When you help end the most infamous championship drought in the history of American sports, a certain degree of fame is sure to come your way.
Any member of the 2016 Chicago Cubs is well aware of this fact. And while in the wake of the team winning it all, we talked about World Series hangovers and the like, for at least one player, the impact of that life-changing experience has lasted for years.
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Javier Baez told the media this weekend that, after the historic season and the fallout that followed, he struggled to focus on baseball. He said that hasn’t been the case the last two years, though, which made his 2020 struggles especially painful.
"“I kind of got away from baseball, mentally away from baseball,” Báez said on Friday. “Because all this stuff that we did had the fans, people, family see me in different ways. See me as an actor, as a rapper, as something … Our hunger kind of slowed down. And (now) I can feel it coming back up. Everyone wants to do good and make whoever’s next to you better.”"
Last year, Baez was awful at the plate – to the point some metrics and analytics pegged him as the worst offensive player in all of Major League Baseball.
We all tend to forget. With most of the core in their late 20s or early 30s, we overlook the fact of just how young some of these guys were back when the Cubs won it all. Throw in some unprecedented fame and an unyielding spotlight and it’s easy to see how it might be overwhelming.
Cubs: Maturation could pay huge dividends for Javier Baez
Now, Baez – along with Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo – are on the brink of free agency for the first time in their careers. The Cubs are planning on sitting down with all three of them this spring and, at least for Baez’s part, he says he wants to spend his entire career calling the Friendly Confines home.
"“I think there’s just been a maturation process that has gone on each and every year, a learning of himself,” Ross said. “… He’s kind of run the gamut in different aspects of what type of player he’s been – as far as tons of success, and struggles as well.”"
We’ll see how those talks play out in the weeks to come. But seeing Baez continuing to mature and be more self-aware is refreshing – and it could wind up being bad news for the rest of the league.