Bizarre Báez rundown wins Play of the Week

Blooper of 2021 broken down in GIFs

June 1st, 2021

The Play of the Week usually celebrates defensive excellence. On Tuesday, it bestowed the weekly honor to Cubs shortstop for his daring exploits on the basepaths.

You've probably never seen a play like it. Wait, we take that back: You may have seen this play out on the tee-ball field when the first baseman is more interested in the dandelions in foul territory than fielding the ball.

But really, nothing at the Major League level quite measures up. Tommy John's three errors on one play? Routine. The 2012 Astros converging in a wood and choosing the path least traveled? Yeah, that's got nothing on this.

In the top of the third inning of last Thursday's Cubs-Pirates game, Báez came to the plate with two outs. Willson Contreras was on second base. And that's when the calamity of calamities broke out.

If this was "The Benny Hill Show," they'd say, "Too unrealistic." If this happened on the day that baseball was invented, the players on the field probably would have decided, you know what, baseball is a silly game and let's invent a different sport.

But this happened in the year 2021 and it brought delight to every baseball fan in the world -- unless you're a Pirates fan, of course. (If that's you, I recommend you close this post and maybe meditate for a minute.)

Here are the many, many ways things went wrong.

1. Thing that went wrong, the first

Báez hit a ground ball to Pirates third baseman Erik González. González fielded it and fired to first. Unfortunately, his throw brought rookie Will Craig off the bag. It wasn't a perfect throw, but the inning could still have easily been wrapped up. Craig just needed to touch the base and the inning would have ended.

He did not. This was simply the amuse-bouche to the spectacle.

Things aren't that bad ... yet.

2. Thing that went wrong, the second

OK, so Craig's brain hit a little snafu and he forgot to touch the base. It happens. I've skipped my subway stop because my brain decided to shut down while my body remained ambulatory.

But as Báez retreated toward home plate to get into a pickle that let Contreras advance around the bases, Craig could have ended the inning a second time. Had he simply sprinted at Báez, he likely would have been able to tag the runner for the third out.

But, again, that didn't happen. This was less a sprint at the runner and more of a gambol across the park:

You can just sense danger here.

3. Thing that went wrong, the third

Contreras is not known for his speed. He's a catcher, so most of his energy is focused on squatting behind the plate for three hours a day. He's ranked 155th in the Majors in sprint speed, but Báez's game of cat and mouse gave the catcher plenty of time to motor around the bases.

As Craig closed in on Báez, he still could have simply tagged the runner to end the inning. Instead, he flipped the ball to catcher Michael Perez and that gave Contreras plenty of room to dive under the tag.


If you've never seen a baseball game before, let me just tell you that this image with a whole gaggle of guys standing around home plate? Yeah, that isn't supposed to happen.

Now, if that's where the play ended, it would be a blooper, sure, but it wouldn't be the play of 2021.

4. Thing that went wrong, the fourth

Báez still wasn't out and the inning -- like a nightmare you just can't wake up from -- kept going. Báez ran to first and second baseman Adam Frazier raced over to cover the bag. But this was more of a football play with Frazier running an out route to the bag. Perez is a catcher, not a QB, and his throw went into right field.

5. Thing that went wrong, the fifth

So, Báez got up and scampered to second. To compound this comedy of literal errors, another throw got over the head of shortstop Kevin Newman. Fortunately for the Pirates, the ball didn't get too far away and Báez had to stay put. Unfortunately for the Pirates, Ian Happ followed up next with an RBI single.

How did the Cubs dugout react? About as you'd expect:

Anthony Rizzo had to grab his heart he was laughing so hard:

Yeah, you're not likely to see something like this for a long, long time. The Pirates radio broadcast probably sums it all up the best. Baseball, what a marvelous sport.