Tag Archives: Starlin Castro

OK Cubs Got Swept; I Was Getting Nuts

I’m fine with the Cubs getting swept by the Pirates. Really.

I’ve been getting way ahead of myself, treating this September like I would when the Cubs might actually have something to play for in the final month of the season. Baez-mania gave way to an epidemic of Soler-ia. I even drew a little cartoon with a bear eating a Cardinal.

Now, I can go back to my mental vacation from stressing about Cubs wins and losses, feel good about the long-term building project and use my sports angst to wonder how the hell the Bears can lose to the Bills … AT HOME.

For the past few years, I have been on a vacation of sorts when it comes to the Cubs. After Theo Epstein was hired and said that this was going to be a multi-year rebuilding process, that they were tearing down before building back up, that the draft and international signings would restock talent, but that we wouldn’t actually see this talent in Wrigley for years, well, I bought it. I lowered expectations accordingly, and it felt great.

Like most of us Cubs fans, I lived and died with each pitch. I yelled at the TV. I saw doom around every corner and booked my tickets to the World Series after a two-game win streak … in April. Basically, I was nuts — when it came to the Cubs (I swear, that’s it). I sounded like I knew what I was talking about because I know a little about the game and I’ve been around long enough to know a thing or two, but I was a transparent homer.

And then it was gone. Theo said that we know we’re going to suck for a while and all the pressure was off. I still celebrated victories but in a subdued “hey, look what I found” kind of way. I got excited about individual achievements from young players like Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, but I didn’t really expect them to win a division by themselves. I felt like help was on the way, but the cavalry was coming from the moon, so they’d have to take their lumps for a while.

But then Javier Baez was called up and he hit balls harder than I’d seen in a while. Kyle Hendricks kept fooling batters. Jake Arrieta was looking like an ace. Jorge Soler arrived and launched bombs and hit for average. Kris Bryant wrapped up an minor league MVP season. Rizzo had 30 homers. Castro’s average was back up. And, and, and … it all coalesced into an excitement I hadn’t felt in a long time. The Cubs could be good, like, soon. The switch was turned back on.

Even when Rizzo and Castro went down with likely season-ending injuries, the switch remained on. See, that’s what I mean about being a little nuts when it comes to the Cubs. I still expected them to own September, to show the rest of the Central what was coming. And in my defense they were playing damn good. They swept the Brewers after all.

Then the Pirates came to town and gave me a nice slap in the face. “Snap out of it, fool,” they said. “You can’t lose guys like Rizzo and Castro and win every game. Settle down.”

“But what about Soler?” I implored.

But they slapped me again. “Wow, you got it bad,” they said. “I hate to admit it, but you’re time will come. It just ain’t now.”

I took a deep breath for the first time in a month.

“OK, OK,” I said, settling down. “When is the draft?”

You can reach us at Cubs Fan Therapy.

Poll: Who Will Be Cubs’ Best Player?

Who is going to be the Cubs’ best player in two years? Hmmm … The fact that it’s a tough question is simply AWESOME.

If you asked a few years ago, the answer might have been Starlin Castro. Maybe Anthony Rizzo. And then both struggled mightily last season.

The answer last year might have been “Who the hell knows?” Then the kids started making some noise. It soon became a racket, loud enough to reach the ears of depressed Cubs fans in Chicago.

Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Jorge Soler and now Addison Russell and Kyle Schwarber. They’ve become household names in most Cubs households. At the same time, Castro and Rizzo bounced back with All-Star seasons this year.

Baez came up and homered in his first MLB game. He followed with six more homers, though he has also struck out more than a high school nerd repeatedly asking out the prom queen.

Bryant has absolutely destroyed the minors — posting perhaps the best line in all of baseball. How about .325/.438/.661 with 43 homers, 110 RBIs and 86 walks against 162 strikeouts? I’ll take it.

And then there’s Soler. Ah Soler. The big issue with him was injuries. He broke his leg last year, battled hamstring injuries the past few years. He looked like he could be something special. He put up great numbers when he played, but he just didn’t play that much. He only had 200 at-bats in the minors this season but definitely made the most of them (.340/.432/.700). Was it enough to judge?

