Anthony Rizzo/Javier Baez antics show how this Cubs team doesn’t feel the same weight of history

Anthony Rizzo/Javier Baez antics show how this Cubs team doesn’t feel the same weight of history

LOS ANGELES – Within minutes of the last out on Thursday night at Dodger Stadium, ESPN’s @SportsCenter account sent out a photo of Moises Alou at the Wrigley Field wall to more than 30 million Twitter followers: “The last time the Cubs were up 3-2 in an NLCS was Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS vs. the Marlins. Most remember it as ‘the Bartman Game.’”

As Kerry Wood once said: “Irrelevant, dude.”
Look, the Cubs still need to find a way to beat either Clayton Kershaw or Rich Hill this weekend, with Kenley Jansen resting and waiting for the multiple-inning saves. The obligatory description for Kershaw is “the best pitcher on the planet.” Hill’s lefty curveball – and “the perceptual velocity” of his fastball – freezes hitters. Jansen has a mystical cutter reminiscent of the great Mariano Rivera. The top-heavy part of this Los Angeles playoff pitching staff has held the Cubs to zero runs in 16.1 innings.

But until proven otherwise, forget about this idea of a Cubs team weighed down by the history of a franchise that hasn’t played in the World Series since 1945.

Just look at Javier Baez getting in Anthony Rizzo’s airspace during Game 5, the human-highlight-film second baseman standing right next to the All-Star first baseman as he caught a Kike Hernandez pop-up for the second out of the third inning.

It didn’t matter that this was a 1-0 game and MVP-ballot players Justin Turner and Corey Seager were coming up. This is what the 2016 Cubs do. Rizzo caught the ball, quickly flipped it underhand and it bounced off Baez’s chest – in front of a sellout crowd of 54,449 and a national Fox Sports 1 audience.

“We always mess around,” Rizzo said at his locker inside a tight clubhouse jammed with media after an 8-4 win. “So I’m screaming: ‘Javy! Javy! I got it! I got it, Javy, I got it!’

“And usually he’ll yell at me: ‘Don’t miss it!’ Or I’ll yell at him: ‘Don’t miss it!’

“We do that a lot. If it’s a pop-up to him, I’ll go right behind him. It’s just little ways of slowing the game down and having fun, too.”

Rizzo is a Gold Glove-caliber first baseman for a team that led the majors in defensive efficiency this year. As a super-utility guy, Baez got credit for 11 defensive runs saved in 383 innings at second base, or one less than co-leaders Dustin Pedroia and Ian Kinsler, who each did it in almost 1,300 innings.

“Sometimes when I call (Rizzo) off to get a fly ball, he starts talking to me,” Baez said. “I tell him: ‘Hey, you can do whatever you want. Just don’t move my head. You can touch me if you want. Just don’t move my head.’

“And I told him to be ready for it, because I was going to do the same thing. You just got to be focused on the fly ball. No matter what’s happening around you, you just got to catch it.”

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

This isn’t about Bartman. It’s about a group of young, confident players who are growing up together and absolutely expect to be in this position. It’s manager Joe Maddon designing “Embrace The Target” T-shirts and telling them to show up to the ballpark whenever they want and then blow off batting practice.

“For sure, we’re relaxed,” said Baez, who’s gone viral during these playoffs, the rest of the country witnessing his amazing instincts and flashy personality. “I’m relaxed when I play defense.”

The thing is, Rizzo and Baez could be playing next to each other for the next five years, the same way Kris Bryant and Addison Russell will be anchoring the left side of the infield.

This is how Rizzo introduced Russell to The Show when a natural shortstop tried to learn second base on the fly last year and track pop-ups in front of 40,000 people: “Hey, watch out for that skateboard behind you! Don’t trip!”

“Oh yeah, we yell at each other all the time,” Rizzo said. “It’s just one of those things where you got to stay loose.”

Morning Update: Cubs take 3-2 lead in NLCS; Hoyer injured in Bears loss to Packers


Morning Update: Cubs take 3-2 lead in NLCS; Hoyer injured in Bears loss to Packers

Preview: Blackhawks visit Blue Jackets tonight on CSN

Jon Lester, Addison Russell come up big to put Cubs one win from World Series

Bears' spiral downward gathers speed in loss to Packers

Bulls drop preseason finale to Dwight Howard, Hawks

Messing with Jon Lester gets Dodgers nowhere as Cubs move closer to World Series

Bears Grades: Quarterback woes take offense to new low in loss to Packers

Marian Hossa out, Trevor van Riemsdyk in vs. Columbus

Anthony Rizzo/Javier Baez antics show how this Cubs team doesn’t feel the same weight of history

Bears Talk Podcast: What's next for Bears at QB after Brian Hoyer suffers broken arm?

Five Big Ten teams land in preseason coaches poll, with four in top 15

Famous Cubs fans tweet the W after Game 5 victory

Famous Cubs fans tweet the W after Game 5 victory

From the first pitch to the last out, famous Cubs fans flocked to Twitter to show their support during Game 5.

While they may have had a few tense moments during the Cubs' 8-4 win over the Dodgers, the Twitter mood was largely positive. 

The action was kicked off by Adam Baldwin, who proved that Los Angeles fans couldn't even win in their own backyard. 

Then, it was Addison Russell's huge two-run blast that sparked a tweet storm. 

When it became clear that the Cubs were going to score the victory, celebrities let the posts rip. 

Bob Newhart, who couldn't muster a smile at Game 3, proudly waved his flag. 

And John Cusack claimed that the North Siders are back. 

Tweet of the night goes to Nick Offerman, or Ron Swanson, though. He managed to celebrate the win and throw a not-so-subtle jab at the Cardinals. 


Fly the W, Nick. Fly. That. W.