They call him El Mago, which we all know by now is Spanish for The Magician. But we also know that magic is often just science we don’t yet have the capacity to explain. Or it could simply be an illusion, something to trick the mind into seeing something that isn’t really there. So to that end, Javy Baez isn’t so much a magician as he is a mental real estate investor.
He does things no one else can, things no one else would even attempt, but there’s more to it than that. Javy does things no one else can even imagine doing, and everyone knows that’s his bag. As a result, opponents are so preoccupied with what they are afraid he might do that they can’t handle even the most basic tasks required to do their respective jobs.
It’s like living in an apartment with no set lease and having the world’s biggest hardass for a landlord. You’re so tense you could eat coal and poop diamonds. Or for a less metaphorical reference, just look at the Brewers Wednesday night.
Jhoulys Chacin had been cruising through three, bringing his season total to 16 consecutive scoreless innings against the Cubs. Then Daniel Murphy, a man whose speed and capacity to alter a game’s landscape equally resemble a glacier, homered to lead off the 4th inning and put a crack in Chacin’s facade.
Baez followed with a 1-1 single and you’d have thought he was knocking on Chacin’s door demanding the rent a week early. Before he’d even made a pitch to Anthony Rizzo, the rattled righty made two pickoff attempts to keep Javy honest over at first. Thing is, El Mago just stood there and watched since he hadn’t taken a step from the bag either time.
Not since Smokin’ Jay Cutler have we seen such a brazen display of apathy on the field of play. Hey, maybe we could call Baez “Smolderin’ Javy.” He was just biding his time before using that metaphorical cigarette to light the fuse on yet another charge of psychological TNT.
After finally deciding to pitch to Rizzo, Chacin hung a 1-2 splitter that the first baseman rifled to Lorenzo Cain center for a single. Off on contact, Javy accelerated around second, using the base’s gravity to slingshot himself toward third. Never mind that the center fielder wasn’t particularly far away and had fielded it cleanly, Javy knew Cain wasn’t able.
Whether it was the gravitational disturbance caused by Javy’s orbit of the bases or the mental disturbance caused by his very existence, the throw to third sailed high and wide to the wall. Popping up from his slide like a cat on wood laminate, Javy sprinted home past the ball that had bounced all the way back into the infield grass.
Then he slid home safely with a move that resembled one of those high dives into a kiddie pool, which is fitting because everyone watching was still shaking their heads in awe of what they’d just seen. At some point, we’ll stop being amazed by the things Javy does on the field. Which is to say that we all have to die eventually.
Javy’s exploits are not illusory, they’re calculated efforts based on confidence in his own extraordinary athletic ability and understanding of the game. Some of that confidence may very well stem from the awareness that the he occupies as much space in opponents’ heads as Cubs fans take up in Miller Park.
And, damn, is it fun to watch him take advantage of that.