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updated: 8/5/2014 6:42 AM

Baez just the boost Chicago baseball needed

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  • Cubs prospect Javier Baez is expected to point the way to better days ahead as gets ready to make his major-league debut.

      Cubs prospect Javier Baez is expected to point the way to better days ahead as gets ready to make his major-league debut.
    Associated Press/March 2014

 
 

Chicago baseball has had a faint pulse for a couple of months.

The White Sox were worth at least a glimpse when Chris Sale went to the mound or Jose Abreu entered the batter's box.

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Monday the local pulse accelerated to a rapid heartbeat when news arrived that the Cubs promoted super-hyped super prospect Javier Baez from Triple-A.

Boy, did local baseball ever need something like this.

Last week at the Big Ten football media days, three grizzled sports writers who had seen better baseball days were sitting around eating free box lunches.

One of them pointed out that baseball has been buried this summer. He didn't mean just in Chicago but in myriad sports outposts across the country.

The NFL draft and free agency always grab headlines. Soccer's World Cup sneaked into the public consciousness. NBA off-season moves squeezed onto the front of newspaper sports sections and the forefront of sports-talk radio.

Baseball barely could dent the top 10 stories on ESPN SportsCenter on any given night.

As far as newsworthy is concerned, baseball isn't. It's mostly in the background, summer's elevator music in search of the top floor called September pennant races and the penthouse called October playoffs.

That's what happens when a sport team's schedule is comprised of 162 games that all start looking alike. Baseball sort of acknowledged this when it instituted interleague play and then expanded it starting last year.

Now that novelty has been rendered mundane.

Not even when Mike Trout or Clayton Kershaw comes to town do fans feel compelled to flock to the ballpark.

So many games are on TV -- local and national telecasts -- that all a fan has to do is click the remote and one or more of the game's greats bursts onto the screen on some channel or other.

No wonder White Sox attendance is down again -- as it has been year after year -- despite the brilliance of Sale and Abreu.

Sale is great but not exactly fresh after being around here since 2010. Abreu is at the other end of the spectrum after bursting on the scene with minimal buildup.

Javier Baez is in the middle -- making his major-league debut after being on Cub fans' minds for a couple of years.

In fact, some of those fans clamored seemingly forever for the Cubs to promote Baez to the parent club.

No, the Cubs' baseball department kept saying. No, no, no, they insisted. No, the young man isn't ready yet.

When will Baez be ready? When we say he is, they kept teasing.

Monday the announcement came that Javier Baez is ready.

Nothing can say for sure that he is, of course, not even the collective wisdom of Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod.

Those are the Cubs' decision-makers on the franchise's baseball side. They made an educated guess by bringing up Baez, but it's a guess just the same.

The one thing for sure -- perhaps the only thing -- is that Cubs management sure does know how to manipulate the faithful.

The Theocrats must have giggled at what they call noise from fans and media who asked where are the kids we have been hearing so much about, when will they get here, what's taking so long, can't we get on with the rebuild?

Sports have become event-centric, Bucking the trend, Major League Baseball has become eventless, and Chicago baseball is even less than that this season.

Well, starting Tuesday night that changes for the Cubs, though perhaps only temporarily: Fans will be able to watch on TV as Baez debuts at Denver and then in person Friday when he arrives in Wrigley Field to play Tampa Bay.

Faithful followers of this franchise will be following breathlessly while at the same time wondering why Cubs prospect Kris Bryant isn't up yet.

mimrem@dailyherald.com

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