Cubs playing like 'rookie ball' on defense

MILWAUKEE -- Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum might be sending a message to his team after yet another sloppy loss on Saturday night to the Milwaukee Brewers.

"We're making mistakes that rookie ball people make," Sveum said after a 5-1 loss. "It seems to be the story every night."

The Cubs made three more bad errors Saturday leading to four unearned runs, and most alarming is they were made by key players -- two of whom should remain with the team if the Cubs become contenders over the next several years.

"It's unbelievable," Starlin Castro said. "I think we're trying to do too much. Trying to be too perfect."

Castro made his fourth error of the season, with two outs and a man on third base, on the easiest of ground balls in the fifth inning. That was preceded earlier in the inning by a fly ball that Alfonso Soriano dropped after thinking he had to go back for it instead of toward the infield. One inning later, Edwin Jackson threw away a potential double-play ball into center field.

"I double clutched," Jackson said. "Once I doubled clutched I didn't gather back up; caused me to open up instead of stay closed."

As always with this team lately, the outcome of the game is secondary. A more important concern is Castro's ability to play shortstop. Another question is whether Jackson can be a mainstay after starting 0-3. He's signed for four years and $52 million. Castro for seven years and $60 million. Sveum was asked if there really is anything he can do about the defense in terms of personnel considering the miscues are being made by his mainstays.

"There's always options if you can't play," Sveum said cryptically. "To win in the big leagues you have to have people that perform, and perform in 162 days and not once in a while. Otherwise you lose your job."

Castro has to be better or he's simply not going to be the shortstop of the future. Maybe he's a third baseman, or second baseman, or outfielder. But maybe not shortstop. Especially not with the mental and physical lapses that seem to keep happening, something he vowed to end this season.

"Those things happen," he said. "I go to the field every day working hard. I fumbled it. I couldn't grab the ball that good."

And the idea of "trying too hard" is dubious at best, considering the routine plays that are being bungled. It's not as if Castro is going deep into the hole and then trying some out-of-this-world throw to cut down a run. He's making mistakes that little leaguers make.

"Everybody wants to win so bad," Soriano said. "We want to show to the fans we can do it."

What Soriano doesn't seem to understand is no one expects the Cubs to win a lot of games this season. They don't have the talent to do so. It was just days ago team president Theo Epstein reminded everyone the Cubs "don't have enough talent to play this sloppy." Yet his team continues to do just that, including the core players.

"This is obviously getting old," Sveum said.

Fifteen errors in 16 games is only half the story. Anthony Rizzo isn't playing anywhere near good defense, and Gold Glover Darwin Barney is just getting his legs under him. Even he dropped a ball Friday he would normally catch. Ironically, only third baseman Luis Valbuena -- a player who probably won't even be on the roster if and when the team turns the corner in the coming years -- has been solid.

"The big leagues is about performing," Sveum said. "We really haven't performed but in a couple of [games]."

So the news isn't good on any level right now. The Cubs are tanking their season -- a season in which they are getting incredibly surprising good starting pitching -- and they aren't seeing positive things coming from their core players.

Sveum has held a few meetings, but he can't do it every time something goes wrong.

"Otherwise I'd have a lot of meetings," he said with a hint of a laugh.

Except it's no joking matter.