Cubs’ fans knew that their team would be well represented at the All-Star Game this year but the question continued to remain as to who would be selected. It is a yearly prediction that Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, and Jon Lester would make the mid-summer classic, but it was only Lester out of that group of three this year. The other two, are Javier Baez and Willson Contreras as you all know by now, and as the game is just two days away, as a baseball fan, please take a minute to understand the importance of their selection and what it means for the Cubs and the future of the MLB.
The selection of these two players is the direct result of the fan vote portion of All-Star voting and MLB needs to take notice. Cubs fans chose two first time All-Stars to represent their team in DC, not too mention, two of the most exciting players in baseball that have ushered in a new style of play that is winning fans over left and right. While Baez and Contreras were showcased in the 2016 World Series run, they are now two years older, better, and creating highlight reel plays night in and night out.
— Fanatics View (@fanaticsview) March 15, 2017
But the one other note about these two Cubs is that if you asked an old-school baseball purist to react to their selection, he or she would not have allowed them into the All-Star Game, because they “Don’t Play The Game The Right Way.”
Well baseball fans, this style of young, unorthodox, spectacular, over-confident, sensational, and exciting play is exactly the direction the MLB is going. Contreras and Baez are offering a sneak peak on the world’s stage into what baseball is going to become, and the way it will be ‘supposed’ to be played over the next decade.
Willson Contreras finished his bobblehead day game 4-for-5 with a grand slam, another homer, 7 RBIs and a Cubs win.
— Chris Emma (@CEmma670) May 11, 2018
Fans know what they want and the baseball world needs to catch up to this updated version of baseball. Gone are the days of stuffy un-written rules and the idea of acting like you’ve been there before. What is now popular is the can’t-miss, braggadocios brand of baseball that is here to stay.
Baez and Contreras are just two examples of a changing landscape that will be on display Tuesday night that the MLB needs to embrace as the future of their game.
The Younger The Game, The Quicker Path To Fame
The biggest stand out fact about Baez and Contreras is that they are 25 and 26 years old respectively, with Baez making his MLB debut at 21 years old, Contreras at 23. These exciting players were showcased at a young age to fans, immediately gained a following with their electric style of play, and have become fixtures for the Cubs organization. If this were 10-15 years ago, these two would have had to ‘wait their turn’ in the minors, maybe making their debut now at 25 and 26, as baseball’s unwritten rules would have forbid any players from reaching the ‘Big League Club’ before 25 years old.
But these two players won fans hearts the second they hit the field, and proved their presence with their All-Star selections this season. The fans want to see these players and the earlier they see them, the easier they are to connect to and follow, especially for a younger generation of fans.
Javy Baez really wants that Gold Glovepic.twitter.com/oaJ8dGVS31
— Sports ReUp (@SportsReUp) July 14, 2018
It is no secret that MLB has a problem attracting younger generations to the game. While a whole article could be written on that topic alone, I’ll stick to the task at hand. But with that difficulty, it is imperative to put these young and exciting players in front of the most eyeballs as soon and as much as possible.
The highlights and gifs of Baez and Contreras are endless and must-see on Twitter and Instagram, and the MLB has to realize that these players are in fact positive for the growth of their game, even if they don’t play by the old rules.
Javy Báez vs the old “respect the game” white dudes https://t.co/aEasXnNcRS
— Uncle Jeff (@ebsoftball) July 14, 2018
There is a reason why 21- year old phenoms are all over social media for the NBA and now are currently on every platform showcased in the NBA Summer League. This exciting brand sells and is attractive to growing the sport, no matter if older fans yearn for a league without three-pointers and extremely short shorts.
The fact that these two get to represent one of the most storied and traditional franchises in all of baseball says something about what the fans want for the future of the game. And that is exciting.
Goodbye Unwritten Rules
One of the biggest “controversies” this season was the beef between Pirates’ Manager Clint Hurdle and Javier Baez and Willson Contreras. Hurdle, from the old-school of managerial thought, was upset with Baez after he flipped his bat after a popping out after 4 home runs in the series.
In the Pittsburgh Post Gazette on April 12th, Hurdle said, “You watch their kid flip that bat last night? Where’s the respect for the game?” Hurdle said. “The guy hits four homers in two days, so that means 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 over there talked to him because I do believe they have a group over there that speaks truth to power.”
While this was a case of flipping a bat after an out vs a towering home run, the meaning is the same. It’s showcasing raw emotion in the moment, that Hurdle wants no part of. Hurdle was also upset with Contreras when he was arguing balls and strikes with the umpire, and questioned his respect for the game as well.
The mere fact that Baez and Contreras made the All-Star Games proves Hurdle wrong in how he perceives the MLB. Maybe that is also why he continues to struggle in Pittsburgh, and why Cardinals’ Manager Mike Matheny was fired yesterday after an incredibly rough first half of the season.
The homerun. The admiration. The fans standing up. The bat flip. Willson Contreras, folks. pic.twitter.com/ktzvZhbX0l
— Cubs Live (@Cubs_Live) August 6, 2017
Managers in MLB fans like Hurdle and Matheny are living in the past that is simply non-existent anymore. If you asked many younger MLB fans, the bat-flip after a home run is not a sign of disrespect, but an awesome acknowledgment of completely destroying a baseball over the outfield wall. And if it is after an out, its simply an outlet for frustration. It is just like the raw emotion felt hitting that game-winning home run, or picking off a runner at second base; the scenarios are endless. The raw emotion in the game is what makes it great, entertaining and attractive. The days of shaking your third base coach’s hand when you circled the bases after you won the pennant are over. Pure ecstasy has taken its place.
Baez and Contreras embody that raw talent and raw emotion when they play the game, and that is why their style works and is why they are marketable and tremendous ambassadors for the Cubs. These guys can walk the walk and talk the talk and are taking the MLB to new heights.
While some fans critique the MLB for allowing fans to vote, the fans actually got it right this time. Cubs’ fans showed what kind of baseball they want to watch, and want to have displayed on the national stage. It is now up to MLB to continue to listen to the fans as they continue to shape the future of the league. These two stars are what baseball fans are hungry for, and there will be plenty more like Baez and Contreras as the league continues to understand the untapped popularity growth they now have, with exceptional young players re-shaping America’s Pastime.