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Some of these playoff races are shaping up to be pretty exciting. The AL East is crazy tight, and the AL Wild Card race has some surprising entrants. The NL Wild Card race is tightening up. Now’s the time of year you have to divorce yourself from the crappiness of the Cubs if you want to just enjoy baseball. It’s there to be enjoyed if you can get past the disappointment.

  • Last night, the Cubs had a chance to tie the game in the sixth when Darwin Barney hit a would-be sacrifice fly to center field with Starlin Castro on third, and Dave Sappelt on second. Both runners tagged, but, rather than try to get Castro at home, the Astros threw to third, nailing Sappelt. The problem for the Cubs? Castro hadn’t yet scored. The inning ended with the Sappelt out, and the Cubs didn’t get a run. Castro is getting some grief for not hustling all the way down the line, but I wonder how much of that is fair. On the one hand: always hustle. Just always hustle. It’s that simple. On the other hand, it’s technically possible that, given that each was tagging and running the same distance, Sappelt could have been thrown out before Castro scored even if both were running at full speed (i.e., maybe Sappelt is faster than Castro). Further, it’s fair to question whether Sappelt should have been tagging on the play at all (it was a relatively shallow fly ball, slightly to the third base side of center). I’m not really making judgments either way. I’m just pointing out that it’s easy to look at Castro and point the you-didn’t-hustle-and-the-Cubs-lost finger, but I’m not really sure how much blame he deserves.
  • For manager Dale Sveum’s part, he said the blame laid mostly with Sappelt, calling the decision to try and take third “not very smart.”
  • Brett Jackson is looking ahead to 2013 after a long offseason of working out. He says he knows there’s a lot of tedious drilling work he needs to do on his swing, and he also needs to strengthen his top hand.
  • I wrote about Jaye Chapman in yesterday’s Bullets (he’s thrown four scoreless frames in impressive fashion since being called up), and, what do you know, Dale Sveum was asked about him before last night’s game. Good timing. “[Chapman] has a power changeup to where you don’t feel you have to use a left-hander to get left-handers out,” Sveum said, according to Paul Sullivan. “He has great arm speed and he has closed in the minor leagues. You can tell he has a little attitude on the mound. He’s not afraid out there. So far he has impressed all of us.” You read too much into September appearances – especially when there are only four of them – at your own peril, so it’s nice to hear that Sveum has been impressed with what he’s actually seen.
  • Cubs coach Mike Borzello’s 9/11 story. He was the Yankees’ bullpen catcher at the time.
  • The MLBullets at BCB, apropos of the intro to these Bullets, discuss the surprising comebacks of the Brewers and Phillies.
  • Curt

    I understand sappelt myb shouldn’t hve tagged but why does castro get a pass on not hustling why is hustling an option , play dosent involve I don’t need to then it turns it did involve you, but if you hustle every time you never get blamed for not doing so, I hope this change of culture we hear so much about , that this is being instilled in every player in the minors so that if and when they get here were not discussing why they don’t always do so.

    • cubchymyst

      I don’t blame Castro at all, hustling or not, Even though the play wasn’t at home, Castro was likely running fast enough to ensure he was going to cross home without being thrown out. He probably wasn’t even aware that Sappelt was tagging up as well.

  • Jim L.

    Great, another thing for the meatheads to complain about Castro.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Isn’t it “meatballs”?

  • cRAZYHORSE

    Sappelt is AT FAULT! The headline is misleading . The headline should have read :Sappelt bonehead tag cost the Cubs A run and a shot a win. Any 10 to 12 year ballplayer will tell you with two outs the runner at 2nd holds unless the throw is to home..

    • Featherstone

      Soooooooo, we should be thanking Sappelt then? God knows we dont need anymore wins in this horrendous season.

      • cRAZYHORSE

        Sooooo — If You want to thank Sappelt for the lost that is your choice- Odd fan reaction Sappelt costs the Cubs a chance for win, Thank him for being an idiot. If it was Castro nail him to the cross. Typical fan reaction on this site.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      No, the headline asks the question raised by the ESPN piece, which I then discuss and disagree with.

