There is a reason that I didn't jump on this story right away, and that has to do with passing judgment. If you were out and about today and didn't check your Twitter, Starlin Castro apparently was involved in yet another questioning session in association with yet another shooting incident in his native Dominican Republic. You can check out the details elsewhere (h/t Cubs Den and Bleacher Nation) but suffice it to say that Starlin didn't pull a trigger and isn't in legal trouble.
The "passing judgment" thing I refer to above is something that humans are very good at. In the information age, where Twitter helps snippets of news spread like wildfire, everyone who is connected to the internet hungers for instantaneous news in 140-character chunks and will use those snippets to jump to conclusions. As more details come into light, the conclusions will morph to fit the bits of information that are released, but by then a narrative has been formed and one can quickly assess who has already made up their minds. In many ways, we are all guilty of this, myself included.
With this incident involving Starlin Castro, though, we had to sift through snippets of alarming information that were rushed out via a foreign news service and which had to pass through a language filter, particularly for those of us who aren't fluent in Spanish (I took French and forgot most of it). Before and after Castro's agent clarified some of the details, reactions across Cubs Twitter ranged from apologists for Castro's indirect involvement in something that may not even have been his fault (signs suggest it wasn't his fault) to blasting Castro for daring to get himself into situations like that in the first place. As if that wasn't enough hyperbole, then we had the folks saying something to the tune of "Castro's days are numbered" and pining for replacements in the form of Javier Baez, among others. Never mind the fact that Starlin Castro is a 3-time All-Star who, y'know, isn't atrocious at baseball and Javy struck out like 42% of the time in his debut season (he'll get better); the hot-shot prospect is just going to step in and make everything better. But I digress.
There's only so much we can give Starlin leeway for, and we're merely fans; the media will shape the narrative, and the Cubs franchise will determine whether this is detrimental to his services to the team. But while we can all say, "Hey, Starlin, maybe you shouldn't go clubbing anymore," we still don't know all the details as the story is getting updated all the time. As far as I can tell, the Cubs have no official comment yet. We don't know whether Starlin was arrested, detained, or went in of his own free will (sounds like the last one is true based on his agents' statements). We don't know for sure that Starlin wasn't at fault, even though the police suggested that video evidence cleared him of any wrongdoing (that was from the agent, too). But I really don't like how some factions of Cubs Twitter had already anointed Starlin as the bad guy, talked about his questionable lifestyle, and traded him to the Mets for prospects. That seemed like an overreaction to me.
That isn't to say that Castro shouldn't figure out a better environment for himself and his family to be in. Kicking aside the notion that he should avoid guns and bullets at all costs, it sounds like the Dominican Republic is no longer a hospitable place for Starlin Castro. In a phone conversation with Jon Heyman, Castro's agent had this to say:
Kinzer suggested Castro's status as a wealthy celebrity makes him a target in his homeland, and that he needs to leave there. The agent said Cubs people are advising the same, though the team hasn't yet commented.
"He's got to move. He's got to get out of there," Kinzer said. "It's a shame. That's his home. But he's got to get out."
Kinzer said there have been continuous baseless attempts to extract money from Castro, who signed a $60 million-plus, six-year deal in the summer of 2012.
"He's been sued for everything," Kinzer said of the three-time All-Star. "They're thinking if they can tie Starlin Castro to it, he's got to give them money."
Ultimately it is up to Starlin Castro himself to remove himself from trouble, but given the proximity and severity of some of these incidents, he might not take too much more convincing to alter his vacationing options in the offseason. Whether it was his fault or not (I tend to think it wasn't his fault based on the information that's been released), he needs to be mindful of his stature as a famous professional athlete who makes lots of money and the fact that he is a very convenient target, particularly in his impoverished home country where strange stuff seems to be happening to him more often than not. However, I don't think this is reflective of the content of his character nor his baseball skill, so that's where I believe people need to separate their emotions from whatever facts of the case are available to us.
UPDATE 8:25 PM: So officially, it wasn't Starlin's fault:
The Dominican General of National police has cleared Chicago Cub Shortstop Starlin Castro of any involvement in recent shooting incident
— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) December 28, 2014