Man, this George Solar kid is pretty darn good. And if the Bears defense keeps playing like it has, they should talk to him about playing a little linebacker. Ah, the irrepressible voice of the Grabowski.
Of course, Soler has certainly gotten people talking, even if the resultant mentions of his name have all manner of mispronunciations. That tends to happen when you swat a 423-foot home run in your first major league swing and then proceed to go 6 for your next 10, including two more massive homers and 5 RBI.
On Friday night in St. Louis, Soler turned around a mistake from fellow phenom Shelby Miller and drove parked it in the yard beyond the 400-foot mark in dead center. And then he came up in the 8th with fellow phenom Javier Baez standing on 2nd after a 2-run double and absolutely torpedoed Pat Neshek’s submarine offering 442 happy feet out to left-center.
It was hard to make out in the dying light of the dying downtown, but if you look really closely at the replays, you can actually see the Gateway Arch flinch, scared as it was that one of the shots might hit it.
If I make break the 4th wall here for a moment, my intent was to write about how Soler’s hot start has eclipsed the hype surrounding Javier Baez. In fact, I had just finished writing a piece about Baez’s historic K-rates (keep an eye out for that), and was searching for video of the aforementioned 1st shot (which MLB.com was really slow in posting) when Baez drove in 2 runs with a frozen rope of a double.
Dammit, I thought, there goes my angle. Then, as I’m running back to the TV to catch Soler’s next AB, I see the camera angle jump to the bleachers as another Cuban missile lands in the Bay of Pigs. Okay, that was a bit much; I actually like most Cardinals fans. But that one was almost as tasty as the pitch Neshek hung up there.
So, just like that, Soler single-handedly reinvigorated my narrative, establishing himself as the official stud prospect du jour in Chicago. Call it luck, call it fate, call it karma (to be read in a sing-songy Bill Murray voice), I believe everything happens for a reason. The Cubs front office hasn’t just been blindly calling these kids up to the Bigs over the past couple months.
When Alcantara came up, it was with much less fanfare than most of his fellow youngsters have received, but he filled a role. With Emilio Bonifacio hurt and Darwin Barney hurting the team, Alcantara had a nice, soft landing in Chicago. Despite struggling since a hot start, the criticism has been mitigated by the circumstances. He did, however, blast a homer of his own on Friday.
Likewise, Javier Baez began his career in Denver, where the air was almost as thin as the expectations for the Cubs down the home stretch. He proceeded to bash a home run in he debut, then laced two more in his third game. So Friday night was like deja vu all over again, huh?
But Javy’s fallen off quite a bit, hitting only .184 over his first 102 plate appearances. The moon shots and overall improved team performance have helped to mask those struggles though, as has the knowledge that this is Baez’s MO. And if the team as a whole has been a coat of primer over Javy’s inconsistent hitting, Jorge Soler has been the fresh coat of bright blue paint.
While it was perhaps a bit ahead of the timeframe many had projected (my calender, in point of fact, still says August), Soler’s call-up has removed any pressure Baez may have been feeling. I’m reminded of Ecclesiastes 4:12 (NIV), which says “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
The Cubs have been systematically calling up new troops one at a time, giving each his moment in the sun without requiring him to bear the weight of the load on his own for very long. It’s like the frog-in-the-pot-of-water analogy: drop the little green guy in hot water and he jumps out, but put him in cool water and gradually turn the temp up and you’ve got frog stew.
Now, unappetizing dinner ideas aside, that’s exactly what the Cubs are doing with their young players right now. By bringing these kids along when the pressure to succeed is nil, they’re able to groom them and let them learn the ropes at a steady pace. They might not be in a post-season race, but they’re playing plenty of games down the stretch against teams that are. As a bonus, they won’t have to deal with PETA when it’s all said and done.
But enough of my rambling: go ahead an revel in the two videos below. And no, that second one is not sped up; the ball really did get out that fast. I know I sound like a scratched CD at this point, but man, the Cubs are getting fun to watch again.