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dale sveum head scratcherI’m going to Cincinnati on Wednesday to take in the Reds/Cubs game with my father-in-law, a Reds fan. It’s a Samardzija/Latos matchup, so that part should be good.

  • Scott Feldman sums up the costly error he made yesterday on a comebacker from Jean Segura, which preceded Ryan Braun’s homer. “It’s the most routine play of all-time,” Feldman said, per CSN. “It’s the most basic play you can make. You do it hundreds of times in spring training each year. It’s like a Little League play. It’s terrible.” The ball had a ton of spin off of Segura’s bat, and it wasn’t a total gimme, but, yes, it’s a play that, with focus, you should make every time. In this instance, it could have cost the Cubs the game. It was the second game in a row that a pitcher error led to unearned runs.
  • Speaking of the errors, here’s a rare moment of candor from a baseball player. Anthony Rizzo on the poor defensive play, per Carrie Muskat: “We keep shooting ourselves in the foot and that’s something we can’t do – I don’t think we’re good enough to be doing that. We need to play good baseball.” You won’t hear too many players conceding that, on a talent basis, their team isn’t really up to snuff. Rizzo is, of course, right: this team doesn’t not have nearly enough pure talent to overcome mistakes. Unfortunately mistakes are common to every team, which is why the teams with the best records tend to also be the teams with the most talent. I guarantee I could play some fundamentally/mentally-sound baseball. I also guarantee I would hit .000/.000/.000 with a billion physical errors.
  • You may have now read about comments Cubs manager Dale Sveum made yesterday, purportedly threatening to demote Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo to AAA if they keep making mental mistakes. Obviously I wasn’t there, but, having watched video of Sveum’s interview, I simply did not hear his comments the same way as some other writers. I heard Sveum asked a question about players like Rizzo and Castro, and I heard Sveum use that question as a springboard to speak generically about players not being invincible, and about them having to perform or they can work it out at AAA. Sveum didn’t exclude Rizzo or Castro from the AAA comment … but why would he? He was making a broader point. What was he supposed to say? “These guys need to know that they will produce, or they’ll be sent to the minors. Well, except Castro and Rizzo. They’re locked in no matter how poorly they perform. But the rest of the guys … grr! Watch out!”
  • Nowhere did I hear Sveum legitimately or credibly threaten that Rizzo or Castro, specifically, could be demoted any time soon. (Bruce Miles didn’t hear it, either.) To suggest such a thing would be insane for logistical and production reasons, and, although Sveum was undoubtedly speaking from a place of frustration, he didn’t go that far. That all said, the portion of the video that I saw didn’t include the entirety of Sveum’s comments, and it’s possible he spoke in a way that could be interpreted a variety of ways. But from the video I’ve seen and the written accounts, it is, at worst, gray. And, when it’s gray as to whether Sveum actually suggested demoting guys like Castro and Rizzo, I’m going to err on the side of “no freaking way he meant that in a serious, practical, and immediate way.”
  • (More on Rizzo, in particular, coming later.)
  • Len Kasper with some high praise for Alfonso Soriano.
  • Demarrer

    So Paul Sullivan wrote an article be personally fabricated for the sake of viewers? Color me shocked!

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I wouldn’t go so far as to say it was fabricated – and Sullivan wasn’t the only one who interpreted Sveum’s comments the way he did.

      • Jp3

        Wittenmyer did it too

        • Whiteflag

          Mooney kind of did it too. His headline made it sound like the comments were attached specifically to Rizzo and Castro;however, the article did not. I’d venture to guess, they were taking advantage of the gray area to receive article clicks.

          • waittilthisyear

            i have to believe that each of those writers “interpreted” sveum’s comments in a way that they could summarize in a headline that would garner to most clicks

      • Mike

        Yeah, maybe they shouldn’t be attempting to “interpret” remarks in the first place. There’s a journalistic concept they should try. They’re called follow-up questions.

  • JulioZuleta

    Don’t sell yourself short. A pitcher might plunk you with one of those “Welcome to the big leagues” pitches, making your career slash line .000/.007/.000

    • cjdubbya

      If you never take your bat off your shoulders for an entire season, I wonder how many walks you would draw…

      • JulioZuleta

        I’ve always wondered if it is a rule that you even need to bring a bat to the plate. There are some pitchers that definitely are better off not swinging. Their only chance is taking a walk. I think throwing to a batter that doesn’t have a bat would mess with a pitcher’s head. If I had a really terrible hitting pitcher…I might consider sending him to the plate without a bat in certain circumstances.

