As I said on Twitter this afternoon, I long for the day when Cubs fans care more about how a player performs on the field than how hard he “tries” or how good he is to the fans. It’s been a frustrating week to be a Cubs fan. First the majority of the fanbase, including several media members, decided that it was a good idea to pile on Starlin Castro after a momentary brain freeze (and yes, there have been many) this weekend. Today, the fan base is weeping copious tears over the departure of serviceable stop-gap player David DeJesus.
Hey Cubs fans, you’re doing it wrong.
David DeJesus was a nice guy who had a hot wife and did a respectable job of playing center field while some of the youngins develop. His career line with the Cubs (.256/.340/.402/.731) is hardly irreplaceable, and looks good only in comparison to his Cubs teammates. The fact that his wife interacted with fans and Twitter and that he held some charity drives speaks to his qualities as a human being, but not to his worth as a player. Don’t get me wrong, I’m guilty of loving Reed Johnson far beyond what his baseball abilities merit, but I’ve never described myself as “shocked,” “blindsided,” or “devastated,” when he was moved, as some Cubs fans did today over DeJesus.
And lest everyone wants to claim that DeJesus was a “seasoned vet” who “showed the young guys how it’s done,” I’ll just direct you to DeJesus’s comments earlier this season about the young guys needing to be aggressive early in the count. I was not pleased to hear that this is what DeJesus had been talking to the kids about, and I’m guessing Jed and Theo weren’t all that thrilled with his comments, either.
So thanks for your time here, David DeJesus. Good luck and all that. You seem like a nice guy and I hope you have a chance to win somewhere else. See how easy that was?
This brings me to my real problem with a fair amount of Cubs fans: We are way to quick to latch on to “grinders*” and not nearly supportive enough of the players who actually produce on the field. And there’s almost no tolerance for young players who fans think have had enough time to develop.
Let’s consider Starlin Castro’s tenure with the Cubs. .Since 2010, Castro’s line (. 285/.324/.408/.732) has been better than DeJesus’ in all but one category: on-base percentage. Now let’s consider that Starlin Castro is 23 years old, as opposed to DeJesus’ 33 years, and that he may have had DeJesus whispering in his ear that he needed to be more aggressive earlier in the count. Which of these players do you think is still developing? Which player has a higher ceiling? Which player is more emotionally fragile? Which player is far from his family in a country where he doesn’t speak the language all that well? And which player do fans decide to jump on?
Yes, Castro makes a lot of errors. He spaces out and makes boneheaded mistakes. No one disputes that. But when has Starlin Castro ever played in a game that mattered? And sure, you can say that if you got the chance to play major league baseball, you’d care about every single game and give 100% all the time, even at the end of September when your team was 50 games out of first place because you’d remember every minute of the day that you are just so-so-so lucky to have that job. You might even believe it.
I don’t care who you are or what you do. If you feel like you go to the office every single day and nothing you do makes a difference, whether you’re a movie star, a major league baseball player, or an accountant, you’re going to get demoralized. I’m demoralized as hell and I only have to WATCH the games. And I suspect even major league baseball loses its glamour once you actually have to do it day in, and day out. And when it’s all you’ve ever done, when you don’t know how much it sucks to do other things, do you really think Starlin Castro wakes up every day and thanks his lucky stars he’s a baseball player? Do you think other players do?
I’m not sure when Starlin Castro was assigned the burden of all our unfulfilled baseball hopes and dreams, but it’s unfair to expect a 23-year old kid to be the one to lead by example and show everyone else how baseball is played. For crying out loud, his brain won’t even be finished developing until he’s 25. Most other teams have older, wiser veterans to take on the “here’s how it’s done” role, but the Cubs suck, so they don’t have those guys. That’s hardly Starlin’s fault. It’s also not his fault that he’s wasting the best years of his life playing for a team that is still years away from competing. If I were him, I’d not only be spacey, I’d be downright petulant.
The Cubs are back in action at Wrigley tonight to take on the David DeJesus and the Washington Nationals. I’m sure DeJesus will get a huge cheer, but how about one for Starlin Castro, too? After all, if DeJesus has earned it, so has he.
Jeff Samardzija (6-11, 4.29) v. Jordan Zimmerman (14-6, 3.02).
First pitch is at 7:05 pm CT on CSN
*Grinder: A not-very talented baseball player who makes fans think he is talented because he dives for lots of balls, crashes into walls, and goes into 1B headfirst. Usually small and white and hitting below his body weight. See e.g. Theriot, Ryan; Campana, Tony; Fuld, Sam.