A two-time All-Star — and former MLB: The Show video game cover athlete — was benched during a Major League Baseball game on Thursday night.
Detroit Tigers shortstop Javier Báez was pulled from the team’s game against the Toronto Blue Jays after losing track of how many outs there were while on the basepaths.
In the top of the second inning, Akil Baddoo came to the plate with one out and Báez on second base. Baddoo hit a routine flyball to center field that was caught for the second out, and Báez took off for third base without tagging up. Clearly, Báez thought there were two outs when the ball was put in play. That turned into an easy double play for the Blue Jays.
Javy Baez was pulled after this. ⚾️pic.twitter.com/eI5kklbwZ8
— The Comeback (@thecomeback) April 14, 2023
That was actually the second baserunning-related mistake Báez made in the inning. Báez thought he hit a home run, but the ball stayed in the park and he settled for a double. He didn’t run out of the batter’s box.
Earlier in the inning, Baez left the box slowly thinking he hit a HR and it turned out to be a double.pic.twitter.com/5mWiyrGvoj
— Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) April 14, 2023
After the mental mistakes, Tigers manager A.J. Hinch had a chat with Báez and removed him from the game.
A.J. Hinch has benched Javy Baez. Skipper pulled his shortstop down the tunnel for a conversation. Baez was upset, untucked his jersey and is done.
Creds to Hinch for holding a key player accountable. Tough game for Baez, who made multiple mistakes on the bases.
— Ethan Diamandas (@EthanDiamandas) April 13, 2023
TV showed A.J. Hinch and Javier Baez emerging from the dugout tunnel after what was presumably a chat.
Baez is out. Jonathan Schoop enters the game at third, Maton moves to short.
Baez was doubled up after forgetting how many outs there were in the 2nd inning.
— Evan Woodbery (@evanwoodbery) April 13, 2023
“El Mago” was a fan favorite in Chicago as a star middle infielder and World Series champion for the Cubs (he won the National League Gold Glove award at shortstop in 2020), and he kept up the success after the 2021 trade deadline with the New York Mets (.886 OPS in 186 plate appearances).
Things have not gone nearly as well for Báez with Detroit after he signed a six-year, $140 million contract ahead of the 2022 season. He entered play on Monday with a .643 OPS over 155 games as a Tiger, and he’s currently batting .122 with a .328 OPS in the early going of the 2023 season.
And while the bat has been known to run hot and cold over his career, mental mistakes were rare in his Cubs career. He was lauded for his baseball instincts and being one of the smartest baserunners in the league.
You never know how a player will respond to an in-game benching. Maybe Báez understands being held accountable and will do his best to not the mental mistakes continue, or maybe he’s not happy with Hinch’s decision.
Either way, the Tigers will need Báez to take it all as motivation and perform much better over the rest of the 2023 season. Detroit entered Wednesday with an MLB-worst record of 2-9 after winning just 66 games in 2022.