Cheap Seats

Is it really Starlin Castro's fault he doesn't know how to play baseball?

I typically subscribe to old school baseball philosophy and management style: If a guy isn't playing with an appropriate level on intensity, what better way to send a message than to embarrass him in front of his peers and the audience?

At least that's the way major league managers used to motivate players.

But I have to wonder if the old school way the Cubs handled shortstop Starlin Castro Saturday is the correct way to get to a modern player with an over-sized sense of entitlement. And I also wonder, despite the fact that I can't stand million-dollar ballplayers who don't treat the game with respect, if it's fair to punish a player for being what his franchise developed him to be.

Is it Castro's fault that he was promoted to the major leagues with an obvious flaws of a lazy attitude coupled with a short attention span? After you promote a guy to the big leagues at 20 years old and hand him a $60-million contract, isn't it a little bit too late to try to tell him how he is supposed to play? Isn't it a little late to tell him he has to stay alert at all times or that he has to come to early fielding practice? Everything that organization has done up to this point told him that he was good enough just the way he was.

He was good enough to make top dollar. He was good enough to coast.

It was the Cubs organization's choice to promote a raw player before he proved he had what it takes to be a big leaguer. Their front office types were more excited by Castro's bat than they were in developing him to be a complete player. The result is that his terrible defense has bled over into his bat and Castro now no longer possesses the one attribute that made him good enough to overlook his other flaws. He has been a .250, bottom of the order hitter who makes errors by the bushel basket for the last year and a half.

I wonder if Castro grew up in the Cardinals organization if he would be the same star-crossed player or if he would have had a chance to play closer to the upside of his potential. 

Brendan Ryan was a brilliant shortstop whom the Redbirds gave every chance to straighten out and catch on at the major league level. But he was never handed the starting job, nor was he given the sort of long-term contract that would give him reason to be satisfied that he didn't have to try to get better. And when he couldn't get better, the Redbirds quickly parted ways with Ryan. The Cubs don't have that luxury with Castro and now the player and the team are stuck with the bed they made together.

This certainly isn't the first time the Cubs have been befuddled by a player who doesn't seem to be able to reach his potential. I seem to remember an outfielder with speed and power who got dumped after hitting .257 with an average of five homers and 12 stolen bases a year while losing fly balls in the sun in right field at Wrigley Field. His name, of course, was Lou Brock. And, after he got into a sound baseball culture, he was able to turn things around and craft a record-setting, Hall of Fame career.

The Cubs have always been all about flash over substance. And, until they change the way they develop players, they're always going to be the Cubs.