Baez Vs. Russell: Who Will Reign at Short?
The 2019 Cubs Convention brought on a wave of anticipation for the upcoming season. From stirring the pot with their division rival, the St. Louis Cardinals, to assurance that Bryant and Darvish, two all-star caliber players, are feeling 100 percent, opening day cannot come soon enough. While the Cubs Convention is a time for players to make connections with fans and show off a little bit, one very important question was asked to Javy Baez, “Who is the best shortstop in baseball?”
He picked himself. And why shouldn’t he? Baez has proven that he is capable of being the greatest middle infielder in the game. He is called a human highlight reel for a reason. Baez has a childlike wonder while he plays the game, and a cockiness that players and non-cub fans envy and respect. His goal is to become a gold glove winner, and it is inevitable that it can and will happen. As MVP runner up it is encouraging for fans to see this fire in Baez. However, there is one person standing in the way of him being the best shortstop in Major League Baseball: Addison Russell.
Addison Russell, who will not be with the Cubs until the beginning of May, is almost half way through serving his 40-game suspension for domestic abuse allegations. At this point, it is expected that he will be welcomed back by the organization with open arms (given that he follows the terms of his suspension), and he will reclaim his position as the starting shortstop.
Russell is putting in work this off-season, but perhaps not the kind that people expect from a Major League Baseball player. He is not making a lot of noise at spring training. There are no videos of him hitting off the tee or lifting weights. However, he is doing a lot to show people and give the perception that he has changed and deserves to be someone to root for again. Russell is putting on the public persona of being a family man by posting Instagram stories of his children almost daily. In a recent viral Facebook post, a Florida fan wrote about getting a signed baseball on her porch along with a note because Russell saw her W flag flying high. He is being very smart about the way the public is seeing him.
People do make mistakes and change their ways. Theo Epstein has made it clear that Russell is still a vital part of the organization as long as he complies with his suspension and boosts his numbers, which he is capable of doing. He is a very good baseball player. But Baez is better. When Russell is ready to come back are they going to move the self-proclaimed best shortstop in baseball back to second base? It does not seem prudent for the Cubs moving forward. Why take back good when you can have great? It might be time for the Cubs and Russell to both move on.