Starlin Castro is and has always been something of a polarizing figure in this town and this offseason has been difficult for him to say the least, but hopefully it won't be a fruitless one. I don't imagine many of us know what it is like to be a gifted baseball player or a 20-something year old who goes from having nothing to being a multi-millionaire almost overnight. I shudder to think what I would have done had I been given millions in my early 20s. Many of us are also unfamiliar with the cultures of other countries and how that may impact what we do and how it might be perceived.
And I certainly don't imagine what it's like to be all of that and have all of your mistakes be laid out in public. But that is the life of Starlin Castro right now.
The latest incident is going to draw a mixed reaction, some will completely absolve him of any responsibility, others will empathize, though not necessarily happy with his choices. Still others will be angry, make off-the-cuff judgments, and jump to conclusions about the kind of person Starlin Castro is.
It is certainly reasonable to say he should make different choices, but that is not just on Castro. Having made some connections over the years, I know there is a lot going on behind the scenes of many ballplayers that are not made public. I have promised to keep such things off the record, but I will say this: Castro is not alone when it comes to the trappings of being young and wealthy. Not alone in baseball. Not even alone on his own team. It is not restricted to players from any particular country or ethnic background.
One player we all know and even loved as Cubs fans, Mark Grace, also enjoyed a rich after-hours lifestyle. His behavior at its core, wasn't really any different than that of Castro today. They are different people from different cultures, so the way they enjoyed that lifestyle may have varied on the surface, but we are essentially talking about the same thing. We can say, for example, that Castro has some youthful arrogance, but if you say he does and Mark Grace didn't, then you are kidding yourself.
Now I can hear the skeptics, "Well Mark Grace didn't carry guns and start shooting people". Well, neither did Castro. What Castro may have done was bring armed bodyguards which, if true, could well be the prudent thing to do in his environment. We can argue whether he should put himself in that environment in the first place, but then we can say that about Grace or any of the many unnamed players who enjoy (or enjoyed) similar lifestyles.
And if you don't think Grace wielded a dangerous weapon, then what would you call a two ton piece of metal moving at high speeds with it's operator too impaired to control it safely?
I am not trying to bury Grace or absolve Castro in any way. This is just a reality check. Just like all of us, baseball players, especially young ones, do dumb things or get stuck in bad situations that are at least partially of their own doing. It doesn't make them criminals or thugs. We can make judgments on their behavior or decision-making, we can call them immature, entitled, or arrogant, but if we do, we should do it with the understanding that none of this is limited to one ballplayer.
Just as importantly, we shouldn't rush to judgment about what happened until we have all the information. Confirming what I heard through my own sources, Bruce Levine tweeted that Castro has been absolved of any wrongdoing.
And perhaps something good can come out of this experience. Castro issued a statement (h/t @crewsett for the translation) which seems to understand that, while he himself was not involved, the realities of being a public figure can result in unwanted, and sometimes unwarranted, perception. It is not something he can control and perhaps the only way for him to do so is to avoid those environments and situations from the start. That is going to take some considerable sacrifice from Castro, as almost any person his age would do exactly what Castro is doing, which is enjoying his youth.
But Castro is learning that he isn't just any person, especially in his homeland, In baseball terms, we always talk here about how you can only control your own actions/performance, but that you have little to no control over the environment around you. That is applicable to Castro outside the lines as well. He cannot stop what happens in nightclubs, especially as it gets late, no matter how many bodyguards he brings. He cannot control the way the situation is handled or how it is perceived by the media and fans. He can only control one thing -- his own actions, and if that means making some changes to his youthful lifestyle, then that is something he may have to do for himself and for the sake of his career, his team, and his family. I am not saying this is necessarily fair, just a reality that Castro has to deal with right now.
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