Diamondbacks handling of Justin Upton should serve as cautionary tale for Starlin Castro

Bob Brenly may be gone, but he is left one legacy with the Cubs.  That would be the hyper-focus on anything and everything Starlin Castro did that he didn’t like.  He was the heir apparent to the the spot formerly reserved for Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano.   It didn’t matter if it was a physical error or a mental error, Brenly was on it.  If Castro looked over his shoulder as he ran the bases, Brenly would make sure to spend a minute of our broadcast time on that.  If Brenly didn’t like Castro’s “body language” he was sure to point it out to you.  And if Castro took a second to admire a long blast, we should get a couple of different looks at it until people were talking about that as much as the HR itself.  I was disappointed to see Cubs color man Jim Deshaies and David Kaplan continue that narrative because it further fuels the perception.

These little quirks/imperfections we harp on are things that many baseball players do.  I don’t necessarily like them but they are part of the game.  What I don’t like is the imbalance of the reporting.  If you point it out every time for Castro, then you have to point it out every time for everyone else, otherwise you create a skewed perception that it is Castro doing this and nobody else.  When you magnify simple errors and gloss over the many more good plays, you skew the importance of the relatively trivial over the actual production on the field.  And once this is started, it takes on a life of it’s own, we become conditioned for confirmation bias.  We will see fans point out Castro’s mistakes — and if you point out somebody else making the same error, the response is typical…”Well, Castro does this all the time.”

But does he really?  Or are we still going off the narrative created by Brenly and some other members of the media?  Could it be just be because those mistakes are consistently pointed out while others are ignored that it warps our perception of what is really happening?  Has it become that ingrained that we truly believe Castro makes exponentially more mental errors than every other player in baseball?  Because unless you are counting “mental mistakes” with every player with the same vigilance, then we lack any real context for objective comparison.  It becomes selective bias and with each mistake we count, no matter how small it is, it confirms that bias.  So unless you have a running tally for each time every player turned his head to look behind him, stared a bit longer at a HR, or made a mistake on the bases and can give us some sort of objectively measured comparative analysis, then I don’t want to hear it.

We have seen this before with Aramis Ramirez and the middle years with Alfonso Soriano.  In fact, the perception of Soriano as a selfish, lazy player was so pervasive that Theo Epstein himself had bought into it, later saying he was surprised as to how much of a positive clubhouse influence and team leader he was.  He didn’t get to know the real situation until he saw it up close.  And then it took a lot of time before he could convince other teams that the original narrative was false, finally getting the Yankees to take him on – and even then it was reportedly an ownership decision and against Cashman’s wishes.  Not surprisingly, Soriano led the Yankees and gave them some hope down the stretch last season.

So, if you don’t think this selectively biased criticism of Castro is harmful, think again. Perception is everything.

Perhaps a better example of how this hurt a team was the Arizona Diamondbacks and Justin Upton.  Upton was the D’Backs version of Castro in that he took an undue amount of criticism for a perceived attitude, lack of effort, mental errors, failure in the clutch, and so-called bad body language.  In the D’Backs case it was even implicitly backed up their own manager, the grinder-loving Kirk Gibson.  He made it clear that Upton didn’t fit his mold.

Yet, just like Cubs fans, the D’Backs assumed that nobody else would notice or care about their inner perceptions and that teams would be prepared to offer a king’s ransom for their young all-star.  But just like Soriano’s reputation preceded him when Theo came to Chicago, Upton’s reputation was well established around the league, so that when the D’Backs asked for a big return, teams scoffed, knowing that the D’Backs were more than ready to move on.  The Diamondbacks and their fans also made it known they were largely unconcerned about losing their star outfielder because they had tremendous young depth in the outfield.  And not just depth, but players that they believed were a better fit for the team’s culture.

Sound familiar?

After two years of trying to trade him, the D’Backs finally found a partner in the shrewd Atlanta Braves.  Not only were the Braves able to trade for Upton for pennies on the dollar, only giving up one year of Martin Prado, overvalued pitching prospect Randall Delgado, RHP prospect Zeke Sprull, and SS prospect Nick Ahmed — but they also got another player “thrown in” in Chris Johnson, who wound up starting for them at 3B.

So Cubs fans who are weary of Castro and want to see him traded — and even those who have passively approved of the idea — those who are becoming complicit by their resignation to the inevitability, I give you fair warning: Don’t be surprised if you are tremendously disappointed in the return if the Cubs force a trade (I don’t think they will).  The word I’m getting is that the perception around the league, even though it is a false perception, is that the Cubs are down on Castro  despite the resurgent season. There is a belief outside the organization that trading him is inevitable. My feeling is that just like teams did with Upton, they will attempt to wait out the Cubs until the price comes down.

Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks have little to show for their return so far while Upton and his “bad, selfish attitude” have thrived in Atlanta — but it’s funny that you haven’t heard about that so-called attitude since he’s been traded.  Maybe some of that is better PR from the Braves — or maybe the narrative about Upton in Arizona was horribly wrong.  I tend to think that the latter is true in this case.

And that Diamondbacks’ outfield?  Well, things haven’t worked out quite as planned.  David Peralta, Ender Inciarte, and Alfredo Marte are the starters right now after the trades of Adam Eaton and Geraldo Parra, the fall of Jason Kubel, the injury to AJ Pollock.  They’ve been okay, but none of them can come close to matching Upton’s production and the D’Backs have been hurt by his loss.  Towers is now gone and Gibson should soon follow, but the damage has already been done.

So while I don’t see Castro as a star or a perfect player at this point, he has been a productive offensive SS, ranking in the top 5 in offensive stats such as wOBA and RC+ all year long while improving his defense, committing just 15 errors while generating positive value on defense.  He had his 3rd all-star season and was well on his way to his third 3+ WAR season.  Unfortunately, if you ask some people, you don’t hear about that, you hear about the narrative.

And don’t be surprised if that narrative ends up hurting the Cubs if they do trade Castro, don’t be shocked when he thrives elsewhere and you suddenly don’t hear so much about all the little things that seemingly happened “all the time”.  Don’t be amazed that Castro winds up being the best player with the best career in any deal that involves him.

I trust that this front office will be more shrewd than the D’Backs and if they can’t get what they want for Castro that they’ll simply hang on to him as he selfishly provides top 5 offensive production from the SS and makes a few more all-star teams.

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  • Absolutely fantastic article.

  • In reply to Mike Byrns:

    Indeed.

  • In reply to Mike Byrns:

    Like it or not, Castro is the face of the franchise. If theFO in its wisdom devcides to trade him, It had better be for a franchise playr at the Lester.or Lackey level, or there will be a pile of unhappy fans.

  • In reply to BLOOMIE1937:

    Lackey level?

  • In reply to stix:

    Bloomie was having a lot of typing issues. Let's just assume that he meant a trade for an established TOR arm.

  • Great work here. He's one of the best SS in the league. Period. Tired of people trying to run him out of town.

  • In reply to IThrewSomeRocks:

    The people running him down are his employers. They've drafted a zillion Shortstops since he was first an all-star. One has tyop wonder what they're thinking.

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    In reply to BLOOMIE1937:

    Um, no they haven't. Baez was drafted BEFORE Theoyer got to town. Russell was acquired in trade. Please name me even ONE of these zillion shortstops they've drafted.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Mike... the old fool continues to make an idiot of himself with his comments. He's *only* worth ignoring!

  • In reply to BLOOMIE1937:

    Even if they had drafted a zillion shortstops, which isn't true, it wouldn't mean they were running him down. It would mean that they see value in those players, who they could use to play other positions or trade for positions of need once the drafted player was developed more and proven to be able to play at the big league level.

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    A problem here is that there is a non-negligible chance that even with +3 WAR from Castro, he could theoretically be hurting their lineup in 2-3 years if they get the kind of production they hope for from the young infielders.

    I like Castro and I feel he's paid his dues on losing teams to the point where he's "earned" a spot on some winning teams, but I also hope that the "unfocused player" narrative doesn't hurt them if he is the guy they decide to move.

  • In reply to Nathan King:

    Couldn't disagree more on "non-negligible" chance. There are statistics and studies to show the probability of a position prospect amounting to a 3+ WAR player is less than 10% probability. So you're basically saying that 3 separate prospects will be 3+ WAR players = .1 x .1 x .1. That is a very small probability that Castro is pushed out by a prospect.

  • In reply to Nathan King:

    Statistically speaking, and based on a long term study of BA top 100 prospects, there is a .1% chance that 3 of the Cubs IF prospects all become 3+ WAR players. That's point 1 % or 10 bps. That sounds negligible to me. Also, apologies if this doubles up due to the pesky "comment must be approved error".

  • In reply to Cubswin4harry:

    actually for top 10 BA prospects the odds go up considerably. I'm trying to remember it was something like a 40% chance they have a 10 WAR+ career. But your point is valid. Those odds still aren't great that all 3 hit.

