Monday night the Chicago Cubs lost for the sixth time in their past eight games, this time getting shut out by five Cleveland pitchers (CLE 4, CHC 0). The Cubs have been outscored 39-12 in the eight-game stretch, and they've scored two runs or fewer in seven of the eight games. A rough stretch for the Cubbies, no doubt.
Offensive slumps happen to every team during the 162-game season, and you just hope they're short-lived. Mental mistakes are tougher to forgive though, and one (maybe two) happened Monday night. Cubs shortstop Javier Báez forgot how many outs there were in the fourth inning, and was easily doubled off first base on Anthony Rizzo's routine fly ball to left. Here's the play:
Earlier during Rizzo's at-bat, Báez simply didn't take a lead at first base. He remained on the bag as the pitch was delivered, then eventually scampered out to take a secondary lead.
With his team struggling and one of his core players making mental mistakes on the bases, Cubs manager David Ross said enough is enough, and he pulled Báez from the game after the double play. Utility infielder Sergio Alcántara took over at shortstop and as the No. 3 hitter in a game the Cubs trailed 1-0 at the time.
"We just got to make sure we're focused and locked in during a game," Ross told reporters, including 670 The Score, following the game. "Sometimes, our frustrations can distract us a little bit. We had a good conversation, and I think that's behind us. Javy is really important to this team. He's a leader on this team and set a good example every time he's on the field. It's just a little bit of lapse in concentration. We talked about it, and that's behind us."
No one knows the clubhouse better than the manager, and if Ross believes pulling Báez from the game will send a message not only to Báez, but the entire team, then go for it. Performatively yanking a star player from a game out of frustration doesn't help anyone though, and I don't think that's what happened here. Ross knew this would be an effective way to wake up his struggling team, and although the Cubs lost Monday, it could help them moving forward.
"I can't go against him. I blame it on myself," Báez told reporters, including The Athletic's Patrick Mooney. "I lost count of the outs. We talked about it. We're on the same page. I'll be there tomorrow to help the team."