      • Spriggs

        I’ve wondered the same thing. We’ll never know since there doesn’t appear to be any such thing as a take sign anymore.

        But seriously, if you went up there looking like you were going to swing (not just clearly up there to take) – but took everything, I wonder how many you’d get. Of course eveyone would know after a while, that you weren’t going to swing.

        I think one of the mistakes hitters make is being so OBVIOUS about taking pitches when they do take them. I think umps tend to give pitchers those pitches when they are close.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      He’d have to hit me in the on-deck circle, because I’d be bailing out as soon as every guy started his windup.

      (I can hit (by “hit,” I mean make contact with) 65 or so in the cage, but I once stood behind a glass where you could watch a 90mph fastball come in at you and I nearly shit my pants.)

      • David

        I once hit against a current pitcher for Clemson who threw in the 90’s. I didn’t swing, but stuck my bat into the strike zone, intending to foul the ball away, and hit it 300 ft into left field for an out. You don’t have to swing hard with that kind of speed to get a hit.

      • MightyBear

        LOL That was funny.

  • Spencer

    From what I understand, it was primarily Sullivan that suggested Sveum mentioned Rizzo and Castro being sent down, or at least that’s what the title of his article yesterday implied. But like you said, he never mentioned them specifically, and I think he was just talking about baseball players in general. And then it spring boarded into, “ohemgee Sveum totes hates Rizzo and Castro lulz!!!!1!!!1one”, helped in large part by Sullivan’s loose headline and interpretation. There may have been more to the interview, but I still haven’t seen any quotes attributable to Dale that specifically mention those two players. Whatever he’s gotta do for page hits, I guess.

  • Frank

    He’s right to demote them if they’re playing like minor leaguers. Castro is a contact-hitting king, but he has concentration in the field of a 9 year old. Get it together millionaire!

    • JulioZuleta

      Starlin Castro skipped AAA all together on his way up. Didn’t even play long at AA. He is incredibly talented. The Cubs drafted 9 guys last year that were older than Starlin was at the time of the draft. He made his second ASG last year, and went over 500 career hits…while he should have been a senior in college. Yes, he has mental lapses in the field, but he has improved greatly in that area since he came up. That’s what you ask 22 year olds to do…improve.
      A lot of Cubs fans just flat out do not appreciate how good Castro is. David Kaplan is one that just rips Castro all day. I don’t get it. He has some absolutely historic achievements on his resume. Kap spends 90% of his on-air time criticizing Starlin Castro and Jay Cutler…even though his only sports related experience is as a basketball coach. He has no credibility analyzing baseball or football and he makes that very obvious on a daily basis. Yes, he knows PEOPLE, but that doesn’t mean he knows BASEBALL. Maybe he just wants to be a cheap headline grabber like his buddy Sully… (end mini-rant)

      • Spencer

        I like Kap a lot, but his outward criticisms of a 23 year old baseball player is getting hard for me to ignore. So much pressure is put on Castro because of his young age and the fact that he’s so good on such a bad team. People are expecting perfection from him, and it doesn’t make any sense to me. HE’S 23 YEARS OLD. People are like, “well this is his fourth year in the league, I don’t care how old someone is, by the time they’ve been in the league that long they should have shown improvement.” Well, 1) I think he has improved, and 2) Just because he doesn’t play flawless defensively doesn’t mean he’s a bad player, and 3) I think he’s still developing all of his tools, because HE’S 23 YEARS OLD.

        • JulioZuleta

          He has improved a ton. Sometimes I like Kap too. Sometimes. But he absolutely destroys some of his credibility when, on this god-awful team, he criticizes the lone bright spot, or with the Bears, when he criticizes Cutler and doesn’t notice the deficiencies around him. (Jay Cutler is one of my favorite human beings on the face of the Earth, yes I get sensitive when people criticize him).

          Also, I loved how Bruce Miles called Kap out on Twitter yesterday. It was great.

          • waittilthisyear

            i absolutely despise Kap. he is the personification of what i believe to be all things wrong about chicago sports fans. rips the best players, freaks out about nothing, offers opinions as facts (and in a very smug way). whenever someone disagrees with him, no matter how many facts they present, he will just turn to the camera and give a “yea, right” type smile. sorry for the rant

    • Cub Style

      And this is why not everyone can work in baseball

  • Jan Forty-Two

    I guess a headline that suggests Castro and Rizzo might be demoted sells better than one reporting what has actually been said.
    And I am glad bleachernation does not need that kind of exaggeration.
    That said, it would be unwise to deny the possibilitly of Castro or Rizzo being sent down. It’s just totally unlikely in the present situation.

