Photo:Jake Roth/USA TODAY Sports
A new era in baseball has finally emerged on the north side of Chicago, just as it has been a staple on the south side since the days of Minnie Minoso and Luis Aparicio. It can be best described as a Latino invasion.
Javier Baez is now a Chicago Cub, promoted presumably to breathe some life into a team that continues to scuffle in last place. But calling up the 21 year old infielder is really quite a bit more significant. Baez represents what has been a plan to pump fresh blood into the Cubbies, leading a renaissance of Hispanic players who will join Starlin Castro, Welington Castillo, Arismendy Alcantara and others as the new faces of historic Wrigley Field. Perhaps the time has come for the north side’s beer-guzzling fans to take a Rosetta Stone Spanish course.
Javy Baez is a power-hitting shortstop who will scoot over to second base to accommodate Castro, a major league all-star. A pro for only three years, Baez has been billed as the best player out of Puerto Rico since Carlos Beltran. That might be a bit unfair, since the kid has been on a fast track to The Show and got off to a slow start at the AAA level. But the Cubs first round pick in the 2011 amateur draft has been on a roll lately, smashing 12 home runs in Iowa since July 1st and blasting a bomb for the World Team in this year’s Futures Game.
Baez is joining the Cubs in Denver for a series against the Colorado Rockies, and hitting in the thin mountain air is a good place to launch a career. Wrigley can be friendly too when the wind is blowing out, and Chicago is expected to call up another slugger, Cuban outfielder Jorge Soler, in the coming weeks. Another jardinero in the mix is Cuban-American Albert Almora, who was Chicago’s top pick in the 2012 draft.
I think it’s interesting that the big market Cubs have adopted the philosophy of organizations with a smaller revenue base like the Miami Marlins and the Kansas City Royals. It’s no secret that building a team around strong Latino talent has its rewards, and the Cubs have the perfect manager in Rick Renteria, a bilingual guy who was Team Mexico’s skipper in the World Baseball Classic.
It’s often said that games at Wrigley take on a party-type atmosphere. With Baez and company leading the parade, the guateque is about to get a whole lot merrier.