Cover image, of course, from si.com
Welcome to the time of year between the off-season player acquisition push and the customary best time of the year for Cubs fans, "pitchers and catchers report". It is quite unlikely that Matt Garza will be dealt this winter, and outside of the last minute push to sign Yoen(n)is Cepedes, WYSIWYG on the roster.
I don't know about you, but I feel the Unconditional Support For Theo and All His Lesser GMs and Their Plan is entering a critical time. As hard as it has been to sit tight while the big expensive free agents have come and gone, it has been placated by the fact that Jim Hendry proved spending tons of money is not the sure cure to the Century of Discontent. So we aren't buyers anymore? Fine, good. The Cubs are gonna rebuild, for the first time in any of our lifetimes. It could be fun. Most likely, we aren't going to want to claw our own eyes out of our sockets like last year, when batted balls, thrown balls, bunted balls, and all other types of balls were kicked around, thrown everywhere but at gloves and mitts.
Which brings me to today's point: many smart people at the end of last season figured that Starlin Castro was and is, as a shortstop, a very promising hitter. In fact, knowing that Aramis Ramirez was leaving, me amongst others figured Starlin would be the replacement at third base. Third base requires some fielding skill, but not as much as shortstop. The shortstop is meant to be the best infielder. He makes the longest throws, gets to the most balls based on the predominant hitting patterns of right handed hitters, teams with the second baseman on double plays. And, Starlin?
He led the league in errors, was by many accounts the worst shortstop in the majors last year, caught hell from Bobby Valentine for his lack of focus on the field, and has terrible field instincts, making Ronny Cedeno look like Ozzie Smith in comparison. You want your shortstop to be a leader of sorts, to have some level of character. Castro has been mentored by Alfonso Soriano, but based on Alf's sterling character, I guess it is small wonder stuff like this surrounds our guy Starlin.
(By the way, I've been ripped by several longtime friends that I haven't ripped Castro a new one about his accusations. The Uncouth Sloth wouldn't let this go by?!? Well, no, but here in the Time of Sandusky and Bernie Fine, sexual misconduct in sports just doesn't seem that funny anymore. Sorry that our world's so effed up that I can't bring myself to script up a treatise on waking up from a drunken stupor to see Starlin Castro's ridiculous haircut bobbing up and down on top of me.)
Of course, Castro's off field problems do not affect his prowess as a shortstop, unless they cause him to miss games while he serves a sentence in jail. Since this is not the case at this time, we have to wonder if the past two years mean which of these two things:
- Starlin Castro is a terrible shortstop.
- Starlin Castro has played terribly at shortstop.
If number 1 is true, then it would behoove us to find him another position to play. Third base, second base, left field. Apparently, Theo, all the lesser Cub GMs, Dale Sveum, and everyone else has decided on the other option. To be fair, he is only 22. Also, he was playing between a mediocre second baseman and a miserable third baseman. Furthermore, in his first year, his manager was most interested in his own mother's health and having mai tais after the game. His second year, his manager was the love child of Mr. Clean and every moron hockey coach in the Ontario Junior League.
There has been no talk from the organization about moving Castro anywhere. It appears that Theo, etc. are interested in seeing him play shortstop under their tutelage, between an merely ordinary third baseman and (the same mediocre) second baseman, and with another year of wisdom? I suppose that is fair, and with all the other changes going on with this rebuilding movement, one less moving part to deal with is welcome. Furthermore, there are no ready replacements available in the minors. Junior Lake is at least a year away, and he may be no better in the field. Javier Baez, the #8 SS prospect according to BP, is already being discussed as a 3B candidate. Behind him, our best fielding shortstop prospect is Marco Hernandez, who is 18 and a Class A player this season.
So, now the notion of Castro playing at least another year at short seems more reasonable. Knowing he doesn't have to cover ground all the way to the foulline, will he be a bit more effective up the middle? Will the day-to-day experience of being a Cub be more compelling, so he can stop daydreaming about whatever it is Castro daydreams about? (I figure he is daydreaming about some Aztec goddess of love he saw on the side of a van on the way over to the park. THASS RAYCESS. Maybe he's just watching one of the seagulls fly around).
Once again, we have to trust that our new and improved front office has watched the tapes, done the due diligence, and likes something about the whole Castro as Shortstop experience. Even more than sitting on my hands watching all the good free agents go by, waiting for Starlin to be a good shortstop is gonna take even MORE of our patience, dear readers.
I hope he can keep his ass out of jail.