      • cRAZYHORSE

        I was just talking about the headline – your bullet point to ESPN link was not questioned nor your argument. Reading your headline made no mention of ESPN. It open a course of conversation. Also if people did not click on the link – not a single reader could have guessed it was a question or Article from ESPN.

        • lukers63

          I generally assume when there is a hyperlink in the text, that Brett is referencing an article/discussion from elsewhere. But hey, that’s just me.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          The entire Bullet was ABOUT whether or not Castro screwed up. In what universe is the headline not addressing EXACTLY that?

          You’re acting as though the headline says, “Here Are All the Reasons Starlin Castro Made a Boner.”

          • die hard

            Well since he usually never hustles, rebuttal presumption is that its his fault…

            • Drew7

              I knew I’d see a comment from you on this one.

          • santo’s toupe

            he tried to score with a chub?

  • Melrosepad

    Do the replays show if the third base coach told Sappelt to run? I’d hope not as it wasn’t a deep hit.

    • Hebner The Gravedigger

      That is a great point. What was the responsible coach doing and did the player respond properly?

    • Spriggs

      In my opinion, it is not the responsibility of a third base coach to give the runner a sign on whether to tag up or not. The runner has to watch the fielder make the catch – and simultaneously explode off the base. The decision, I am pretty sure, is made right then and there by the runner. I am not sure if I’ve ever seen a coach throw up a stop sign at any point during a tag up play, nor have I seen them yelling to the runner to not or to tag. Am I wrong about that?

      • Hebner The Gravedigger

        I must have had more micro-managing coaches. I was responsible for getting back to the bag, while listening to the coach. I was responsible for exploding off of the bag, while listening to the coach give a “go” or “stay”. I could not explode off of 3rd and watch the play behind me. I don’t know how they do it in the big leagues….which is why the questions are valid. Where was the coach and what were his responsibilities? Did the player executed the coach’s instructions?

        • Spriggs

          So the 3rd base coach in this instance — who is he giving instructions too? Sappelt coming in to third or Castro leaving third. It cannot be both. The answer, I believe, is neither. These guys are NOT micro managed like that. Little League, OK, maybe.

          • Hebner The Gravedigger

            Then I don’t know what their purpose is.

        • Spriggs

          Also, if you have your head down listening for your coach’s “GO!” signal, that is a pretty inefficient way to tag up. Wouldn’t you want to eliminate the reaction time of a middleman – and also your reaction time to his signal – and just go on sight?

          • Hebner The Gravedigger

            Running with your head turned around is also inefficient.

            • DocPeterWimsey

              And yet if a bear is chasing you, then every instinct in your body will have you doing that!

              • Shawno-Meter

                Never make the 3rd out at 3B.

              • Hebner The Gravedigger

                I hope to never, ever find out. :)

  • BD

    That play cost the Cubs a run, which might have given them the loss they needed to keep pace with the the Twins and Rockies. I’m OK with it today (and kinda thankful, honestly)…

    Now in a couple years when a win is the difference between a wild card spot and going home, or the division and the wild card- then I will be ticked.

    • TWC

      Cubs lose! Thank goodness!

      Ridiculous.

      • Eric

        I don’t get it. Are you saying it’s ridiculous to root for the #2 draft position and nearly a million more to spend than the #3 draft position in a losing season?

  • BeyondFukudome

    For future reference, please be sure never to use the word “boner” in any stories about Pierce Johnson. ;-)

    • http://WavesOfTalent.webs.com tim

      My nickname for him is “Ouch”

  • Spriggs

    I just don’t understand – and never will – why it’s so hard for some guys to play hard. Castro is one of those guys. I guess he always will be. This is one of many examples this year where his low effort was obvious. At best, it’s a very bad habit.

  • Curt

    meathead really, why does Castro wrry what sappelt is doing hustle yrself and you won’t hve to wrry.and that’s the whole point (bd) if start learning these things now when it does count myb it’ll come naturally to be doing things the right way.