Well, if his debut in the big leagues is any indication, he looks like he could be something really, really, really special. He’s got three homers in five MLB games. C’mon. He had two doubles in his Wrigley debut Monday, the ball hopping off his bat even when he didn’t hit the sweet spot. It’s like he’s playing in a video game while everyone else is mired in reality.

So the question of the Cubs’ best player in two years now becomes a little more interesting. Rizzo or Castro, who have already proven themselves in the big leagues? Baez, whose swing resembles a young Gary Sheffield’s? Bryant, who owned the minors? Soler, who is demanding that he be included in the conversation? Or somebody else, like Schwarber or Albert Almora, or a player that comes over in some crazy trade?

You decide:

Who will be the best Cubs player in two years?

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Starlin Castro Is No Milton Bradley

Starlin Castro may be a bit of a knucklehead, but he ain’t no Milton Bradley, so we should all chill out.

Twitter exploded Wednesday night after Castro did a lot of admiring and not enough running and was held to a single on a blast to center that didn’t clear the wall. This tweet drew a lot of attention:

Others didn’t condone Castro but took a more measured approach to the gaffe, such as:

I chimed in a couple of times, saying first that I’m not going to worry about the future Met. But then I also came to my senses:

That about sums it up for me. When Castro was the Cubs best player, their symbol of hope, and he wandered around the infield like a stoner while the game continued around him, that understandably freaked out Cubs Nation. Who can forget Bobby Valentine calling out Castro on ESPN for having his back turned to the infield during a pitch in 2011?

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The strain that Cubs fans are under can’t be underestimated. Not to get too therapy, though this is Cubs Fan Therapy, but we’re a group suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (2003, 1984), depression (since 1945), anxiety (until the June swoon and then back to depression) and low self-esteem (“oh, you’re a Cubs fan,” they say). Let’s just say that these conditions amplify Cubs issues.

And that’s what happened last night — a group psychotic break over one mistake from a guy who has made some mistakes. The sky was falling. Castro morphed from an All-Star into Milton Bradley in a few seconds.

But Castro is no Bradley, not by a long shot. Bradley was Travis from “Taxi Driver.” Here’s a highlight reel of Milton Meltdowns:

Castro is Spicoli from “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” Bradley constantly perched on the edge of snapping a bat over his knee and sticking the broken shard into the neck of an umpire. Castro might just rest his little head on the second base bag and take a nap — in the middle of an inning.

His space cadet act isn’t great, but it isn’t the end of the world — on a good team. That’s the key. If the Bulls could handle Rodman, a championship caliber Cubs team can accommodate an All-Star shortstop who flashes the occasional lapse in judgment. If all goes according to plan, Castro will rank someplace behind Anthony Rizzo, Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, maybe Addison Russell and others in the hierarchy of Cubs stars.

Castro will contribute much more good than bad and because he won’t be the only symbol of hope, we can handle if he’s occasionally a dope. More importantly, the Cubs clubhouse can handle Castro. He’s not divisive, no cancer like Bradley. He plays every day, hustles a lot of the time. He won’t shank anyone in the showers.

Since they have a glut at shortstop coming up, the Cubs could trade Castro for a quality starter. That’s possible. But we better all hope Epstein and Co. aren’t making that decision based on Castro spacing out on one play.

And they better keep in mind that the devil you know is often better than the one you don’t.

Should the Cubs trade Starlin Castro if they can get a top starter?

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Poll: Who Will Be Best Cub In Two Years?

There are a number of possible scenarios for the Cubs in the next few years.

They could continue to stink like a hockey locker room (Have you smelled a hockey locker room? Imagine a hot, super humid day and you’re breathing through a used jock strap. Yeah, it’s bad). Anyway, the Cubs always find some way to mess things up, right? Prospects shmospects. They’ll all make Corey Patterson look like Lou Gehrig. The grand rebuilding won’t result in a dynasty but in a cautionary tale of putting too many eggs in unproven baskets.

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That’s some good Cubs pessimism, and I’ve expressed my share of bitter frustration over the years. Watching the Milton Bradley era will make you yell “Cubs suck” at the TV on occasion — or every two innings.

But I don’t agree with that scenario. I have fully supported Theo Epstein’s total rebuild. I had seen the Cubs spend good money after bad on retread free agents too many times. I looked at teams like the Yankees and realized that they had a homegrown core that fueled success. So I’m bought in on the Cubs developing those stars.