  • In reply to SenatorMendoza:

    Yeah I'm not sitting in front of it. I actually meant 3WAR/year, but your point is a good one.

    It's REALLY unusual to have a 10+WAR CAREER, something Castro may have already accomplished at age 25 or whatever.

    To think its certain, likely, or even remotely possible that ALL 3 prospects perform better than he does, is quite frankly completely foolish, yet everyone seems to assume this will be the case.

  • John, you are exactly correct. I am hopeful that the FO is smarter than the media critics, and they will continue to encourage Castro as he becomes a centerpiece on the teams to come. You can't teach what he has, and his best years are still ahead of him. Just watch the offense since he went down, and you'll see how badly the "young guns" miss his presence (and of course Rizzo's) in the lineup. Trading him would be a huge mistake, unless someone really overpays.

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    Good POV on Starlin, and he wouldnt be the first guy that this has happened to. Under-appreciated at his home and then realize how good he is someplace else. If you look at his first 2 years in the league, you had much more established hitters like Soriano, Derrick Lee, Aram, Pena, Byrd in those lineups. While those hitter's production wasn't gang busters, they did have historical track records.

    My point is, what would Starlin's production be in a better lineup. His approach bothers me, swings at a lot of 1st pitchers, not enough line drives in general, lots of ground ball outs. Not the greatest situational hitter (e.g. sac fly or ground out for RBI). But in a lineup surrounded by Rizzo, Bryant, Soler, eventually Russell and Baez (once he figures it out). could be amazing. I dont think his value will ever been that high, cause of his average D and could move off SS and doesnt have tier A hit tool. I would hold onto him and see how he performs in a better lineup and when we have a glut players, unless you can get an equal long term asset for him.

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    Great article and I completely agree. If certain people in the media wants to be talking about trading a shortstop, it shouldn't be Starlin Castro.

    If they were truly smart, they would actually hype the hell out of Starlin, inflate his value, and thus get teams to offer more perceived value then Theo truly believes Castro is worth. That will be the easiest way to get him out of town. ( assuming that's what they want)

    Theo w his seemingly endless rope, he feels almost no pressure to win ie force a move so he will not sell Castro for pennies on the dollar.

    In unrelated notes, no surprise, congrats to Minor league player of the year, Kris Bryant !!!

  • Backup QB syndrome.

  • In reply to dumbass:

    Bingo. Nice analogy.

  • What do Ramirez, Soriano, and Castro have in common other than being good players and teammates. Answer: 400ft singles.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I imagine if you look hard you would find David Ortiz and Pujols plus others in that group.
    So that proves what? They don't go full out on every play? I would love to see him hustle every play but other than a perception and a few more bases, I'm not sure what impact it has on the team. Everyone else will hustle? Most of them better because they aren't good enough not to.

  • In reply to stix:

    It makes all the difference in the world to a contender. Each game has meaning. Each play within those games has meaning.
    What happens if you get thrown out at third after looking over your shoulder and then lose the game?
    The little things actually are of major importance. Isn't that what the "Cubs Way" is all about?

  • Excellent as usual, John.

  • nods approvingly to this entire post.

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    The kid is a grinder. He's had to learn on the job since he was 19 in one of the toughest media markets in the country. Plays hurt, doesn't make excuses, provides top 5 offense at his position, has been working hard to improve his defense and seemingly has potential for much more, what more do people want from him? I would love to see him as our starting shortstop in game 1 of a world series game. By the way John have the cubs offered you a job yet?

  • In reply to Restless:

    Yea he really is..he may not hustle on every single play or he may have the occasional mental lapse put it's clear he wants to play every single game of a long ass season. He has stated on many occasions how one if his top goals is to play every game each season. Reports were that he was pushing to come back in even after the high ankle sprain. The kid loves playing and I think we nitpick a bit too much because we don't want to see that amazing potential but in reality what he has done his first few seasons has been done by a handful of shortstops in cubs history.

  • Absolutely spot-on comparison to Upton and his situation.

    Is Castro the best 'long-term' fit for SS for the Cubs? Maybe not - but maybe so.

    Even if he's not the best fit for the Cubs long-term at SS - and proves to be a solid 2B, 3B or OF option for the Cubs - is that a bad thing? A guy who might consistently give you a >0.280 BA, >0.320 OBP, 15-20 HR, 30-40 2B and >150 Hits is never a bad thing to have.

    Regardless - even IF he gets pushed out of the Cubs roster by some combination of Baez, Alcantara, Russell, Bryant or some as yet unacquired pieces,.... you never want to sell low on a guy that could easily play 10+ more years and be pushing 3000 hits by the time his career ends.

  • In reply to drkazmd65:

    If Castro keeps playing around where he did this season and he's only the 5th best hitter on the team it's a good problem to have.

  • Hate to say it , but non-white players get more bad impressions
    from the fans and media. I don't think they do this in a hateful way

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    sadly, I agree. thankfully we have Theo running the show and not Towers. I'm also glad we've got Ricky behind the bench, Sveum seemed to be cut from the Brenly mold.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    You're kidding, right?

  • Castro is quite a bit above an average defensive shortstop, and is improving every year. His three selections to the All Star Game were not unearned. He is one of the better shortstops in baseball.

    He could be better. I wish he would run out every play. I wished the same for just about everyone that has ever played the game.

    If we improve the team by trading him, I hope they trade him. The same goes for Baez, Bryant and Soler.

  • Excellent! Starlin isn't without fault and neither is anyone else. We just hear more about his. Another thing that he has in common with Soriano and Ramirez is that you never heard any of them trying to defend themselves. They took it like a true professional and continued to do their jobs as best they could.

  • ...And Bob Brenly was right. And Kevin Towers was terrrrrible (how did he ever succeed in SD?). And Starlin Castro has taken a step forward this year. So Onward...and John, call a spade a spade.

  • In reply to NilesNorth:

    Niles East

  • In reply to NilesNorth:

    Brenly was a borderline racist during that time. Any white player that did the same things was a grinder or giving it his all. Not so with the latin players. If you watched the games objectively you saw it.

  • In reply to BigsmokeJ:

    If you watched the games and "objectively" determined that Brenly was a racist, you'll have some numbers to back up that vile accusation. Please post them.

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Thanks, I'd love to see those numbers/data too. Looks like selective bias on the other end of the spectrum.

  • I've noticed that JD and Len are now pretty much harping on any Cub player who doesn't run full speed.

    Not so much for the opposition... In a previous post I noted that Aramis didn't run on a DP grounder. Trotted down the line and was halfway to 1st when the DP was completed. I haven't seen ANY Cub player do that. Did Len and JD rip him?? Heck no, nary a peep.

    Yes... Cubs Not Running is their big kick these days and it started with Castro. But Harry had Whippin' Boys, too. Steve Henderson was one who Harry really didn't like.

    I clearly remember Henderson popping up and Harry yelling into the mike disgustedly "Holy cow!!! That wouldn't be a home run in a phone booth!!" Harry was always on him about something.

    Steve only lasted a couple of years in Chicago. He got traded and had a pretty good year the next season.

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    I agree with your article John about how some in the media have made Starlin the scapegoat for all that was wrong with the Cubs. I also think you may be on to something as far how our internal perception of Castro may bleed over to the rest of the league. But that's where our agreement stops.

    I'm not under any illusion that Castro's best years are ahead of him or behind him for that matter. He is what he is and that's not half bad, imo. The last I looked there are only 9 positions that can be filled on that lineup card. And over the next 12 months we could have more than 9 great players to fill those positions.

    I'm not saying Castro is being traded today, net week or next month. But if a great trade presents itself then why not jump on it when Castro worth is at a high level instead of waiting until we are in a position when his value or another SS value gets to a point where the rest of the league knows we are shopping a SS?

    I'll stay open minded to whatever presents itself and trust that this FO has the knowledge and ability to recognize a great deal if it gets presented.

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    Considering Castro is only 24, it is highly likely that he will improve over the next couple years. I don't think too many experts disagree with the idea that most players hit their prime in the second half of their twenties.

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    I feel like a broken record. The problem with your continuing assertion that a trade should be explored is that Castro represents a highly unusual and extremely favorable $/WAR ratio. There aren't very many (any??) trades that are remotely reasonable. He will cost approximately $3mm/WAR for the duration of his contract. This assumes status quo (very conservative assumption) for the remainder of his contract. It could actually be much less than that if he improves, as most late 20's players do. The cost per FA WAR is approximately $6-7mm. see?