    • Melrosepad

      Curt, I understand that since you are obviously a Hawkeye fan that this might not be possible, but is there any way you could at least try to use correct spelling?

      • Alec

        Boom!

      • lukers63

        Hey now, don’t be kickin’ Herky while he’s down. Although I will agreed, tough read.

        • Melrosepad

          I have to kick Herky, it is a moral imperative. Comes from first being a Little Cyclone in high school then an Iowa State Cyclone in college.

          • lukers63

            Fair enough. My son will be a Little Hawk…. and will be forced to be an Iowa Hawkeye like his parents. ;)

  • Cedlandrum

    To be honest it doesn’t matter nor should anyone other then Dale Svuem care about why Castro didn’t score. They suck and the more they lose the better long term.

    • Spriggs

      I disagree. His teammates, the ones who don’t want to lose, should – and probably do care. Not hustling, dogging it a little, jogging when you should be sprinting… all very bad habits for a young player to get into. Yes, they blow now and it’s probably best for the team that they lost last night. But I don’t want Castro dogging it a few years down the road when they no longer blow. That part needs to stop now.

  • wait til next year…..again

    Maybe I am wrong on this, but I feel like most players do not hustle if they know they are going to score on a play like this. If it is going to be a close play, then yes most players hustle. I am not condoning Castro not hustling or what not, but I feel like the only reason it is a big deal is because it is Castro and his past. I agree with other people are saying. If three or four years from now, we are regularly having this discussion, then it is a big issue. To me, it is a clear case of Sappelt should not have tagged up. In a close game like this, you never put yourself in a situation to make the final out at third like that. You are already in scoring position where a base hit would score you and give the Cubs the lead. I think this is a good learning opportunity for all of the young Cubs.

    • ptbnl

      Exactly. I didn’t see the game but from the highlight on MLB Castro is hustling before slowing down. I would bet he saw the catcher move up since the throw wasn’t coming home and Castro slowed down since there wouldn’t be a play. On the Astros sac fly the runner slowed down as well but we aren’t talking about it since the runner on second didn’t run into an out.

    • Dave

      Three or four years from now it will be too late. The time to educate is now, not when he is a 5-6 year veteran in the major leagues.

  • ptbnl

    This is on Sappelt. I understand that he is auditioning for a job but he needs to be smarter. Make a break for third to try to draw a throw but you can’t run in that situation until you are sure the throw is going through.

    Two assumptions were made on this play. Castro assumed he would score easily and Sappelt assumed the throw was going home. In my opinion Sappelt’s assumption was the more incorrect.

  • Cheryl

    I’m not blaming Castro on this play, but sometimes it seems like he’s not held to account for his actions when other players are. It almost seems like there’s a double standard for him.

    • Cedlandrum

      I think he is held in tougher confines then others. Here we are with articles written about him and no one except a few message board folks are saying that Sappelt was the one at fault.

      Everything Castro does is under a microscope. I think he is held to a higher standard and he should be, but people need to relax.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        Also, it’s a case of completely missing what is important in baseball. The Cubs are not losing because they are not hustling or because they have low baseball IQ. The Cubs are losing because they have allowed 36 more HR than they have hit, 16 more doubles+triples than they have hit, and they’ve issued 120 more walks than they’ve taken.

        Now, give the Cubs 36 HR, 16 2B+3B and 120 walks. Will that plus some hustle & IQ make them winners? No: they’ll be a 0.500 team.

        So, ultimately, this is a concern about style instead of substance. Substance affects every game, style affects maybe 1 in 50.

    • Boogens

      Hard not to agree with Cheryl on this one. I think it’s fair to say that all Cubs fan like Castro and want to see him improve. Hustling is one of those really simple things that he should be doing at all times. It’s a no-brainer and if he had really hustled then Sappelt’s boner wouldn’t have been so noticable. (Sorry, just had to go there).

