August 4, 2014 may go down as one of the most memorable off-days in Cubs history. As Cubs fans around the country slept in preparation for Monday, Javier Baez was getting one of the best wake-up calls of his life. According to Carrie Muskat of the Chicago Cubs' official website, Cubs Triple-A manager Marty Pevey called Baez into his hotel room to deliver the news that he would soon be on a plane to Denver to make his major league debut.
Later that afternoon, Cubs fans' work would be interrupted (yes, Lee Elia, Cubs fans DO work) by their cell phones eagerly notifying them that hope would soon be arriving.
Javier Baez is now a Chicago Cub.
Social media exploded with the news. Text messages were swapped, emails were sent, news articles were forwarded..."He's here! Let's win a championship," they likely said.
Baez's arrival is one of the most exciting events in the Cubs' 2014 season thus far. One could even argue that it's more exciting than Opening Day; a renaissance, if you will.
There's no arguing the fact that Baez's call-up is a big deal. It's a huge deal for those who have been following his path since being drafted by the Cubs in 2011. But there's a few things Cubs fans need to remember about Baez's call-up.
Baez is not the end all, be all
As of late, Baez had been on the metaphorical back burner in the eyes of Cubs fans. Fellow teammate Kris Bryant has torn up the minor leagues in 2014 and is currently hitting .314 with 14 home runs in Triple-A Iowa. Arismendy Alcantara, who also played in Triple-A with Baez, was the first of the Cubs' core prospects to be called up to the major leagues.
Then, things changed. Darwin Barney and the Cubs parted ways, followed by Emilio Bonifacio soon after. The door to Wrigley Field's second base was suddenly opened for Baez, and his dream is about to come true.
Regardless of the hype surrounding Baez, his spot on the major league roster in the future is far from guaranteed. He's certainly talented, but he's far from irreplaceable.
Read that one more time: Baez is not irreplaceable. His potential is limitless, but it is exactly that: potential. At the end of the day, Baez is just one of a number of talented prospects in the Cubs' minor league system.
Even after his switch to second base, the Cubs still have two very talented shortstops in their organization: Addison Russell and Starlin Castro. If Baez does not pan out at second base, the Cubs have backups in Russell and Alcantara.
2014 is strictly about development
Anyone who has seen the standings this year or knows anything about the Cubs knows that Baez's arrival is not for a playoff push. Instead, it's almost entirely for Baez himself. Sure, it's also important that Baez learns to play with his major league teammates and vice versa. But the main purpose of calling up Baez is to adjust him to Major League Baseball and the lifestyle that comes with it.
Critics around the country will crunch his numbers left and right, including the author of this article. At the end of the day, statistics are the main judge of a player's performance. However, his performance in 2014 is not about his batting average or home runs. It's about how much he learns and grows both as a player and person.
By playing the last third of the 2014 season, the Cubs and Baez will be able to see his strengths and weaknesses. Ideally, Baez has seen the last of the minor leagues in his lifetime. At least, that's what the Cubs and their fans hope.
Even if Baez's time in the majors this season doesn't live up to expectations, the last thing the Cubs should do is proclaim him a bust. Baez's fellow teammate Anthony Rizzo didn't do so hot during his first season at the major league level, hitting just .141 in 49 games. The Cubs have 52 games remaining this season for Baez to show what he has (though it's safe to say Baez won't play in all of them).
The Cubs' time is ALMOST here
As mentioned before, Baez is just one of quite a few prospects in the Cubs organization and one of multiple players capable of playing middle infield. This season is not about the playoffs or fielding a winning team. The ultimate goal is to develop for the future.
After Baez's call-up, the Cubs still have only two of their top 10 prospects at the major league level. Of those 10 players, half of them are yet to even reach Double-A. The chances of those five reaching the major leagues this year are minuscule.
Cubs fans need to just savor the fact that better times are in sight. They're closer than they were last week just with the arrival of Baez, but they're not there yet. It's darkest before the dawn, and the Cubs have suffered enough darkness to last anyone a lifetime.
Now, it's time to sit back, grab an Old Style and watch Javier Baez and the Cubs take another step toward contending.
Statistics and prospect rankings courtesy of MLB.com.