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    With all due respect to everyone, I do not agree. I don't think that Castro has been unduly picked on by Brenly or Deschais. The announcers for the Cubs, including Kasper, mention when others fail to hustle or stand in the batters box and don't run hard. Alcantara got some well-deserved heat the other day for failing to hustle after a ball got hit over his head. Nor do non-white players get more abuse. Does anyone remember Todd Hundley or Randy Meyers or Dave Smith or the series of bad third basemen before Aramis, not to mention countless failed pitchers? I even remember the abuse Don Young that basically drove him from the game. No, I'm not buying into a blame the announcers game. Besides, if you are the star players like Castro and others, more is expected of you. Do you recall Sandberg and Dawson not playing hard? Castro is a good player, as was Ramirez and Soriano, but when they don't hustle, the broadcast crew should say so.

  • In reply to Terry Huebner:

    true... except that (especially with Brenly) when Starlin does hustle, it's never pointed out. Only the mistakes. If you're going to criticize, you need to compliment as well. Also, other players that he did praise, he never criticized when they made mental errors or mistakes.

    This proverbial double standard created for Starlin is what I have an issue with.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I'm not trying to defend Brenly (or others), but some people are more wired towards seeing and offering correctives than reaffirmations. Just like some people are more wired towards handing out affirmations and never offering constructive criticism.

    Also, maybe to Brenly and others, the mindset is that there should be no reason to reaffirm someone in what they should be doing. For instance, when my four year old daughter goes potty on the potty, I don't reaffirm her like I do my two year old....

    And of course, perhaps some of it is that we have unrealistic expectations for our leaders and captains to be "perfect."

    Just throwing in a couple cents.

  • In reply to cubbie steve:

    Exactly. You're not going to compliment hustle more than criticitize lack of hustle it's because that's what you're supposed to do.

    You don't get complimented on doing your job unless it's extraordinary but you might get criticized if you mess up. It's the way of the world.

    The mental lapses are fewer and fewer but the most annoying thing is when he does make one his backers have to then point out every single time he doesn't make one for the next week.

    "Hey Starlin hit the ball off the wall and got to 2nd. Take that Brenly!"

  • In reply to Cubbie Sam:

    "The mental lapses are fewer and fewer but the most annoying thing is when he does make one his backers have to then point out every single time he doesn't make one for the next week."

    True, the Castro backers go into full idiot mode for at least a week.

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I disagree with this. The accolades come frequently for these guys and they're making millions. Some broadcasters get a bug up their behind about certain guys that rub them the wrong way and Castro has been victimized by that, but certainly he has been praised for his accomplishments.

    I've never had too much of an issue with Castro's hustle, but regardless of what Bob said Soriano drove me crazy. Obviously, he did a lot of good things as John points out, but the posing in the box and ending up with a single when you should have had a double is hard to defend. I don't care how many players are doing it, if your team isn't that's an edge you can have on your opponents. I'm guessing teams like the Cardinals have fewer instances of this. Could be wrong.

  • In reply to Gregory Shriver:

    Do the Cardinals have posers and guys who don't hustle? That's an interesting question. They seem to have had quite a few gamers. Interesting.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    An announcer shouldn't have to point out that a player is hustling. It should go without saying. The very fact that it has to be pointed out is an indictment on the player and maybe the state of the game.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Why should a player be praised when they hustle? I guess if they get an additional base out of it maybe, to highlight the importance of hustling. Hustling should be the norm, expected, it's not something that should stand out as above the norm and deserve praise.

    If Castro hustled out a double that should have been a single, Brenly (or Len and JD) would have credited Castro. Again, you are just providing and example of your own selection bias.

  • In reply to Terry Huebner:

    Please notice the discrepency of talent between those white players and the non white players. The white guys were terrible. Hundley and Smith were two of the worst FA decisions this organization has ever made. Myers didn't hear much the couple of years he was productive. They were not abused because they didn't hustle. They were abused because they were soul crushingly awful. Any player that performs as poorly as those guys will hear it from fans, whether they are Dave Smith or Mel Rojas.

    Meanwhile, the productive players I can remember who received constant over scrutiny all share one thing in common: Castro, Soriano, Ramirez, Jacque Jones, Latroy Hawkins, etc.

    I rarely listen to the broadcasters anymore, but has Chris Coghlan taken any flack for his terrible routes and jumps in the OF? I'm guessing no.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    I'll give you one name; Andre Dawson. He played the game the right way and I don't recall anyone picking on him. Play the game hard and your shortcomings as a player have a tendency to be overlooked.

  • In reply to AggBat:

    No one is saying a non white player cannot be beloved. Dawson, Sweetness, MJ, on and on. That isn't the issue.

    The issue is there is a double standard. White guys just need to be good or be bad and try hard. Everyone else needs to be good and "play the game the right way" in order to be respected.

    Jay Cutler is the only white athlete I can think of that has to deal with the same scrutiny as Castro, and Cutler's attitude and inconsistency issues go way beyond anything Castro has had issues with, yet Cutler usually only has to deal with the scrutiny when his play does not hold up.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    If you are saying that Castro was his own worse enemy early on and now even the slightest metal screw-up is blown out of proportion, then I'll agree. I won't blame a double standard on prejudice. I'm sure there are some who still have a problem with the color of a man's skin, but thankfully they appear to be in the minority today. I'll say it again until I'm Cubbie blue in the face; all Starlin needs to do is hustle. He's improved in every facet of the game, including the cerebral side of the game. I don't expect him or any other player on the team to be perfect, but I expect every single one of them to hustle. Renteria should expect the same.

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    Good thing Upton got out of that toxic environment and got his career back on track.

  • Amen, John. The Cubs last road trip to NY coincided with the crest of the NY media frenzy over which SS the Cubs would fall all over themselves to cough up in exchange for their least favorite Mets pitcher. I was shocked to see on Mets.com the negative comments on Castro in the comment sections. Mets fans didn't want him at all, even on what we would consider a ridiculous underpay. It's as though they were all standing around the water cooler on the day after Bobby Valentine's infamous bums rush. Cubs fans have really fouled their own drinking water with this one. Castro is a very valuable player and I hope he won't be moved absent a return of comparable value. Russell? Everyone on Mets.com loves Russell because everyone loves the guy they've never seen before.

  • So if castro ever does get traded; and I believe that is NOT a given... who goes under the microscope then? Rizzo, Baez, Soler?... Seems as though some just hard happy unless they have a villain to nitpick...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Maybe someone needs to point out the faults of a few of the media types. Since when are they immune to criticism?

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Whoever doesn't consistently hustle. Fans seem to have little tolerance for the millionaire player who does not hustle.

  • John,
    I don't comment much but I feel like I need to on this article. I love reading your material and so do many others. I think, IMHO, this is the best article you've written over the past two years that I've been reading along. Brenly always had a whipping boy and in his own "tell it like it is" style, he jumped on Castro. I wonder who is whipping boy in Arizona is? I certainly hope members of the Cubs brass read this as it's outstanding. Keep up the good work.

  • I can't imagine where my head would be had I recently lost close friends and relatives in a car crash. Give the kid a break. Sure, his gaffes aren't only limited to that week, but how many big plays has he made, how many big hits does he have to get for the media and fans to back off? He gets more flack than Gonzalez did for dropping the biggest dp ball in cubs history. Castro was on the fringe of making this years AS game, what does he do since? .380 in August is not too shabby. IMO, this guy is untouchable until contract decisions have to be made

  • In reply to Tnighter88:

    OK, untouchable is a bit extreme, but it better take something pretty substantial

  • In reply to Tnighter88:

    True. 88 gonzalez botched a tailor made dp n to this day few call him out for it.
    As for Castro Brenly didn't like him and he let it be known by how he road him. But if his riot buddy made the same error he was a gamer.

  • In reply to BigsmokeJ:

    I've been calling Gonzalez out for that for decades now. He's lucky the Bartman thing happened or he'd be Chicago's mini version of Buckner.

  • Just a few thoughts:

    There is definitely confirmation bias going on in the Castro "narrative."

    To be honest, I have kind of gotten annoyed with your "extreme" reaction to the EXTREME criticism Castro gets. I understand that now days, that's how society operates. That if we actually go to them middle ground where truth and logic prevail that the other side won't gravitate towards that middle, but at best will move to a middle ground between the middle ground and their extreme position. But I still get annoyed nonetheless. And honestly, those at that extreme are probably unwilling to hear your quite rational, yet "extreme" response simply because it appears that you're unwilling to acknowledge that Starlin does have mental lapses and that he does have things to work on. I know you know that, but I doubt they see you acknowledging that, which in turn allows them to keep ignoring your pleas of logic.

    Comparing the criticism directed at Castro to others to point out a double-standard is fine. Comparing Castro's mistakes/mental lapses/etc to others as justification for not being critical of him is not. That just makes it relative. Are we waging against the machine of old-school grinding and stats and tradition? That's really how it comes off as. That it is no longer about playing "the right way," and that there is in fact no longer a "right way."

