What it’s like to be Starlin Castro

One thing that has puzzled me about Dale Sveum since the beginning of his tenure with the Chicago Cubs is that chip he seems to have on his shoulder for Starlin Castro.  Specifically, the eagerness Sveum seems to have to toss Castro under the proverbial bus when he speaks about him to the media. What’s most puzzling about this is the lenghts to which Sveum has gone to defend the likes of Carlos Marmol and Anthony Rizzo,  even when they’ve been as bad or worse than Castro.

Do they make these for Starlin,too? I hope so.

Do they make these for Starlin,too? I hope so.

First, let’s take a look at how each player has fared at the plate this season:

Castro: .240/ .276/ .340/ .615

Rizzo: .228/ .321 /.422 /.743

While Rizzo is getting on-base more and has a more pop, neither line is one you want to see from young players, both of whom have proven they’re capable of much more than their current numbers.

As I feared, the pressure, benchings, and general malaise on the North Side has started to get to Castro.

Castro’s declining status is the latest in a series of setbacks for the two-time National League All-Star shortstop, who was pulled in the middle of Saturday’s game for a lapse against the Cardinals before a national television audience.

“Keep working,” Castro, 23, said going hitless in four at-bats as his batting average sank to .240 “It’s the only thing I can find.

“That’s part of the game. I don’t like it there. We’ll see if I stay there for the end of the month. But I’ll keep working.”

Castro, who has one home run and three RBIs in the second half, missed an opportunity to improve his standing when he flied to right with Donnie Murphy at third for the final out of the second inning.

And what does Dale have to say about all this?

“We’re all in this together, but I don’t care who you are,” manager Dale Sveum said before the Cubs lost to the Nationals 4-2. “The bottom line is the player and the production coming from him. And the adjustments they have to make, whether they’re suggested from myself or (hitting coach) James Rowson or defensively from (coach) David Bell, whatever. It’s still up to the player to apply what you have to talk about.”

Take a second and Google “Dale Sveum” and “Starlin Castro.” The page is rife with stories, dating back the entire season, that talk about Sveum putting Castro “on notice” and threatening him with benchings if his play didn’t improve. And then this from yesterday:

“It’s just gotten to the point where [Donnie Murphy's] obviously doing his thing, [Darwin Barney], I really like the way he’s been handling the bat and doing things and put him in the two-hole. Right now, obviously, things aren’t going really well [for Castro] swinging the bat.

“[Welington Castillo's] been having great at-bats. Obviously getting [Brian Bogusevic's] left-handed bat in there, you don’t want to put that in the eight-hole. So it’s just one of those things right now, where it’s just the only fit.”

Castro is a career .285 hitter who’s batted just .242 this year in his least productive season since he debuted in 2010. In each of his previous three seasons, he hit at least .283.

Now let’s take a look  at what Dale h as to say about Anthony Rizzo, who, by all accounts, has had a rotten August (OPSing just .522 with a .225 OBP this month).

Manager Dale Sveum said it was fair to say Rizzo’s season has been more of a “road bump” than a “setback” and that it’s something plenty of young players experience over the course of their early career.

“They’re all going to look back and want to throw one year out of their career and, unfortunately, it’ll probably be this one [for Rizzo],” Sveum said. “These guys, they’re young, and it’s their second time around in the big leagues, their second year sometimes and it just takes some adjustments and some confidence, too. Confidence is obviously the key factor. The confidence is always going to show up on the field.”

By the way, Anthony Rizzo is a year older than Starlin Castro.

Funny, during all of this, I haven’t heard Sveum criticize his hitting coaches even once. Considering the Cubs, as a team, are 28th in the majors in batting average and in on-base percentage, maybe that’s a good place to start. Gerald Perry got fired for a lot less than this.

Look,  I know Castro can be maddening. I know that he makes boneheaded plays and makes fans want to put their fist through a wall. I know that he has failed to live up to the (probably unfair) expectations that fans have had for him. But let’s keep in mind that this is a 23-year old kid. I’ve been spending part of my morning thinking back to what I was like when I was 23-year old law clerk. I was unsure of myself and terrified of making a mistake. The more I worried about making mistakes, the more mistakes I made. It was a vicious cycle that had me living in fear of going to work until I was much older and much more sure of myself.

Imagine yourself at 23. You’re in your first job, and you’ve made some boneheaded mistakes. As a result, you have a boss who doesn’t quite trust you, is clearly annoyed with you most of time, and has no problem telling anyone who asks that you need to get your shit together and improve your performance, or you’ll find yourself out of job.

Now imagine that your job performance, each day, is written up all over the internet for the world to see. Oh, and on top of that, you keep hearing about how amazing this young kid is, who wants your job. Did I mention that this kid has the exact same job you do? To make matters worse, the only co-worker you looked up to,  the one who calmed your fears, gave you advice, and took you under his wing, has been transferred to another branch of your company.

