush received against Al Gore in the 2000 election.

With temperatures touching triple digits, the Baez bat was as hot as the mercury. During his week-long tear, he led the league in hits, doubles, extra-base hits (8), total bases (26), and runs scored while tying for first in runs batted in and placing second in batting.

Javy Baez is more than halfway toward a 30/30 season for the 2018 Cubs

En route to a potential 30/30 season, Baez became the second middle infielder in Cubs history to hit at least 16 home runs before the All-Star Game. The other was Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg, who hit 24 before the 1990 break.

Baez is also the first Cub with at least 21 first-half doubles since Kris Bryant did it in 2016, the year he was National League Most Valuable Player.

The ninth man picked in the 2011 amateur draft, Baez has hit at least 16 homers for the second straight season. But he’s also done something unique to the 2018 All-Star roster: he’s the only player in either league to play all four infield positions.

Responding to Joe Maddon’s keep-players-fresh routine, Baez has played 25 games at short, 10 at third, and one at first base in addition to 65 games at second. He may play multiple positions in the All-Star Gamer as well, especially since NL manager Dave Roberts of the Dodgers has two other star second basemen in Albies, who leads the league in extra-base hits, and Scooter Gennett, who has the best batting average.

The 2018 All-Star Game is slated for Nationals Park in Washington on July 17.

About Dan Schlossberg

Former AP sportswriter Dan Schlossberg of Fair Lawn, NJ has produced 35 baseball books, including autobiographies of Ron Blomberg, Al Clark, and Milo Hamilton. Also a broadcaster, he is the host and executive producer of Braves Banter and Travel Itch Radio and a contributor to Sirius XM.

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