    In the end, I think a lot of the current criticism and heightened scrutiny could be rooted in the fact that this team has a lot of young players, and people want them to have great role models helping them develop and "play the 'right way.'" I could be wrong, but it is just a thought.

    Lastly, if that narrative is that prevalent out in the industry, that is scary and obviously harmful if the Cubs do wish to trade Castro in the future. However, isn't it just as likely that those in the industry see the Cubs stockpiling shortstops? And then see that the Cubs have a still young, 3 time All-Star VET who is signed long-term and to a team-friendly contract...and think: "This guy is the most likely trade chip! His value is off the charts!"? Not to mention, you've listed two players in Soriano and Upton who should give opposing GMs a healthy dose of skepticism at buying into "the narrative."

    I trust this front office to make the best decisions for the Cubs going forward. I like to see players play the right way. I have no desire to nitpick at Castro or to hear others attack him. But he does make mistakes. He is a leader, whether de facto or not. Can we just acknowledge these things and move on?

    Anyway, I appreciate the post..and the different angle at coming at this topic, even if the topic is starting to wear on me.

  • Starlin's biggest problem is the expectations that were placed on him because of his extremely early success and the fact that he was the only position prospect the Cubs had produced in a long time that had a chance to be an above average major leaguer. People are disappointed because they assumed he'd be prime Hanley Ramirez right now. That's not fair, but it's realistic, and it informs the narrative. The attitude I read from the 'trade Castro' crowd is that "maybe if he just worked harder, he'd become the MVP candidate we all expected him to be."

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    I agree with you that Castro has been unfairly targeted. I don't think he's Charlie Hustle, but I've never really had an issue with his effort day in and day out.

    However, I will say that if the Cubs are going to become a consistent winner, the team's best players are going to have to set the tone and police everybody. In this day and age, the manager is not going to be able to demand it and have it be so. It has to come from the players getting on each other.

    Along those lines, if Castro and Rizzo are going to be the leaders, they need to lead by example. So no, I don't think John Baker should be scrutinized the same as Starlin Castro. But Anthony Rizzo should.

  • In reply to Gregory Shriver:

    Agreed. I love Rizzo, but the media rarely says anything negative about him. He failed to cover first a month or so ago, which allowed the winning run to score, and it wasn't mentioned in the postgame. Castro doesn't hustle out of the box and gets a single instead of a double and the media goes crazy, when there is no guarantee he would have scored on Soler's hit anyways. Yet Kaplan goes absolutely mental about Castro's lack of focus and how he cost them the game. All I want is everyone to be held to the same standards, especially players like Castro and Rizzo who are roughly the same age and equally important for the Cubs future.

  • John, I agree with a lot of what you say here. I will also lay the blame on any media and fans that touted Castro as the "Face" and/or "Cornerstone" of the franchise over the past few seasons.

    There was so much undo expectations on Castro that it was unfair to his development as well as his mental approach. It wasn't his fault that he was brought up to the Cubs before his development was complete.

    I have been as critical of Castro's play in the past as much as anyone. But my frustration came from the hyper expectations placed on him. I always said to just let him play. As a SS, I'll take his .280, 15 HR and 80 RBI any day of the week.

    Now that there are new prospects graduating to the Cubs and the winds are changing at Wrigley, Castro can focus on being a better ball player and helping the Cubs become a World Series champion.

    I for one, hope the Cubs keep Castro. There is no other player that deserves to win a World Series in Chicago more than he does. He hasn't experienced how awesome Wrigley Field is during a pennant race. His time (I hope) is coming.

  • Excellent article, John. I'm very glad that you wrote it. Some people need "whipping boys". Some in the media need it in order to have something to print and the rest of their well is dry. Some fans need it because something is wrong in their personal life and they need to redirect that problem. However, whatever the reason, needing a whipping boy is not productive. Right now, based on performance, Starlin is the best SS that we have. The fact of the matter is he is also a darn good one. Two thirds of the other MLB teams would love to have him, because they have nothing close to him. And I truly believe that a good SS can play any other position except P and C. So if we end up with former shortstops at 3B, 2B, in any OF spot, or at 1B, or any combination of these, we're going to have one heckuva defense. We already have a really good one at SS.

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    Actually, I think maybe that Deschais has grown a little sensitive to the notion that he picks on Castro. Just prior to his injury, Deschais seemed to be almost going out of his way to praise Castro for the couple of games after that series of mistakes that people were commenting on. Perhaps JD is a follower of this blog.

  • Great article John...lucky for all of us it seems as if Theo and Company know what they have in Castro. They will not trade him for nothing, if they even trade him at all. They are not swayed by idiot managers like Kirk Gibson (or Sveum), idiot media like everyone in town, or idiot fans who eat up all the crap the idiot media pushes on them about Castro.

    Even though he was from the previous regime, and up in the majors producing well before Epstein arrived, I will always view Castro as a turning point for this organization. An actual prospect who came up and showed us something. He's not perfect, he certainly doesn't fit into the new approach Theo has when scouting players, but he has become a reliable player.

  • I've noticed quite a few times where Rizzo has made dumb errors, watched long fly balls that didn't get out, or made base running mistakes but he's never once been labeled as a lazy or dumb player. I hate to interject it, but when was the last time a white player was called lazy or dumb or subjected to the scrutiny guys like Castro, Soriano, and Ramireze faced?

  • In reply to Ike03:

    How about the Valbuena bat flips? What has he done that has earned him less scrutiny than Castro?

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    In reply to Ike03:

    Do people really call Castro lazy and dumb? That seems like a strawman to me. Castro is a very good player. He's arguably the best player on the team. Those players are often criticized until they win a championship. I remember people used to say, "Michael Jordan is a great player, but he doesn't make HHS teammates better.'" It drive me nuts, but he survived.

  • In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    I have heard many people criticize Castro's intelligence level based on plays that have been discussed here.

  • In reply to Gunther Dabynsky:

    I have heard that too. Thankfully not as much lately, but definitely have seen it.

  • In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    Yes, they do all the time. Dave Kaplan talked about it for hours on the post game and then the next day on his radio show after Castro didn't run hard out of the box on his fly ball that hit off the wall. As was talked about, Brenly talked about every mistake Castro made and every time Aramis didn't run hard out of the box.

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    In reply to Ike03:

    Wow. That's lame. He's obviously not lazy or dumb. I do think there is a tendency for a team's star player to get criticized, though. I'm old enough to remember people calling Terry Bradshaw dumb.

  • In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    I think his youth had a lot to do with his issues. Dave Kaplan is also a really annoying Cubs fans in a lot of ways. I love having a passionate fan in the media like that, but there is a lot of meathead to him.

  • In reply to Cubs Win 009:

    I wouldn't call him lazy. He has improved in almost every facet of the game this year, so obviously he's willing to put the work in. What he does is pace himself. I call it a lack of hustle, but I've never played a 162 game MLB season. Maybe you need to pace yourself. But, guys that hustle usually get a pass, even on mental mistakes, because, "at least he was hustling".

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    In reply to Ike03:

    Yes, I think Rizzo is the best comparison to use if there is a double standard. Those guys need to be the leaders. They need to hustle and demand that others do.

    And again, I'm not saying either player appears to me to not be going all out. Just saying with all these rookies coming up, they need to set the tone. I have no problem with them being held to a high standard, but it shouldn't be a double standard for Rizzo vs. Castro.

  • John, I agree with you analysis, but perhaps the focus shouldn't be on what Brenley or Kaplan or JD or others say about Castro. It should be on what the Cubs -- or any other team -- are willing to turn a blind eye to, what they are willing to accept and put up with.

    I haven't heard much about the "Cubs Way" lately or the thick book they put together on the "Cubs Way" to be used at all levels of the organization. But I I hope that book says the Cubs expect a player to hustle ALWAYS. They need to tell Castro and everyone else, if you don't do that, your sitting down and/or getting yanked. Period.

    Now I say this as one of Castro's biggest supporters. Mental and physical errors are can be forgiven, but not hustling is unacceptable and should be unforgivable. If if we have to "give up value" as a cost for enforcing a hustle-all-the-time rule, well it may be worth the investment.

  • In reply to TTP:

    Agree 100% with you, TTP. My hope with RR is that he addresses these things with the players privately but firmly. He's right to abstain from public commentary but one wonders if he isn't too 'blue-ribbon' oriented? I'm not saying we should find the next Leo Durocher, but a little motivation by way of a swift kick in the pants is not always a bad idea. There's no crying in baseball.

  • In reply to TTP:

    You would trade a top 5 offensive shortstop to make a point? Did you know Rizzo has made twice as many TOOTBLANS as Castro? I can recall three times this year Rizzo was late covering first base. Do you think we should trade him too?

    This is a great take on Castro by John, but I disagree with one thing. I believe Castro is a star. At 24. There is no rush to trade him, and there's NO reason to trade him for less than full value plus some.