Now get in there and impress everyone.

Sure, you can say that Castro gets paid a ton of money and he needs to put on his big boy pants and play. But none of these guys play baseball in a vacuum. And frankly, if you’re one of those fans who felt sad for Kim DeJesus because she’s fun on Twitter yet rags on Starlin Castro every time he makes a mistake, you need to re-examine your priorities.

Despite some reports today, I’m told the Cubs have not given up on Starlin and still consider him a big part of their future. I really hope that’s true.


16 thoughts on “What it’s like to be Starlin Castro

  1. Larry Rogers says:

    You’re right on all counts.

    1. juliedicaro says:

      Woo-hoo! I’ve been waiting my whole life to hear someone say that.

      1. Doc Blume says:

        There was a period when you were 2 years old when you were not waiting for someone to say that.

  2. sloanpeterson2 says:

    I think Castro has been turned on by the media,just like they built him up as the savior of the Cubs. I still think he should be physically checked out and have his eyes checked as well. He should also have his blood sugar tested; I have a co-worker whose son plays college football. Coach had been ragging on him for being distracted, and then came the mandatory physicals. Long story short, her son has been diagnosed as Type 1 diabetes, and is taking classes to learn to manage his blood sugars. He told his mom he could focus more. There are other factors in play, but I hesitate to say them for political correctness sake…

  3. Dusty Baylor says:

    Well played Julie….

  4. Doc Blume says:

    I wasn’t thrilled with James Rowson being promoted last year…and scratched my head about Rob Deer being hired this year. Normally I’d say that the hitting coaches don’t really matter, but considering the age of the players of concern right now, I think maybe a change in that position of the coach staff is something to be considered.

    On the flip side, Chris Bosio seems to be doing a pretty good job as pitching coach, or so it would appear (especially with the starting pitchers).

    1. Doc Blume says:

      And I should add that Castro’s struggles actually started about mid-season last year, which was about the time that he began a concerted effort to be “more patient at the plate” (that was probably done at the insistence of Sveum and Rowson). The result of this has been in increase in his strikeout rate, a decrease in his walk rate and a lot of weakly hit ground balls.

      Now I fear for the possibility of yet another voice being thrown into this if the Cubs were to get another hitting coach, but what’s happening right now isn’t working.

  5. johnnywest333 says:

    Like me Castro has ADD. I keep forgetting to show up to blog here just like Castro forgets to show up on the field there. I like grapes.

  6. juliedicaro says:

    Have you guys seen tonight’s lineup? Castro leads off, Rizzo hits second.

    I’ve given up trying to figure the Cubs out.

    1. johnnywest333 says:

      Svuem is feeling guilty.

      1. johnnywest333 says:

        I meant “Sveum”

  7. dabirdguy says:

    This kind of thinking is EXACTLY what is wrong with this country and it makes me angry.
    The kid has a problem.
    So you:
    1. Blame the coaches and teachers.
    2. Make allowances because he has ADD or some OTHER acronym.
    3. Make further allowances for his background and his upbringing.
    4. Go ….awwww poor thing. Let’s give him a break.

    But no where do I see anyone holding the kid accountable for his actions, a demand or at least a timetable for his improvement, and you offer nothing in the way of solutions to FIX the problem.
    That is the politically correct way. Some days I really believe that there are folks out there that would legislate that he be given a 2 ball count as he walks to the plate just because he has a handicap.

    In this case its baseball…in real life it is violence or rape or worse. Same sorry assed excuses. No accountability when judgement comes, just excuses.

    The kid is a product of his past, GOOD or BAD. That is not the point. The point is that he isn’t getting it done and he isn’t getting any better. Anyone heard of him taking extra BP? Anyone see him taking extra fielding? As for his “mentor” Soriano, I personally think that he was a big part of the kid’s issues.

    Josh Vitters “problems” where that he can’t hit. So his ass got shipped out. No one worried about his vision or his chemical imbalances. Not being able to hit is just not a thing that the Politically Correct Police want you to feel sorry and protective over.

    If Castro was a place holder or a bit player I have no beef with him. He is SUPPOSED to be a cornerstone of this organization going forward. That means he gets held to a higher standard, right or wrong. You don’t hear this kind of crap about Trout or Hayward or most of the other really good and talented kids up in the majors. And when you DO, the kid usually turns out to be a bust in the long run. This is real life, not the movies.

    As for pressure…. I have a family to feed, a boss that looks over my shoulder for 50 hours a week, an income that barely covers the expenses, and no money in the bank. THAT is pressure.
    Starlin Castro will never have to WORK another day in his life. He gets to PLAY baseball.

    If he needs sympathy have him look in the dictionary between shit and syphilis.

    Oh, for the record, both the wife and I have both been diagnosed with ADD.

    1. Doc Blume says:

      you don’t say.

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