      I think that Castro has all the talent in the world but doesn’t have a high baseball IQ. No one should have to coach him to know to haul ass home. Another thing that’s getting overlooked is his gaffe on the potential double play at the end of the 8th inning. Once Mather didn’t catch the line drive and threw it to Castro he wasn’t heady enough to tag the runner already on second before forcing out the oncoming runner. I know it’s a bang-bang play but it just serves as an example that he’s long on talent but short on baseball IQ.

      • SirCub

        Yea, it’s not really a question to me. Castro didn’t hustle, so he didn’t score. That’s an inexcusable mistake. Sappelt also made a mistake, but of course it’s less of an issue, because really who cares about Sappelt? (I do, but you know what I mean)

        I agree with everything Doc says about hustle not being what wins you games in the long run. But it is much easier to root for a player that’s low on talent than it is to root for a player that’s low on hustle. As a Cubs’ fan, my happiness does not correlate perfectly with the Cubs’ run differential, or their team WAR, or even their record. I’m made happy by watching players that I like play the game the way I like to see it played. If that wasn’t the case, then I would not be a Cubs’ fan. So yea, he needs to try harder, and stay focused, because the Cubs just made him the face of the franchise, and he is held to a higher standard. And rightly so. *Stepping off my pedestal*

        • DocPeterWimsey

          But it is much easier to root for a player that’s low on talent than it is to root for a player that’s low on hustle.

          I’ve never understood that mentality, myself. However, I’m one of those people who rooted for Mozart (mega talent, but sometimes a bit lazy) over Salieri (replacement composer talent who hustled his butt off). I’m told that movie is a good divider of personality types!

          • SirCub

            I generally feel different about individuals who are lazy than players in a team sport. I think Gary Hall Jr. is hilarious, because he never practiced, but would just show up at the Olympics every four years and collect his gold medal. I feel similarly about Mozart. Just because you’re brilliant at something doesn’t mean you’re obligated to kill yourself trying to give the world every ounce of your brilliance that you can muster. But on a team, you kind of have to, otherwise you’re letting your team mates (and the fans) down.

    • wait til next year…..again

      I disagree 100%. When Castro signed his extension, people all over this blog questioned the signing based on the fact of his several mental miscues. People in the media as well as fans are always questioning his mental lapses. If anything, Castro is now under a bigger microscope of fan and media attention since he signed the extension.

      • Chris

        I agree these guys should always hustle. But there are other members of the team that don’t seem to get called out on lack of hustle. Castro does seem to be under an awful lot of scrutiny. Sometimes I miss the days when us ignorant Cubs fans cheered on Sammy Sosa for making an unbelievable throw… that sailed over the cutoff man and allowed runners to advance. But did you see how far he could throw?… Castro is an unbelievable talent and I hope he’s able to shoulder the spotlight put on him and it turns him into a great player. I’d still like to see people let up a little. People just have to realize that he’s very young to be a star SS in the majors, and he really didn’t have that much minor league time. A good manager will correct his mistakes, and I hope Sveum is that guy. I think the front office gets it, having heard Theo and Jed comment on Starlin and his improvements. And clearly they backed those sound bites up with the contract extension. He’s a special player, one like we’ve not seen come up through the Cubs minor league system in a long time. When was the last time there was a truly good everyday player from the system, Grace? Palmeiro? We as fans, as well as the media, need to let up a little bit. Despite the new gold neglaces he’s sporting (probably thanks to the signing bonus), he’s not a show-boat type player. He’s just young. If he’s making the same mistakes at age 27, then we have a problem.

  • Richard Nose

    I freaking love boners.

  • Fastball

    I can’t believe that something like did Castro run fast enough. He was tagging from 3b on a flyball that wasn’t very deep. There almost never a play at the plate of the runner on second tags up and tries advance. The 3b coach? What the hell was he doing during all of this? He let’s Sappelt tag and run? No coach with a brain in his waves a runner forward on a play like that. So if he had the Brakes on Sappelt it wouldn’t have mattered. If he did have the brakes on Sappelt then its Sappelt’s fault because a throw to 3b is pretty easy for mid left center field. I say get off Castro’s back and leave him alone.