    Trading Castro this offseason sets the Franchise back because we don't have a sure replacement.

  • In reply to djriz:

    Don't see where TTP advocated for trading the guy. Just a firmer understanding that lack of hustleis made an aaccountable offense

  • In reply to Tnighter88:

    I must of misinterpreted this:

    "If if we have to "give up value" as a cost for enforcing a hustle-all-the-time rule, well it may be worth the investment."

  • In reply to djriz:

    I too think Castro is a star. Same with Rizzo. And I hope they play their entire career with the Cubs. If a "star" player isn't hustling, guess what, he's not a star. Hopefully, it won't come to it, but someway somehow, the Cubs need to draw the line and, while I definitely aint saying trade either now, they got to make an example of someone at some point.

  • Look, the guy has made some errors people. Through his age 24 season, he made an error for every 13th ball hit his way.... Wait, this is about Starlin Castro? Oh, I thought we were discussing Bob Brenly. Because he was in Single A when he was Castro's age. Castro, on the other hand, is a year away from his 1,000th professional hit, a solid fielder and becoming a mentor. Brenly was older, wiser, more mature, he made the show.

    Anyway, here's a link to a fun article about Brenly. The best part is at the end:

    http://www.elysianfielders.com/the-100-bob-brenly-98/

    "Back in his playing days, Brenly was a catcher, but manager Roger Craig would sometimes use him at first or third (just as Craig would on occasion later use Kevin Mitchell and, still later, Matt Williams, at short). While playing third in a game against Atlanta at Candlestick on September 14, 1986, Brenley committed an error on Bob Horner’s grounder to lead off the fourth inning. He committed a second error on a groundball by Glenn Hubbard, and his third error later on the same play, allowing two runs to score. His fourth error of the inning came on a Dale Murphy groundball, and while nobody scored on that one, all four of Atlanta’s runs were unearned, thanks to Brenley tying a major-league record with four errors in one inning. But Brenley’s day was not done. He homered in the fifth, and the Giants cut the deficit to 4-2. He tied the game, 6-6, in the seventh with a two-run single. And in the bottom of the ninth, Brenley hit a walk-off home run for a 7-6 win.

    Brenly no doubt will always remember that game. He should also remember that 600 games in the minors hadn’t prevented him from committing those four errors in one inning."

    I believe Brenley is still in the record books with those four errors. If Bob were the color analyst of that game, what would he have said about himself? Huh bob? -- Also, Castro has recorded an error every 27th chance...

  • Exactly Ike it happened this year when Rizzo didn't cover 1B on a play. He made a mistake but heaven forbid it was Castro he would have the top story for Kap and others.

  • So at a certain point we, as fans, must be careful for what we ask for. The best color analysts need to be unbiased and critical in the moment to provide the richest analysis for us to enjoy the broadcast of the games. If we place some of the blame on the analyst for creating a negative narrative about players, then what is the expectation for the analyst to do their job properly?

    Agreed that Brenly perhaps overstated issues on Castro but there has been reason for the start of the narrative in the first place. Valentine over reacted but again there was cause.

    What I feel, as fans, we can hope for analysts to be fair on both the positive and negative and call it like it truly is. We hope that it stays professional but not personal. In the case of both Brenly and Valentine, we have former successful managers who both were intense in their own right. Where former managers have issues in analysis is they approach it as managers would and not as a former ballplayer. There is a sense of them trying to manage from the booth rather than call out the exact mechanics of the play. Steve Stone, the color analysis touchstone IMO, is critical yet more balanced. I feel Stone got a bad rap in the Dusty era because he saw an issue and pointed it out.

    Castro is a young 3-time all star. He has shown growth and increased maturity during the course of his career. His positives far outweigh the negatives. I would hope the analysts see it that way and report as such

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    As noted by bleachernation:

    The Cubs have an update to their top 20 prospects with Sands finding his way to #20 overall.....

    http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/prospects/watch/y2014/index.jsp?tcid=mm_mlb_players#list=chc

  • In reply to bocabobby:

    He may make my list too.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I thought Stinnett was going to be next. But hey this may light a fire under Stinnett.

  • I admit I was wrong about Castro's development from two years ago. A for sure bust out. Castro has his flaws although he can fit on a championship team. 800+ hits before age 25. His value will increase.

  • http://www.beyondtheboxscore.com/2014/9/1/6086615/starlin-castro-chicago-cubs-baseball-error-base-running

    A more in depth analysis of Castro's errors. It discusses Kaplan's analysis and where he gets it right, but also where he gets it wrong.

  • In reply to Break The Curse:

    Interesting. I think this kind of shows that there is some merit, but also some pile-on -- which is pretty much what I have been saying all along.

  • "Unfortunately, if you ask some people, you don't hear about that, you hear about the narrative."

    John - Is this really the case for the knowledgeable fan? Maybe the ignorant Cub fan does this, or the media member who's trying to drum up listeners or readership, but many of the commentators on Cubs Den who voice their complaints about Castro seem to prefix their comments with praise. I bust on Castro regularly, not because I think he isn't a good player, but because I think he is a very good player that, with improved focus, could be an excellent player.

    IMO, Castro has improved his game in just about every area this year, including his mental approach. He should be acknowledged for the improvement. But I have no problem with anyone complaining about his, or any other Cub player's, mental approach to the game. But because of his tenure and his God given physical abilities, I expect him to have a very good mental approach to the game too. It's vital to the Cubs future. Can his mental approach to the game improve more? I think that's a question the FO is contemplating. But if Starlin continues to have problems in this area, then yes he'll probably be traded and yes the return will be less. The perception will become the reality. Hopefully, he continues to improve and this will all be a moot point. How nice would it be to see Starlin smiling and spraying his teammates with champagne? A dream come true for me!

    By the way, constant hustle on his part would put much of this talk to rest. It's less likely that a player gets criticized for mental errors when he's busting his ass for you on every play. Players that hustle get a pass much of the time when they make a mistake. Now is he the only one with this issue. No. If I were the manager, unless a player had physical limitations due to injury, they would all be hustling. If not they'd be sitting. There is no defense for not hustling.

  • In reply to AggBat:

    I think the knowledgeable fan and the knowledgeable front office ignores it. But sometimes bad ownership can act like bad fans at times. Luckily for the Cubs they have an owner who will let the FO make their own decisions.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    That's true. Ricketts should be give credit for knowing what he doesn't know. If you know what I mean? :-)

  • When the last time you heard the word lazy, or similar worlds,
    applied to white players. It could that is just their style.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Ian Stewart comes to mind.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Adam Dunn, JD Drew, Nick Swisher, David Wright (2009), Bryce Harper. It could be that it is just your confirmation bias.

  • So everyone is potentially responsible if Castro does not achieve his potential except for Castro? A very interesting take. But not a very realistic one. In terms of bogus "narratives," I think beating up on announcers and members of the media as negative Cub influences is a very old "narrative" that I thought had been killed and buried with the departure of Dusty, Hendry, Stone-y, and Chip Carey. But I guess it is alive and well.

    Any player who lets media chatter get in the way of his efforts to win a championship and make millions of dollars in the process has a serious fatal flaw that would get exposed in other ways. This is not to say I think Castro thinks this way. He seems pretty resilient to the outside criticism (less so when it comes from inside the clubhouse). I also hardly see Castro being set up as a villain the way LaTroy Hawkins was or Milton Bradley was or Sosa was at the very end or Zambrano at the very end. (The fact that the only Cub villains are players of color -- with the exception of Bartman -- has always been disturbing to me, but a topic for a different day.) There is no general "get that bum out of town" attitude that I can detect. It seems to me everyone -- including Castro's "critics" -- are really pulling for him. Even those who don't see Castro as a shortstop you can ultimately win a championship with (which includes me), all seem to be rooting for the kid, if only to improve his value when you trade him for essential TOR arms.

    What often happens are the super fans won't couch any fair criticism of their favorites. Mark Grace was God. Kerry Wood deserves a special pantheon despite only 82 career wins as a starter. How can trading the best lefty set-up man in Sean Marshall possibly improve our team? Why ever contemplate trading Samardzija and his so-called ace "stuff"? Why can't we have a starting lineup in 3 years that wins the World Series and features only the current Cubs prospects we are familiar with?

    I also recall this "beat up on Brenly" narrative when Brenly dared point out what most of us former players could clearly see watching the games: Welington Castillo was a poor pitch framer. But the "narrative" was Brenly obviously had a chip on his shoulder. He wasn't helping the cause. Brenly was too old school and ignorant of advanced stats that "proved" Castillo had elite defensive skills (despite leading all NL catchers in errors and passed balls). And then lo and behold, some industrious statisticians measured pitch framing ability, and Brenly's view was statistically validated. But yet the anti-Brenly "narrative" beat goes on.

