Cubs' Baez on Hurdle: 'People that talk about me can save it'
The Pittsburgh Pirates may not have liked Javier Baez flipping his bat and not running out a popup, but the Cubs showed they can police themselves.
When Baez stepped to the plate for his first at-bat Thursday, he and Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli had a brief, and what seemed to be a nonconfrontational, conversation.
The previous night, Baez homered his first time up. In the seventh, he popped out to shortstop but flipped his bat into the air and did not initially run out of the box. In his next at-bat, he homered, giving him a pair of 2-homer games in two days.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle wasn't amused, but he didn't know the whole story.
"Where is the respect for the game?" Hurdle said to the Pittsburgh media. "He's hit (4) homers in two days. Does that mean you can take your bat and throw it 15-20 feet in the air when you pop up, like you should have hit your fifth home run? I would bet that men went over and talked to him, because I believe they've got a group there that speaks truth to power."
They did indeed. Baez said after the game that a teammate talked to him about it and that he learned from the experience.
Baez said Thursday he was not aware of Hurdle's comments until he was in the shower after a 6-1 loss to the Pirates.
"I'm not mad at him, but like I say, I bust my (butt) every day to play hard," he said. "I don't think (anyone) plays this game harder than me. I respect 90 (feet down the baseline,). I respect whatever. You don't go out there and talk trash about someone. To be honest, I've got a lot of things I can say right now, but I don't control what's out there, what people talk about me. I'm just going to keep playing my game.
"I learned from that bat flip last night. That's all I got to say ... People that talk about me can save it."
Baez's teammates had his back.
"Four homers in two days and doesn't respect the game," said first baseman Anthony Rizzo sarcastically. "You should have hit 5, Javy."
"Obviously, he's one of those guys who's full of energy and loves the game of baseball," said left fielder Kyle Schwarber. "He just kind of rubs off on everyone with the way that he goes about it. He's a really good human being, and he enjoys the game. I think with that aspect, with the negative thing there, it is what it is."
Cubs manager Joe Maddon said that was all good that Baez and his teammates handled it themselves.
"That's definitely the needle moving in the right direction," Maddon said. "There's no question. Listen, when they're accountable, which I believe our guys are. As a group, they really do police each other well. They're unbelievably good at that. It's been going on the last couple years, but more recently, this spring training, like I've talked about, was incredibly different in all the best ways, meaning that they were getting together just to talk about stuff, not just baseball, but stuff.
"And I've never been around that. I'm really impressed with where they're going mentally right now as human beings, also, which I think's going to spill over on the baseball level and benefit us, too.
"The fact that he said that, I do believe, is the residue of the meetings. I think that's a perfect example of why these meetings have been so great. It's nothing that I've done. I stay out of their way."