Earlier this week, Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum ripped Starlin Castro for another obvious lapse in concentration, that could have cost the Cubs a game (Castro lost track of the number of outs, and did not attempt to turn a double play as a run scored from third). Sveum called it the “last straw” before Castro might have to be benched.
One day later, Sveum’s tune had changed, almost dramatically. Suddenly, Castro’s lapses were not a reason for him to be benched. After all, veterans occasionally have the same lapses, and you don’t immediately bench them, Sveum said.
The quick change in course suggested to some that Sveum had been told from on high – that is, from the front office – to take it easy on the “bench Castro” talk, for one reason or another. A more cynical fellow might suggest that, if you’re looking to consider trading a particularly valuable player, you don’t want to speak ill of him, or tell the world that he’s doing bench-worthy things.
But Cubs GM Jed Hoyer wants to squash any of that cynicism. He says the decision on how to deal with Castro, and on what to say, was all Sveum’s doing.
“That was something we talked about in the interview process,” Hoyer said yesterday, according to Carrie Muskat. “[Castro] had already had that Bobby Valentine moment and missed that pitch. We were hoping he’d never have another incident and he did. That’s why you hire a manager — that’s the manager’s job. Dale did that on his own, and I think it was a perfect tone.
“As far as how [Castro] fits in our plans, he’s a huge part of our plans,” Hoyer continued. “He’s a shortstop who can hit, who can run and he’s getting better defensively. Those are hard to find. You look around baseball and almost every time we play another team, we have the better shortstop on the field and that’s a great feeling to have. We do have to address those [lapses] and I think Dale has struck the perfect tone with Starlin – ‘Hey, I like you, I get it, but it’s got to stop.’ That’s a big part of why we hired Dale, he can strike that balance. I don’t think Starlin resents him for it, I think Starlin understands. Maybe that was a good thing to happen in the long run. I hoping that’s the case. Maybe that’s the straw that broke the camel’s back from Dale’s perspective, maybe that ends up being a big positive.”
Of course, if you’re prone to cynism, you don’t really believe any of that anyway. But at least the Cubs are trying to control the narrative about Castro, which is the right thing to do, even if you know there’s almost no chance you’re actually going to trade him.