    • JulioZuleta

      It would absolutely be wise to deny that. How do you think it reflects upon an organization when, as a player, you have two All-Star games, are a career .300 hitter, and you are freakin’ hitting over .300 for the year…and the organization supposedly threatens to send you down (which they did not). Does that sound like a place players want to go? “Yeah, I’m a young phenom…but if I’m with the Cubs and I make 3 mental errors in the field during April, I might get sent down…”

      I know Dale didn’t say it…but if he was asked, he should absolutely acknowledge that the organization is behind them. I’m not saying you need to coddle these guys, but by all accounts, they have been the backbone of this team and the only ones worth watching so far. Neither is even struggling that badly.

    • JulioZuleta

      If you want to bench them for 2 days, fine. But to allow that threat to even be in their minds is ridiculous.

      • Jan Forty-Two

        I totally agree with you, JulioZuleta, lack of production would not justify demoting a franchise player like Rizzo or Castro.
        The only scenario where a demotion could be possible would be an offense like insulting someone or a similar incident. But it’s not worth thinking about it until it happens and hopefully it never will.

    • Dustin S

      I think you’re right-on that it’s more about making a shocking headline. Even the Tribune has a poll up today that says “Demote Castro and Rizzo?”. The takeaway for me is that Sveum is understandingly getting more frustrated and more worried about his job. I can’t help but feel like we’ve been there before with Baylor, Baker, Pinella, and Quade when they start to get that glazed look in their eyes. For me the long-term picture for better or worse is starting to clear. It’s not good for 2013 or even 14, but it’s getting clearer.

  • curt

    I could handle the losing if you could see progress on the fundamentals and the mental mistakes were at a minimum seems like the defense is regressing and there’s almost no offense. I think having them be competitive in 2014 is optimistic at best might be a couple more yrs past that .

  • Chris H.

    I will be at the Monday and Wednesday games for this series. Can’t wait to see Wood and Samardzija.

  • http://www.bleachernation.com colonel ichabod

    good article by the very likable mr. kasper. another slow start for fonz, but i think we have come to appreciate him, especially after last year, more and more. and even now more than ever when the cubs are going struggle you want respectable role models on how to handle the pressure of being a chicago cubs baseball player. cheers alfonzo

  • Kevin F.

    Dale’s cracking a little, a la Sweet Lou’s rant early in ’07.

  • Jan Forty-Two

    If anything can be read from Sveum’s statement, it’s his own frustration about the current situation of the Cubs roster.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Bingo.

    • terencemann

      It seems a little silly to single out these guys, though. They’re two of the better performers at the plate right now, in spite of what it may seem like in the heat of a game. I guess, like someone else said, it doesn’t exactly grab headlines if he’s ripping on Dave Sappelt.

  • Greg

    While Castro is hitting well (.301 at this point with a .320 OBP) he also leads the team in errors (4 errors in 74 chances) and only has a .946 fielding pct. Because of his ability with the bat on an anemic hitting team, we certainly can’t afford to send him to AAA. However, we also can’t afford to keep a shortstop that continuously has as many mental and physical errors as he does.

    Perhaps in the future with his speed and arm Castro might make a better outfielder. Perhaps in a year or two, if we acquire a dependably fielding shortstop either through trade or via the maturation of a dependable Javier Baez or Junior Lake, Castro could move to a position at which he might handle the ball less frequently. For the past 2+ years people have been saying “He’s still young. He’ll get better.” True, but eventually he’s had enough time to mature and we’re getting close to that point soon.

    Castro can clearly hit, but unless he matures and makes fewer mental and physical errors in the field, we can’t afford to keep him at shortstop. (IMHO)

    • terencemann

      I think KLaw recently suggested Castro moving to left field over time and that could make sense if he does end up hitting enough to make him a valuable left fielder. He’s got a great arm.

      It’s still too early to get attached to any stats, though. It doesn’t make any more sense to expect that Castro’s going to have a great year at the plate based on his early success (especially in spite of the lack of patience and an unsustainable BABIP) than it does to assume that Castro will be this bad at fielding all year although it won’t take much for him to lead the position in errors again at this rate.

