Ernie Banks, the Cubs Greatest Hitters, and Javier Baez

Here's Ernie at the tender age of 24. (source)
It's not just that Ernie Banks was a great baseball player or that he was a long-time member of the Cubs; it's that he was both. That's why he mattered so much.

And he brought a measure of joy to a business that can still feel like a game sometimes. That's the kind of player that makes watching baseball fun and working in baseball easy. All this leaves a bigger empty space without him.

By my count, only four people are still alive on that list of all-time great Cubs hitters. I think that's both a testament to the age of the franchise, and the paucity of great players recently. As comparison, the Red Sox have 7 of their top 11 hitters still alive and kicking.

In other news: Joe Maddon's advice to Javier Baez is both (1) typical of Joe Maddon and (b) just amazing:
"He's trying way too hard," Maddon said. "I want him to back off. The last thing I want him to do is try to impress me tonight. ... I said, 'Hit a couple singles and, above all, I want to see you smile.'"
I wrote about Baez for the 2015 Hardball Times Annual, and basically I said: Holy crap, this kid is off to a very scary start. He was striking out like a tee-ball kid in bad need of sports glasses.

I think/hope Maddon is the right guy to get Baez on track, and fast.

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