Javier Baez: Cubs not always ready to start last year

MESA, Ariz. -- Chicago Cubs star Javier Baez promised a better pregame work ethic for himself and his teammates after the club missed the playoffs last season and then switched managers. He often believed they simply weren't ready for the first pitch last year.

"It wasn't something bad, but we have a lot of optional things," Baez said from Cubs camp on Sunday. "Not mandatory. Everyone kind of sat back on that, including me. I wasn't really going out there and preparing for the game. I was getting ready during the game, which is not good."

The narrative Baez spoke of backs up what the front office has often intimated after hiring David Ross to replace Joe Maddon. Maddon presented a less-is-more attitude, which helped the team to a World Series victory in 2016, but had been taken advantage of more recently, at least according to Baez.

"A lot of players were doing the same as me, getting loose during the game," Baez said. "You can lose the game in the first inning. Sometimes when you're not ready and the other team scored on something simple, I feel like it was because of that. We weren't ready.

"I got to the field, and instead of going outside and hitting BP, I would do everything inside, which is not the same. Once I go out to the field for the game, I feel like I wasn't ready. I feel like I was getting loose during the first four innings. I should be ready and excited to get out before the first pitch, and I promise you this year is going to be like that."

Ross was pleased by Baez's evaluation.

"For him to say that, and saying the group feels like they can turn it up a notch, that's a powerful message he's sending to you guys," Ross said later Sunday.

The Cubs have vowed to work more as a team in 2020 because individual workouts of the past might have culminated in a stunted offense. They were much better on paper than in the box score.

"I think we have to let our numbers get away and see how we end up in September or October," Baez said. "For me, it's think as a team. We haven't been doing that the past two years."

Baez is the lone Cub, according to league sources, actually talking about an extension with the team. While Kris Bryant's name has been involved in trade rumors, Baez is more likely to be around for years to come. Both are two years from free agency, and it's doubtful both can sign long-term extensions.

"It's up to them, to be honest," Baez said. "I wish we both [could] stay here. We want to keep everyone here because we pretty much have the team that won. But it is what it is. Obviously not every year we're going to have the same players."

Baez didn't indicate that anything was close between him and the team and said he would like to start focusing on baseball again. He didn't put a deadline on talks but was clear he was letting his agents handle the business end.

"It's been up and down," he said of the negotiations. "It's business. It's really tough. I'll let them work that out. If it works, great. If not, we have another year.

"You can't be your own agent and play baseball."
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