  • In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    Why am I not surprised that you answered to the little man in your head than the article itself. Par for the course.

  • In reply to SkitSketchJeff:

    I try not to say anything negative about other peoples comments and opinions, but after reading your comment I had to go back and read the article again. I can honestly say that I have no idea where you pulled the,

    "So everyone is potentially responsible if Castro does not achieve his potential except for Castro? A very interesting take." line from, but it definitely wasn't talked about in the article nor was anything that could even be construed as that. I haven't read all of the comments, but I have read a lot of them and none of the comments imply this either. Same thing goes with this one,

    "Any player who lets media chatter get in the way of his efforts to win a championship and make millions of dollars in the process has a serious fatal flaw that would get exposed in other ways."

    It just kinda seems like you created an argument so that you could have something to argue with.

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    Right now I think that Castro's value as a cost controlled 3+ WAR player who is years away from his prime is way higher for the Cubs than it is for a trade partner. His value should be that of an ACE pitcher if no one reaches that value then you work around him until this narrative passes. Other than Kaplan's outburst about his not running hard out of the box the other day Castro has pretty much been the darling of the media types this year with his bounce back.

    Even though on the surface the Justin Upton trade looks about the same there is a few huge differences. One is that Upton could not play good enough defense to be an up the middle player. He is currently playing left field and most defensive matrix say he is average at best there.

    Another is the almighty dollar. Upton was owed huge money for 2013-2015 about 15m per year. Castro is not owed 15 million any year except for his team option year of 2020 (his age 30 season).

    The last being the NTC that could let Upton move to where he wanted not necessarily where the best deal was. Atlanta is where he said he wanted traded. The Diamondbacks had been publicly shopping him for so long that they did not have any leverage left and it was definitely a buyers market.

    So while Johns point is valid in the abstract it is not totally accurate. The comparison is at most a squint and you can see it type thing.

  • In reply to Richard Hood:

    I agree with you on Castro's value. His advanced development, additional growth potential, the position he plays, and his beautiful contract should return you a package that includes a young TOR arm. I'd never trade him straight up for, for example, only the Mets' Zack Wheeler -- who doesn't have the contract Castro has, has greater serious injury potential as a pitcher, and isn't as fully established in his major league career as Castro.

    It's a great place to be for the Cubs. You have a surplus of SSs and young bats. You listen to all offers, hope a bidding war ensues this off-season to net you the multiple assets back that you desire and feel the poverty of young, cost-controlled bats deserves. But if it doesn't, no rush. As Theo/Jed have said, they hope in the next 18 months to go from sellers to buyers. They'd love to switch into buyers sooner versus later, but they have no delusions about the unlikelihood of mounting a title run next year. They are crafty card players. Love it.

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    The lack of evidence here goes both ways. There may not be a whole lot of definitive, concrete evidence allowing us to measure how often Castro makes mental errors versus how often other players do. But by that same token, I don't think we should necessarily assume that there is a confirmation bias.

    To my eye/ear, the Cubs broadcast criticizes every player who makes an egregious mental error. I recall a few weeks ago, I think it was Ryan Sweeney (or maybe Justin Ruggiano?) failed to run out a ground ball, and Len&JD were all over him for it.

    Isn't it possible that Castro simply makes more mental errors than most other players?

    Like you said and I agreed, there is no sure-fire way to measure mental errors. But here's one way you can get a pretty good idea of at least defensively, how often Castro's lost focus throughout his career: since 2010 when Castro entered the league, no qualified shortstop has a worse percentage of routine plays made -- and this is despite the fact that Castro rates average or better when it comes to making the difficult plays (fangraphs keeps this stat).

    Now, none of this is to say Castro is lazy. And I think that's a major disconnect in the media and among fans (especially casual fans). Being an airhead does not equate to being lazy.

    However, I do think Castro makes more than his fair share of mental errors, and I do think he deserves to be criticized when he doesn't run out of the box on a presumed home run that ends up bouncing off the wall. It seems like such a correctable issue, and I think that's why you see so much frustration when stuff like that happens (and it's gone a bit unheralded, but Castro has actually been a lot better not losing his focus in the field this year, or at least he had been until the string of bad plays a few weeks ago).

    But this isn't a fatal flaw, and even if Castro can never fully correct the mental errors, he can still be extremely valuable despite them.

    And any General Manager worth his salt should realize this.

  • In reply to Jason Pellettiere:

    I agree with you that TV coverage is not extra tough on Castro. They find room to criticize everywhere. They also know their most die-hard viewers want a deeper dive into the game than just a "rainbows and unicorn" assessment. Last with a team that is working on its 5th consecutive 5th place finish, it hard not to comment on the physical and mental errors.

    That said, I don't hear many people call Castro "lazy." They'll refer to lapses when he doesn't run something out. But it's not like they did with Aramis Ramirez who regularly did not run out most grounders and often was not even on the balls of his feet when a pitch was delivered. That said, Aramis was a very good hitter, worked counts, and took walks. But you took the good and the not good with him.

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    Great article. well done.
    My thoughts on Gibson...Perhaps because of his world series heroics, he is remembered as a far better player than he actually was. He played all or parts of 17 major league seasons and NEVER made an All-Star game. His career numbers (.268 avg, 255 HR, 870 RBI) are very similar to ex-Cub Rick Monday's (264 avg, 241 HR, 775 RBI mostly from the leadoff spot). The difference is Gibson is a postseason hero and by some accounts, a jackass, Monday was not only a post season hero, but an American hero and a class act as well.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    The perception of Gibson, from my vantage point when he played, was that he was a guy who hustled and busted his but for his team. Guys that hustle (or at least are perceived to be hustling) get a pass for other shortcomings. It's been that way for as long as I can remember (1969).

  • In reply to AggBat:

    Of course, fans recognize that players are human. We all have mistakes. Physical mistakes we can all accept, because we all make them. Laziness is a choice, not a mistake.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Mike, I don't think Gibson is remembered as a far better player than he really was. He is in fact remembered almost entirely for that Hobbling Homer (that's my line) he hit in the World Series. It was and is one of the greatest moments in baseball history, and deservedly so. (I just went to YouTube to relive yet again). I don't care if someone/everyone thinks he was a jackass. You do that in The Series (he could barely walk), you earn immortality. Its kinda funny that many hard nose, give your all always players seem to rub a lot of people the wrong way -- i.e, what some people thought of Peter Rose long before the gambling thing came to define him.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Thanks!

  • The Diamondbacks really did screw themselves with the way they have dealt with their talent. Trading it away is it doesn't fit the exact mold they want in a guy. Really short sighted. Bad mouthing their own guy and then trading them after that criticism has lowered his value? Stupid! I don't see the Cubs doing the same with Castro at all. They are not the Diamondbacks. I agree on Kaplan. A very pompous guy who always pissed me off with things like offering to drive guys to the airport on their way out of town. Brenly did the critisize Castro thing way too often and it got old when you saw how it appeared to affect Starlin's play. I do not agree that JD is doing the same thing though. Time will tell. The real question is what should be done about this? Should the the club fire anyone who dares to criticize? A demerit system? Three strikes you're out? Frankly I don't think the announcers can just ignore as one put it 400 foot singles. They do have a job to do and it is not to help with player development. The coaches are the ones that should be worried about being overbearing not the announcers right? Players need to be able to separate the two and not take the announcers words so personally. All these guys are pseudo adults right now. They won't learn if everything they do is just accepted.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    I generally agree with your thoughts. The thing that troubles me is that the 400 ft single was in Cincy and the fences aren'tthatdeep, are they? It was a mistake he owned it and now it's a part of his legacy.

    Is that because "good is expected" but "ungood" lives forever? How many times will the almost 400 ft single come up in the next few years?

    The next game he tries to stretch a double into a triple was just as bad but doesn't get much if any recognition since he was hustling, albeit not successfully so.

    How much better would he be if his "mental lapses" didn't occur. Not sure but I doubt not very much except for his perception by certain fans/media.

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    John,

    Thanks for the article. I remember an email conversation that you and I had about a year ago about Brenly and the bias that I (as an audience member) perceived he had towards players of color. I think Castro has improved greatly and as a 24 year old will be able to continue to improve.

    As for the Upton narrative, I think of the Yankees hype machine where their prospects always tended to be overvalued by other clubs and when they were traded away, other teams and fan bases wanted those players, because they were clearly of a higher caliber. Allowing the narrative that our pitching prospects are far behind the position players is one that should be changed.

    Enjoyed the discourse today. Crazy to see the passion and emotion for a last place team with less than 20 games to go.

  • Pete Rose's head first slide was just being a hotdog

  • i hope people see how big a black hole is the lineup with Rizzo and Castro hurt . That is good enough for me to cement these guys in future lineups

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    Good point, Bryan.

