YOUNG CASTRO NEEDS CONTINUITY, GUIDANCE SVEUM CAN PROVIDE
Starlin Castro is only 22, and his ascension from prospect to building block was probably too quick. But his talent superseded any additional mental development he might have achieved in the minors.
While his bat is ready and his defense has improved, Castro's focus needs work. He makes mental mistakes that shouldn't happen in the majors, from forgetting the number of outs (which actually does happen to veterans too) to last year's daydreaming episode during a nationally-televised game.
Monday's mistake was failing to turn a double play because he thought he made the third out. Three days prior, he made a baserunning error.
Dale Sveum called out Castro's mistakes as "embarrassing" after the game, after speaking to him privately and saying he will bench him if this happens again. Some wondered why Sveum didn't pull Castro during the game, but I don't think that is the way to teach the young shortstop.
Castro needs to see continuity, on and off the field, and I think Sveum is the right guy to help guide him. Remember, Castro got a few months at the sleepy end of Lou Piniella's tenure and then more than a season of Mike Quade.
Castro is in a strange position as one of the building blocks in a team in transition. The Cubs have put out a substandard product the last few years, and perhaps his maturation has been hindered with different managers, coaches and now a new front office.
It would be nice for Castro to learn from established veterans, and I know some have tried to mentor him. But with everyone's status in veritable limbo, it's probably not the ideal situation.
After his last gaffe, Castro apologized to his teammates, but in the coming years he has to realize that being an All-Star is more than numbers and fame. He's got a lot of pressure to help recreate a Cubs team worth watching, and he alone has to learn how to handle it.
Castro's on-the-job training continues. You just hope he's paying attention.
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.
IF THE DEAL IS RIGHT, CUBS SHOULD MOVE CASTRO
If Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and company are intent on rebuilding the organization by building a new "Cubs Way," as they say they are doing, then tough as it is to type and tough as it must be for them to come to grips with it, they must consider trading Starlin Castro.
Sure, Dale Sveum can bench Castro after continuing a pattern of embarrassing and damaging mental gaffes in the field. But really, is that what you want as a Cub fan? Your shortstop and the cornerstone of the franchise needing to be benched as much for punitive reasons as because your manager no longer trusts him? This isn't high school. And these are not, we have been assured, the old Cubs.
A rookie mistake here, a careless mistake there is one thing. But Castro, talented as he is, has now defined himself as a player without major league discipline and intellect, a player who you simply cannot count on to not just play responsibility, but to quarterback your infield and lead your team as franchise cornerstones are supposed to do.
All the talk about the "Cubs Way" up until now has really been mostly that, just talk. But how powerful a message would it send to the entire organization and to those players who may join the Cubs in the future, if you make the decision that Castro is just not the type of player who they thought he was and not the player around whom you want to build the franchise?
When Castro failed to complete a double play on Monday and began to jog toward the dugout because he thought the force at second was the third out of the inning rather than the second, Sveum said it was "the last straw."
Last week, in another Cubs' loss, Castro was thrown out easily at second because he slowed down and didn't slide, believing Joe Mather had fouled off the pitch, which he hadn't. And though Sveum was not here at the time, obviously he knows about the incident last season when Castro had his back to the plate, chewing sunflower seeds while a pitch was thrown.
But it goes beyond that.
According to Baseball Info Solutions, which charts plays into categories including about 50 types of defensive misplays and errors, since Castro's MLB debut on May 7, 2010, no middle infielder has made more defensive misplays and errors than him (171 to second-place Ian Desmond at 131).
The gaffe Monday by Castro was categorized as "Losing the Double Play as the pivot man," and it was the eighth time Castro had done that in his MLB career. No other shortstop has more than five since Castro's debut.
Castro's liability as a defensive player and baserunner is not merely fodder for watercooler discussion. It is quantifiable, and it is a problem. Yes, the Cubs' abysmal record is attributable to more than Castro's mental miscues.
But as they analyze and identify how they want to proceed, the club's brain trust must decide whether they want to do it with a player who continually makes mistakes that are inexcusable and should be unacceptable for a major leaguer.
Of course, Epstein and Hoyer need to get at least two legitimate prospects in return for Castro. But I'll gladly trust them on that one if I'm a Cubs fan. What I won't trust is the so-called cornerstone of the franchise.
Melissa Isaacson is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com.