AJ Hinch Should Bench Javy Baez More Often
On April 13, much of the Detroit Tigers fanbase and media were brainstorming ways the franchise could escape the albatross of Javy Baez's six-year, $140 million contract, which has four years and $98 million left on it after the 2023 season. The Puerto Rican shortstop was quickly climbing the ranking of worst-ever acquisitions in Detroit pro sports history.
Baez was benched that night after losing track of the number of outs in the second inning, getting himself doubled up on what should have been a sacrifice fly RBI for one of his teammates. Baez brainfarted and didn't tag up, costing the Tigers a run at Toronto as the Blue Jays executed an unconventional inning-ending double play.
Tigers manager AJ Hinch was spotted by TV cameras calling Baez into the clubhouse hallway immediately after the blunder. Baez returned moments later to grab his glove and trot back down the dugout steps into the clubhouse, having "earned" the rest of the night off.
Most agreed Hinch's hands were tied. The Tigers had made a serious of Bad News Bears-esque gaffes leading up to that point. Baez's snafu was just the latest instance, but an example had to be made.
Most figured it would be symbolic, serving as a message to the rest of the club that even the second-highest-paid player on the major league roster will be held to account. Baez was back in the starting lineup the very next game.
But something else has happened. Something that no one saw coming.
Well, a couple of things, actually.
For one, the Tigers have won five straight games since Baez's benching. And, perhaps even more surprising, Baez's bat has come to life.
In the four games he's played since the embarrassment in Toronto, Baez has gone 6-for-16 at the plate (.375), with two extra-base hits and six RBI. He had just one extra-base hit and one RBI all season until this stretch.
Baez has also raised his batting average about 100 points over that span. He's hitting .193 on the season following Tuesday's double-header sweep over Cleveland. His average was .080 about a week ago.
Baez is still striking out a lot — five over these last four games — but hey, a Tiger can't change his stripes.