The Transgressions Of Starlin Castro

San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco Giants catcher Buster Posey slides safely into second base against Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro at AT&T Park. Credit: Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE

Starlin Castro made another boneheaded play on Monday. What should the Cubs do with him?

Here's the MLB.com profile on Boston Red Sox first-rounder Deven Marrero:

Marrero is a line-drive gap hitter, with the potential to develop some power in the future. While he's only an average runner, those instincts help him be an excellent baserunner. While his swing has been long in the past and his pitch selection isn't always top notch, it's not too much of a cause for concern.

Sounds intriguing. Here's a similar profile, but of Starlin Castro, who was also born in 1990.

Castro is a line-drive gap hitter, and he already has emerging power. His pitch selection isn't always top-notch, but he's one of 24 players in history to have a .300 average and 400 hits before turning 23, which he'll do next March.

This is because Starlin Castro is a good hitter. A preternaturally talented hitter. One who is the same age as some of the kids drafted on Monday night. He was doing things as a 20-year-old that most professional baseball players never get a chance to do. But there's a little snippet left off that scouting report.

Castro also has his head firmly ensconced between his own buttcheeks as if he were diabetic and that's where he hid the insulin.

'Tis true. Castro can be a bit of a dunderhead. One of my favorite GIFs is this one from last year, just because of the subtleties involved:


This one just fascinates me. There's motion like you've seen tens of thousands of times in your life. An umpire getting into his crouch. A hitter tensing up. A pitcher throwing. A catcher receiving. And in the background, there's a guy dawdling around, looking for four-leaf clovers. He was upset at an earlier at-bat, apparently, and Bobby Valentine excoriated him on the ESPN broadcast.

He had another out-of-body experience on Monday afternoon.


Kudos to Bob Brenly for correctly identifying that Castro had no shot to double up Brandon Crawford, who has good speed. Here's where Castro was when he received the ball.


With a runner bearing down on him and Crawford running up the line, there was no chance for a double play. But when the tying run comes in to score, you at least want your fielder to get a throw off. Manager Dale Sveum says this is the "last straw."

"It’s something that’s obviously unacceptable at any time, whether we turned the double play or not," Sveum said. "It’s not acceptable. Those things have to stop happening or he’s going to stop playing.

"Last straw. If he wants to play, he better get his head in the game, period."

Or you can have the animated version of that quote:


It wasn't that the play cost the Cubs the game -- it probably didn't. It was just the idea that it could have, and that it was Castro, who seems to have brain flatulence a lot. And it's more than absentmindedness, too. It's general loafing and lack of hustle. Castro is always talk-show fodder for reasons other than him being a 22-year-old hitting prodigy.

And the phone lines and Internet forums are going to be buzzing again with suggestions about what to do with Starlin Castro. It's going to be a big deal for a bit, following that blunder, so I'd like to offer my suggestion:

  • Nothing

That's in the macro sense, of course -- the big picture. In the micro, the day-to-day stuff, they should proceed as they have been. Give Castro days off for his transgressions. Stern talking-tos. Extended benchings. This is the part of a manager's job that actually makes a difference while you're busy complaining about decisions to bunt. It's a tough gig to walk that fine line between keeping Castro in line (without completely alienating him) and letting the rest of the team know that you aren't playing favorites. Hopefully Dale Sveum is up to it.

But in the big picture, Castro isn't going anywhere. He shouldn't be stripped of his building-block title; he shouldn't have to give back the gold sash that reads "The Future" that he wears around the clubhouse. And he shouldn't be traded when this stuff is knocking his value down a peg. In a week, everyone will forget about this specific incident.

The ultimate goal for scouts is to get that five-tool player -- a guy who can run, hit, hit for power, field, and throw. But there are a million tools. Baseball intelligence is a tool. Not lipping off to your manager is a tool. Not being such a jerk to your teammates that they want to shave your eyebrows is a tool. Some of these same tools are similar to the ones you hopefully have.

Castro lacks the self-awareness tool. It's tough. Maybe he'll develop one. But right now it's frustrating, and there will be times, like Monday, when it's totally visible. But it also isn't the reason the Cubs are so bad. Think of it like Miguel Cabrera's lack of speed. That's a tool that can cost the Tigers runs on balls hit into the gap, or singles up the middle. But the Tigers will deal with it because he's Miguel Cabrera, and the tools he does have will make up for the ones he doesn't.

Castro lacks a tool. And it's a frustrating one. An annoying one. One that makes you spit your drink and throw your popcorn. But it's not enough to make Castro tainted goods. He's still a hitter beyond his years, and he's still a work in progress. The payoffs should be huge.

Besides, players make the only-one-out blunder a lot, even if they're almost 40 and super-veterans.


Oh, that dawning comprehension.

There's a certain 40-year-old in AAA right now. He's been suspended twice for PEDs, had off-field troubles, and has a history of driving managers and fans crazy with his boneheadedness. He's also in AAA at 40 because for a long time, he helped his team win a lot more than his lack of tools made his team lose. Doesn't mean it wasn't frustrating. It's just how it was. And this is a similar situation. It's just Starlin being Starlin.

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