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    What am I missing? Their offense has been horrible all year--even with them in the lineup.

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    Yeah, they are missed. Truly revealing.

  • No one should be wanting to get rid of a 3 time all star shortstop who has a team friendly contract. The idea of it is really just plain stupid. Why give up young talent when that's what we have been trying to build up the last couple years? And this guy is proven!! And he's not even in his prime!! And he has had no one to hit in front of or behind besides Rizzo!!! But i will say i think he is more of a 2nd baseman. And he might have dropped his errors this year but the guy doesn't have great range by any means. While i think he is still an average SS I would much rather prefer Russell when he makes it to Chicago. Not really worried about his size either. Even if he does grow i still think his range is better then Castro's

  • You have to admit, Castro sure does increase the number of comments on the site. He's a popular topic.

  • In reply to AggBat:

    I think we generally get this type of response on all analytical pieces. It's the everyday stuff like recaps and such that tend to generate less comments. But also know that the proportion between readership and comments are huge. Comments represent less than 1% of total reads and that percentage varies, some get far, far less than 1%.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I believe that. I've been reading you for a couple of years, but didn't start putting in my 2 cents until I retired.

  • John - I don't post often, but I read your blog religiously since it is the best out there. As somebody who became a recent season ticket holder, I have attended my share of cubs games this year and have seen the complaints in the crowd when Castro makes base running gaffes. I agree that criticism should be applied to all players, but I can understand why others feel frustrated since I do when any player makes a mistake. The fact is that Fangraphs has Castro's base running as a negative number that is trending in the wrong direction, so I think that part of the criticism is fair. However, I do not is the least bit think he should be traded. It just needs to be acknowledged that no player is perfect and that one of Castro's downsides is his base running. Then we move on.

    It could be that base running is a unique area because fans feel like it represents overall effort, whether it actually does or not. But, in case you were wondering, Soriano and Ramirez both produced negative base running values in their time with the Cubs, so maybe there is a correlation with "perception of effort" and "base running." Just a thought...

  • In reply to Tom Jacks:

    Thanks Tom -- and that is a very interesting point. I wish I would have thought of that myself!

    I think the same applies to errors on the field, they just tend to stand out and sometimes overshadow good consistent play, which is mostly what Castro has done this year.

  • In reply to Tom Jacks:

    Tom, I think you hit the nail on the head. Lack of effort fair or not pisses fans off. Moises Alou probably did a pretty good job as a Cub but the only strong memories I have of him are Bartman and real bad baserunning. The problem facing managers is much like raising children. Everyone is different and needs to be handled differently based on their particular talents, and flaws. The question is how to get the most out of these guys. Everyone responds differently to criticism. Some respond well and some don't. Seems like the consensus must be that Castro can't take it. Otherwise he would not need to be protected from it so much.

  • John: You are always good, but this piece is great! 98% of the replies on here are positive. This article needed to be written.

  • In reply to HankSauer rules:

    Thanks Hank!

  • The thing about Soriano is that he was trashed for not living up to a contract that he couldn't possibly live up to.

    It's kinda funny to think we're still paying him. At least we don't have to see that stupid hop anymore.

  • In reply to Cubbie Sam:

    That's an assumption on your part. The "thing" about Soriano for me was 1) an inability to stop swinging at pitches two feet outside the strike zone, 2)admiration of a potential HR instead or running just in case, you know, it didn't go over the fence, and 3)that incredibly stupid "hop" when catching a fly ball.

    As far as his contract, he received it because he claimed, through his agent, that he COULD live up to it.

  • Brenly was not always a critic of Casto. He let a lot go, and understood that many of Castro’s problems could be attributed to youth and inexperience. But I think he recognized that there was something there that demanded attention and perhaps, discipline. It needed to be nipped now.

    You’re right. Sadly these little quirks ARE what a lot of other players do. But you don’t see it on a championship team. One good example is Hanley Ramirez. Another Yasiel Puig. How are those acts playing out in LA? Hanley has matured to a point where it is no longer an issue. Puig is still learning, has taken criticism for his antics from mates and management… and has been disciplined for it. But the point is, you can get away with inattention and lack of hustle on a 100 loss ball club. But it has no place on a winner. The mental game plays out too importantly to wins.

    The people that criticize Castro’s incessantly, and want him traded, are in the minority. So are those that look at him as an infallible young talent. Somewhere in between are the overwhelming majority of us that recognize that he has a bunch of talent and has some serious problems as well. Has he improved? Absolutely. And I expect him to continue to do so. But there is no excuse for for some of the things he has done. None. I don’t know what has been said behind closed doors, but I do know he has not missed any playing time because of it. It needs to be fixed if this team is going to win with him as one of the focal point.

    It doesn’t matter what you think, what I think, or what the electronic media thinks regarding a player. Criticism and/or praise which emanates from fans is not going to affect a player’s worth on the open market. That is set by a player’s management and by the management of other teams.

    Ask a fan to ignore lack of hustle or inattention on the field is, well, asking them not to be a fan. Ain’t gonna happen.

    P.S. Let’s not get carried away by all this “perennial all-star” stuff. A huge reason for him going is that the Cub’s needed a representative and he was the best of the worst.

  • In reply to xhooper:

    xhooper, I don't remember being upset with Brenly so his critisisms must not have gotten to me back then. But, I do agree with how you have set the issue out here. I don't know if the problem really lies with the players though. If the coaches wanted to all they would have to do is make the penalty meaningful. But they won't. Why is beyond me.

  • In reply to xhooper:

    To be fair I believe the Cubs had multiple all-stars in two of those years.

    I'm not a big fan of the 3x all-star talk. Castro is an all-star. Trout is an all-star. They aren't all created the same and it only acknowledges a half season of work. Lahair made an all-star team.

    Brenly wasn't that bad at all. People just don't like it when players on their team get criticized.

  • Perceived effort or hustle and outcome are two different things. Hustling for the sake of hustling doesn't equal success. It's just perceived that it does.

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    I've crtisized Castro more than once but I just don't understand the trade Castro mindset. If the last 4 days and Baez's struggles haven't proved it, it's apparent that this team is not yet so fixed for position player talent that it can afford to get rid of a proven, cheap, productive position player in order to land that ace pitcher that will be the final piece to the WS team. We're not that close yet. Let it play out.

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    John, really enjoyed your twitter debate with Len Kasper. Two really knowledgeable baseball people having a reasoned debate. You should post it on here.

  • I wish the Cubs had five more supposedly flawed players like Starlin this year. They would probably be getting ready for the playoffs.
    The media can be so bizarre. The kid has basically played every inning of every game for the last 4 years, and he is the one they consider to be lazy? Strange.

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    I think the baserunning point is a good one. Lack of effort is most obvious in baserunning situations or the one like Alcantara the other day in not hustling after a ball, but the latter is relatively rare. Castro also seems to have body language quirks that bother people. He makes a lot of strange faces that seem to come off badly. Some of the other young players are more stoic, like Alcantara and Baez and that makes them seem more intense. Let's be honest, though, very few players are like Shawon Dunston and run hard all the time. They should, but they don't.

  • Interesting:
    http://www.sbnation.com/mlb/2014/9/9/6127331/oakland-athletics-slump-tailspin-yoenis-cespedes

    Suggests A's made huge mistakes in overrating Shark and trading Russell.

  • To me, and I mean this sincerely, from a strictly entertainment value, Starlin and Luis have been my favorite Cubs left side to watch play defense. When a chopper comes over there in the 5/6 hole and BOTH guys field and throw, its damn sweet. Same thing on pop ups! Javy's doing it now too and has a couple of guys who can really pick it to mentor him which is going to be good...

    Speaking of Javy, I really love how he switches back and forth between the black and the tan SSK's in the field. Not a whole lot of SSK love anymore!

    All around, if you like flashy glove work, the Cubs are becoming the team for you, which is the most underrated part of the plan!

  • John, I want to say that I really enjoyed this column. I am not opposed to trading Castro at some point, but I don't see the need or benefit to doing it in the short term. He is a special player, but he is a special player with some flaws. With that in mind, I don't see a reason that Castro cannot still grow as a person and a player. In reality, we are talking about a player that has a better than reasonable chance to reach 3000 hits in his career.

  • "When you magnify simple errors and gloss over the many more good plays, you skew the importance of the relatively trivial over the actual production on the field. And once this is started, it takes on a life of it's own, we become conditioned for confirmation bias. "

    This is simply a red herring. Brenley didn't do this and JD and Len don't do this. It's simply selection or confirmation from the other end of the spectrum. The Castro apologists are so hyper-sensitive to any criticism of Castro's play, it's all they hear. They tune out the positive comments and focus only on the negative.

    " So unless you have a running tally for each time every player turned his head to look behind him, stared a bit longer at a HR, or made a mistake on the bases and can give us some sort of objectively measured comparative analysis, then I don't want to hear it."