Theo is not just banking on a few guys either. The sheer volume of high-quality position prospects in the system right now ensures that at least a few turn out to be good or even very good. Kris Bryant, Jorge Soler, Addison Russell, Albert Almora, Kyle Schwarber and call-ups Javier Baez and Arismendy Alcantara are just the big names.

The team has also shown a talent for using secondary pitching metrics to find diamonds in the rough. Jake Arrieta is the poster boy for this approach. Could Jacob Turner be the same?

Then there’s the fact that Epstein has said that the Cubs will pony up some dough for missing pieces when there are only a few holes to fill. Jon Lester anyone?

It all leads me to truly believe — said like Frank Caliendo doing Ron Jaworski — that the stench around Wrigley is going to fade. The most plausible scenario I see in the next few years is that the Cubs climb to respectability next season. That means a .500 record or better and chasing a wild-card spot. In 2016, I believe the Cubs will compete for the pennant. There I said it.

Of course, that scenario means that some of these young players — and that includes All-Stars Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro — are legit. I think many of them will be.

Let the dream take hold. It’s July 2016, the Cubs have won eight of 10 games to open a big lead in the NL Central over the Cardinals. The Cubs are starting to flex their muscles, beginning to show the rest of the league that they are a team to be reckoned with. In the dream, who is the Cubs star? Vote and leave a Comment below explaining why:

Who will be the best Cubs player in two years?

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Who Leads Off Cubs Lineup Of Future?

The Cubs have won some battles but have been losing the 100-year war, badly. But reinforcements are on the way. That much is clear.

The bats in the minors have created a stir around Cubdom that hasn’t been seen in many years. Kris Bryant and Javier Baez homered last night after each went yard the night before. But they weren’t the only ones that night as Addison Russell, Jorge Soler, Christian Villanueva and Dan Vogelbach joined the power surge.

There could be a lot of balls flying out of Wrigley in the not so distant future. Add in NL home-run leader Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro and recent call-up Arismendy Alcantara, and it’s really fun to imagine Cubs lineups of the future.

But I keep arriving at one small issue. In a couple of years, it’s possible to fill every position on the diamond with sluggers, but who leads off? Who bats second? We could try:

Alcantara CF
Castro 3B
Rizzo 1B
Bryant RF
Baez 2B
Schwarber C
Soler LF
Russell SS

Soler batting seventh sounds crazy doesn’t it? He looks like a surefire middle of the order hitter, as does Schwarber. And it’s not even clear if he sticks at catcher. If he doesn’t, an already crowded outfield looks like Macys the day after Thanksgiving. Remember Albert Almora? The Daytona outfielder recently made a point of wanting everyone to know he should be included in all discussions of Cubs top prospects.

He’s been hitting second in A ball but appears to not be as close to the big leagues as some of the other players mentioned here. If he continues to develop as expected, however, where does he go? Center field with Alcantara moving to the infield?

How about a lineup of:

Alcantara 2B
Castro SS
Rizzo LF
Bryant RF
Schwarber C
Baez 3B
Soler LF
Almora CF

Obviously, the outfield isn’t the only area drawing a crowd. In this lineup, Russell is conspicuously absent, and many people think he’s now one of the Cubs best prospects.

Also, Villanueva, one of the main pieces that came over in the Ryan Dempster trade, hasn’t been tearing it up at the level of Bryant or Baez, but he is no slouch as a third base prospect. And Vogelbach is a solid slugging first baseman.

Everyone talks about the Cubs having a glut of high potential hitters in the minors. There’s plenty of chatter about the team turning some of them around in trade for pitching. That could very well happen. Or the Cubs could rely on the minors for the bulk of position players and splurge on pitching (a strategy I like better).

What strikes me, however, is that the Cubs may end up having a surplus of really good sluggers, some who hit for high average, but have a dearth of high on-base, speed guys to plug into the top of the order. Where’s the Kenny Lofton ahead of the RBI guys? So maybe one of the sluggers gets moved to fine-tune the lineup with someone like that — though those players are very hard to find.

What’s clear, however, is that the Cubs now have options. Help is on the way. And if you’re losing the war, whether help comes in the form of a tank or a bazooka, it’s all welcome.

What lineup do you envision? Feel free to leave it in the comments.

You can reach us at Cubs Fan Therapy.