Every once in a while, something happens on the baseball field that makes you stop and say, “Wait, what?” One of those moments happened in the third inning of the Cubs-Pirates game Thursday afternoon, on a play that started with a routine grounder hit by Javy Baez.
It ended with Pirates first baseman Will Craig almost certainly asking his agent to lobby the MLBPA to make sure the designated hitter is added permanently to the NL as part of the next collective bargaining agreement.
The play boggles the mind, and not just on the first viewing. The first viewing or two answers the immediate “Wait, what just happened?” question, but the “Why?” follow-up will likely be eternally baffling.
Jim Deshaies, the color analyst on the Cubs broadcast, twice says, “You’ve gotta be kidding me!” as the play just keeps going. And Jon Sciambi, one of the very best in the business, just repeats his partner because new words often fail in situations like that, and all you can do is repeat the most recent thing your brain registered.
Let’s watch the play.
The throw from Erik Gonzalez across the diamond was a little wide, sure, pulling Craig up the line a bit. But Baez hit the ball hard, and he wasn’t particularly close to first base yet, so all Craig had to do was take a few steps back and touch the base. That’s it. Instead, when Baez started to move back toward the plate, Craig followed him.
Why? I have no idea. An innate chase instinct, maybe? A yearning to be part of history, possibly? I mean, for real, how many times do you get the chance to be part of a rundown between home plate and first base? Gotta take that opportunity, right?
Mostly, probably, it was rookie nerves. He’s been primarily a first baseman since 2017, but this was just Craig’s 14th game in the bigs.
Did we mention that there were already two outs? Step on the bag and the inning’s done.
And because there were two outs, Willson Contreras, who was on second, was running on the play, and he kept running around third. It was heads-up, in a “might as well try to make something happen” fashion. Well, something happened. Craig didn’t exactly chase Baez home as much as he trotted alongside him, and then when he noticed Contreras sprinting home, he casually rainbow’d a toss to catcher Michael Perez, but it was too late to get the runner.
Baez jumped up and sprinted to first base, which was now empty. Perez picked up the ball and threw toward second baseman Adam Frazier, who was running to cover first, but the throw was behind him and Frazier dropped it. The ball went into right field and Baez jumped up and sprinted to second, where he slid in safely.
Go ahead, watch the whole thing again. And then text or call any Pirates fans you know and tell them there are better days ahead, almost certainly.