    This is a great point and I've challenged the sabermetrics people to come up with a metric to track this. I think it can be done and we can determine how many runs has a player cost a team by not hustling, bonehead plays, etc. I'd be willing to bet the farm that Castro would, at the very minimum, grade out as below avg player in this department.

    Think of this metric as like pitch framing, a way to tap into market inefficiencies. Hopefully the Cubs FO has their own metric to track this number.

  • Starlin Castro is probably the best position player the Cubs developed since Billy Williams over 50 years ago. (sorry Mark Grace). He's on a pace for the 3000 hit club and plays a premium position. Once he's surrounded by better players we will really start seeing a superstar player.

    b

  • In reply to kevie:

    I'd take Grace, and if Grace wouldn't have set a 2nd home at the neighborhood bars, he could have even been a more dynamic player.

  • In reply to Bill Oliger:

    Grace is a example of a player fans should be mad at. He wasted a lot of his talent sitting in the bar. But because he hustled fans liked him and he got a pass. I think he is tool myself.

  • In reply to BigsmokeJ:

    I never liked Grace. I could never put my finger on why, but I did not like him.

  • "But just like Soriano's reputation preceded him when Theo came to Chicago,"

    Soriano never had a bad reputation outside of the fanbase who thought he was overpaid. A friend of mine had dinner with a Cub starting pitcher during this time, and he said Soriano was the most liked and respected guy on the team. He said, guys didn't love his looking at HR's at time, but it wasn't a big deal to them because they said Soriano worked his butt off. He was one of the first guys to arrive and worked hard to improve his game. I think we saw this with his improved outfield defense when Dave McKay worked with him.

    Now, this same player said Ramirez was the most disliked player on the team. He isolated himself from all players that weren't Spanish speaking. He didn't work hard, was one of the last guys to show up, etc.

  • In reply to Bill Oliger:

    Interesting information.

  • I've been listening to the Toronto announcers the last two days and what they lack in personality they make up for in insight, knowledge, and lack of homerism. Been fun to listen to.

  • In reply to Oneear:

    Whoa, Castillo 10 of last 12 thrown out!

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    Starlin - is a very solid player
    I thought it was BS when Dale made some comment
    about being a "hit collector" -
    Pete rose was a hit collector - nothing wrong with that.
    If Starlin gets 200 hits every year - awesome.

    But Kent Mercker had no right to confront Steve Stone for criticizing the cubs and neither does any one on Brenly.

    Would you rather have a total Homer like Hawk Harelson.?
    No way Id take Brenly any day. ( Chip was a total homer as well)

    they are asking you to think Critically - nothing wrong with that.

  • Could not agree with more John.....great article. Not enough gratitude from fans and media for Castro does bring to the field everyday. He's not perfect--and never will be. But I am happy to have him as the Cubs' SS for the next ten years. He will go down as the second best SS the Cubs will ever have, if they keep him there.

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    I have an uncle who is a season ticket holder with the D'backs and when I visited him in 2012 we got talking baseball. I remember laughing when he pointed out how terrible Upton was. That the team was trying to make him out to be their best player just because they signed him to a ludicrous 6 year $50M contract. I remember pulling up Baseballreference.com in front of him and pointing out that he had just finished a season in which he had a 141 OPS+ and come in 4th in MVP voting. Normally those who get that much support in MVP voting aren't that bad. That didn't sound like a terrible player on a contract that would cost, on average, around $8M. Your article reminded me that he put up most of the same complaints now leveled at Castro. He is lazy. He doesn't do "the little things" well. He is selfish. He only cares about his stats (as if his good stats don't, by definition, help his team). I remember walking out of the conversation trying to make sense of it. Your article finally put things in place. He was being told that by his broadcasters and other media. He had internalized it to the point of ignoring all evidence to the contrary (and the vast majority of evidence was to the contrary). He was only seeing the narrative and not the reality of just how good Upton was/is.

    I would not be opposed to trading Castro IF we can get serious value in return. I am not interested in trading him simply to "open a spot" for someone else. What we have are prospects, and very good prospects to be sure. But the old adage says, "Prospects mean they haven't done it yet."

  • Preface: Thanks John for all the info and interesting reporting you have done to help suffering Cub fans both young and old (like me) make it through the past few nightmarish years. You sincerely love the Cubs.
    Disclaimer: I am not one of those on the trade Castro bandwagon but....
    Point: I get your point that what you perceive as "negative" reporting by the broadcasters could diminish Castro's trade value. But the notion that they should gloss over and or ignore lack of hustle or mental lapses or indifference for any reason is hogwash. Castro got this so-called "perception" the old fashioned way....he EARNED IT by repeated occurrances including the one that was the most damaging: the one reported on national TV by Bobby Valentine.
    We all love the Cubs but I, like a lot of your faithful followers, absolutely do not want "homer/schills" doing Cub broadcasts anymore and demand that they do their JOB and tell it like it is even if it involves criticism of our favorite ex-"lovable losers" (hopefully). The critism of broadcasters is actually pretty silly as few if any of the magnitude of knowledgeable contributors on this blog need people in the booth to point these incidents out.
    The Cubs have a boatload of awesome looking prospects coming their way and the future looks bright but the talent alone will not lead them to the "promised land". Great teams require great leadership and character and Starlin Castro (young but still a four year veteran) has long been identified as a core piece and expected to be a leader for all this young talent coming, or if not a leader is it too much to ask that he set a good example going forward?

  • In reply to Az Cliff:

    Castro had pretty much been doing just that until this latest 'focus/hussle' incident. It's a long season and he was wearing down when it occurred. There was a substantial block of time between and I think he should get a pass. It's unfortunate that his past magnifies this indiscretion. He has had a really good year.

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    I would hope the Cubs brass shares the same values as John does, and a host of others on this site do likewise. I like you would trade Castro when all the planets are perfectly aligned. Mets and others need to be prepared when doling out a trade return for Castro. That trade would be weighted in favor of the Cubs IMO.

  • John, thanks for a great article. One point of contention - you stated:

    "So while I don't see Castro as a star..."

    I don't understand that statement. A 3 time allstar is not a star? And then went on:

    "or a perfect player at this point... "

    I certainly understand that part. But let's remember, he likely will have over 1000 hits at age 25. How many players have done that? At that pace he'll have over 3000 by age 35. How on earth is that not a star - in fact possible HOF type numbers?

    He is continuing to improve on defense, (already very good) and will likely have over 1000 hits before reaching his prime years. I think he is a potential HOF candidate. Trade him? No!!!!

    Just IMHO.

  • Castro has made great strides in his playing this year. Yes, he had a bit of a set back after a family tragedy, but that strikes me as understandable and forgivable.

    As much as I would prefer that every player hustle out of the batter's box after hitting the ball, that is a universe we do not live in. It is a long list of very good players who occasionally, some often, take a good long look before starting to first. So I can live with Castro doing that on occasion. I would hope that with age he would do it less.

    The looking back over his shoulder to see where the ball was while he ran the bases bothers me. It just seems that by the time one is in the MLB, one would have been taught how to run bases. I would hope they have had or will have him out running the bases to practice watching the coaches.

    On a more general note, is there anyone at any level of baseball anywhere that teaches players how to slide properly? There's a whole lot of ugly sliding going on in baseball.

  • In reply to Richard Beckman:

    I have been upset at players looking back over their shoulder while running the bases for a long time now. Most runners do it these days. Not only between 2nd and 3rd, but also between 3rd and home. Very few runners seem to trust the base coaches anymore, nor the on deck batter who should be indicating to them whether to slide at home. I see this in almost every game I watch, both leagues, and many players are doing it. Also many players don't hustle out of the box. Also many players take time to admire their long drives/fly balls. A lot of them stand and watch to see if their hit ball is foul or fair before taking off. It is really getting quite disgusting throughout MLB. I don't know why we should single out certain players. Maybe we just tend to pay more attention to certain players, because we expect more from them, because we recognize that they are star players.

  • OK. Most out here likely played baseball, if not remotely close to MLB skill level. Now think hard where you are right now ... you run a business, you're a welder, an accountant, corporate exec, IS developer, whatever. Imagine that you are among a few hundred absolutely elite at what you do, and a few million people watch you meticulously, every moment between ordinary and your best, and every appearance of excellence to nonchalance to the "expertly" commented upon boo-boo. Every one. And. You are 24 years old. Tough stratosphere there ... just a hint of perspective ...

  • One thing that I haven't seen mentioned is plate discipline and it's impact on the perception of a player. It's easy to assume that a player who consistently swings at pitches nowhere near the strike zone does so out of an inability or refusal to learn to be selective at the plate. Both Castro and Soriano had issues with this. Add in a few mental errors - like a basepath miscue or a defensive misplay, and it starts to seem like it's happening too often.

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