  • CUBSIN

    I didn’t see the play, but from the descriptions I’ve seen, I don’t see any mistake that was made by Castro. On a short SF, it’s his job to touch the plate before he’s tagged out, and he did that. Slowing down when the catcher moves away from the plate seems reasonable to me, since it reduces the risk of an injury. He would have needed incredible psychic powers to know that Sappelt was running from second base, because the play at third was behind him.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      He would have needed incredible psychic powers to know that Sappelt was running from second base, because the play at third was behind him.

      Or an on-deck batter signaling Castro that he couldn’t let up. I’m not sure what the signal is: I’ve seen them with hands in the air (“you can coast”) and waving hands down (“!!!! Slide!!!!”), but I do not know what the signal is for “Run through as hard as you can!” Of course, you see this play only 3-4 times a year in all of MLB.

  • alsongs

    All things being equal, and if this was a one time occurrence I’d say put it on Sappelt’s shoulders. But a few games ago we all saw Castro slow down going from third to home on a ground ball, looking over his shoulder to see if the throw was coming to the plate, and then de-accellerating when he saw that it wasn’t. Now I never played professionally, but I learned in pee wee league to put your head down and run.

  • Spriggs

    This is what it all boils down to for me. I don’t care who was more to blame between Sappelt and Castro. I am more concerned about Castro breaking some of his bad habits and learning from his mistakes (and those of his young teammates). Conserving energy is one thing, but lazy base running needs to stop. If you as fans never saw a reason for a guy to hustle home on a play like this, well — now you know better. And I hope Castro and about 20 or so of his teammates learned it too.

    • SirCub

      This.

    • Cedlandrum

      I know what you are saying, but is it lazy baserunning? I have seen about every major leaguer start off fast on that play to make sure it isn’t close and then jog it in when there is no play. Its like hitting a ball to left field that is clearly a single. You run to first, but it is a different run then the one where you hit it and know you have a chance at a double or triple. Very few guys sprint that play- Tony Campana, Bryce Harper and maybe a few others.

      In my mind Castro didn’t do anything that was wrong. There was no laziness or miscue. there wasn’t a play at the plate so he slowed up a bit. Sappelt shouldn’t have ran. That is the end of it in my mind.

      • Spriggs

        You say: “Its like hitting a ball to left field that is clearly a single. You run to first, but it is a different run then the one where you hit it and know you have a chance at a double or triple.”

        No, not really. On a routine single to left, you are describing a completely different situation. When you are trying to score with 2 outs and there are base runners behind you – well you should NOT assume they will not become factors in the play. Is it asking too much to run hard from 3rd to home? This exact play and ones similar to it have been a pet peave of mine for years. Run! If the same thing happens tomorrow, will you still say Castro did nothing wrong?

        • Drew7

          If the same thing happens tomorrow, I’ll say, “Hey dumbass! Yeah, you- the guy who made the 3rd out at 3B – stay your ass at 2nd!”

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Conserving energy is one thing, but lazy base running needs to stop.

      Plays like this have nothing to do with either laziness or conserving energy. They have to do with adrenaline. When a ballplayer is trying to beat a throw, the adrenaline is coursing into his brain. You can feel this even in a pickup softball game. However, what happens after the outcome becomes clear? The adrenaline drops almost immediately. You’ll feel your feet slow down without your telling them to do so: the “fear” factor (be it a big bear or getting tagged out) is gone, so you don’t get that extra boost.

      So, it’s not as if Castro or any other baserunner (see the Reed Johnson example below) thinks “I can slow down now.” He’s escaped the bear and the instincts turn the turbo button “off.”

      • Spriggs

        It is an example of a breakdown that can be fixed… conditioned. It’s as simple as that. If you do nothing to correct it, it happens again. Run home. Run! It’s not that complicated. He compounded Sappelt’s mistake and that is the risk you take if you don’t run home – even if you think you have the throw beat.

  • OCCubFan

    Here is something for fans to ponder: A couple of years ago, the Dodgers were involved in a somewhat similar play. I believe the situation was two outs in the bottom of the ninth, runners on first and second, with the Dodgers trailing by one run. The batter hit a single to left. The man on second was going to score easily, so he eased up after rounding third. The runner on first, advanced to second and rounded the base a few feet. The left fielder, seeing he had no chance at all to get the runner at home, threw to second behind the other runner. He was tagged out sliding back into second. Meanwhile, the game-tying run had not yet scored. Game over. The runner who eased up? Reed Johnson — he who is generally regarded as a “full-time hustler.”
    Sappelt was clearly in the wrong.

  • bbmoney

    I give Castro exactly 0% of the blame on this play.

    He ran plenty fast enough to score from 3rd. You don’t make, or risk making the 3rd out at 3rd base, I’ll say it again, you don’t make the 3rd out at 3rd base…that’s doubly true when someone is tagging to score from 3rd at the same time. There is no reason Castro should have had to go balls to the wall to score on that fly ball and extend himself on the off chance that the runner behind him makes a boneheaded play. Sappelt had no business trying to advance, end of story.

    • bbmoney

      And don’t get me wrong, Castro needs to tighten up his mental approach to the game.

      This just isn’t an example of that.

    • TWC

      I blame Hendry.

  • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

    I don’t even think it should be a discussion. Castro should have hustled.
    If he still didn’t make it, then it’s easy to blame Sappelt. If he makes it, he’s cheered for hustling and Sappelt gets blame for making the 3rd out at 3rd base.

    Just run man!

    • Spriggs

      Yep. Just run! If he can’t do that himself, then he must be taught. If not, the coaches are as much at fault.

  • Serious Cubs Fan

    haha wow, I could help but laugh at the title of the article. Yes I am being childish and immature but hey what ever I’m still only in college. Psych classes say us men’s brains won’t develop fully till were 25. I got a couple years to go

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      If I said a small part of me wasn’t going for a cheap giggle or two, I’d be lying.

  • Stinky Pete

    This whole argument reminds me of the episode of “The Office” that Dwight claims he doesn’t ever waste company time.
    C’mon,man. How many of you hustle ALL the time?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I HUSTLE ALL THE TIME! I’M HUSTLING RIGHT NOW! THAT’S WHY I’M USING CAPS AND EXCLAMATION POINTS! HUSSSSSTTTTLLLLLLLLLLLLE!!!!!!!!!!

      • Stinky Pete

        What? I can’t hear you!

  • Bruce Boryla

    Just hustle; never assume that what’s supposed to happen behind you is what’s actually gonna happen, especially with two outs. It’s that simple. Hustling can help cover up for bonehead mistakes your teammates may make and sends the right message to the rest of the team. Castro said he wants to be a leader for future players, well time to start showing it.

    • Drew7

      You know how he can be a better leader? By continuing to improve his defense and produce above-average offensive numbers from a SS.

      Put more simply: by continuing to do the things that matter.

  • BluBlud

    Anybody blaming Castro is being ridiculous. I scored a run just last week on a short pop to the left centerfielder and I damn near walked home. All I do is hustle hard. It was not required on that play, nor was it required by Castro. Seppalt made a completely idiotic play, and he carries 150% of the blame.

  • Tony S

    I have no issue with Sappelt tagging up on the play. Runners sometimes tag up and take a few steps after the catch to draw a throw from an outfielder and see if they throw it into the stands. I havent seen the play but from the descriptions it seems like Sappelt’s assumption that the throw was going to the dish was the error.
    I think most runners would ease up when running home if they see the catcher step towards the infield.

  • curt

    leave it to a clowns fan to be worried about my spelling which by the way there wasnt any just a couple of shortened words my bad. its all good though, go hawks and even the clones only cheer against them once each year, go cubs too, how about an over/under the cubs are competing for a division title in 3 years.

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