      • Drew7

        “…and an unsustainable BABIP”

        Currently .351 vs a career rate of .335 – definately sustainable.

        • Drew7

          *definitely…Ugh

    • hansman1982

      Bah, Castro had 7 errors last April, causing everyone to say this:

      “Castro can clearly hit, but unless he matures and makes fewer mental and physical errors in the field, we can’t afford to keep him at shortstop. ”

      From 2009-2010 Ryan “Rocket Arm” Theriot had 29 combined errors (or about a Castro’s season worth) yet, since then he has appeared in only 1001 innings at SS. Why is it Castro has a starting job (and would have the starting SS job on probably 25 other teams) and Theriot doesn’t even have any job at the MLB level?

      Oh ya, cause Castro gets to balls that most other SS can’t.

  • Alex

    This is all wittenmeyer…he’s written multiple articles on the topic already just from interpreting Sveums interview

  • Cedlandrum

    One thing to keep in mind is that Castro started the same way last year too and people freaked out about how awful he was defensively. He then settled down to have a nice season.

    As for all these switch Barney and Castro ideas. Castro will get to many, many balls that Barney wouldn’t get too. Now Barney isn’t going to make many errors, but it is really a wash. I just don’t see any upside to that switch.

  • Frank F.

    Demote them to Daytona along with Shark. That way, the players relevant to our future can all come up together in a winning environment, thus not having to deal with a frustrated, in over his head manager and meat headed Wrigleyville fans.

    Almora CF
    Castro SS
    Baez 3B
    Rizzo 1B
    Soler RF
    Shoulders LF (may as well give it a try)
    Torryes 2B
    Castillo C

    Price SP
    Apel SP
    Shark SP
    Vizcaino SP
    Jackson SP

    Szczur
    Amaya
    Bruno
    Golden

    I know, very unlikely that that many guys pan out, but the thought alone is enough to keep me warm for the next 2-3 years while we keep cycling retreads and reclamations through the big league club.

    • Edwin

      How is it that the Cubs get Price, yet keep Almora, Baez, and Soler?

      I’m not trying to burst your bubble, but your team above is an impossible dream.

      • hansman1982

        That is only because you are thinking in the same stoopid way our current FO is.

        A good FO would be able to get Price AND Longoria without giving up a top-10 prospect.

  • DocPeterWimsey

    Here is why slogging on Rizzo and Castro is just dumb. You can evaluate a team’s problems pretty easily by looking at the position-by-position OPS. Here is how the Cubs shake out:

    Po OPS rank Ave NetOPS
    RF 0.821 4 0.735 0.086
    1B 0.842 5 0.762 0.080
    SS 0.786 7 0.716 0.070
    CF 0.771 5 0.708 0.063
    C 0.688 10 0.750 -0.062
    LF 0.702 10 0.829 -0.127
    3B 0.539 12 0.680 -0.141
    P 0.145 13 0.351 -0.206
    2B 0.460 15 0.670 -0.210
    That final number is the OPS above/below average for the team. Now, over the last 50 years, teams average about 2.1 victories over 0.500 for every 0.01 OPS better than their opponents. So far, RIzzo and Castro are providing a lot more OPS than Joe 1B and Jim SS. We’ve done well from the RF platoon and CF, too. Our catching is misleading, too: Castillo is doing very well (OPS 0.900 or +0.15!); Navarro is actually hitting OK overall, but (as luck would have it) his outs have come while he’s catching (OPS 0.059).

    The problems are LF, 3B, P and 2B. Now, we know that Sori will hit, and Valbuena actually is close to league average himself. You cannot do anything about the pitching: those guys were not hired because they could hit. 2B has been a huge hole, with Barney & Lillibridge combining for 2 singles. Barney is not a good hitter, but he’s not that awful, either.

    Now, some early flubs by Castro and Rizzo on the field have hurt, but here is the punch ilne: the main reason the Cubs are even in games is because of these two; they’ve helped generate a huge chunk of the Cubs runs. Take that away and put in no fielding miscues, and we get error-free shut out loses.

  • Brad

    Ha if they ever demoted Castro or Rizzo for any reason I Would the leave the cubs

  • Kyle

    It was the beat writer equivalent of trolling. Ask an absurd question like “Would you ever send Castro or Rizzo down if they played badly enough?” and you are in a win/win situation.

    If Sveum says “Sure, it’s theoretically possible,” then you can write about how he’s threatening to send them down.

    If he says “No,” then you get to write an article about how he’s not willing to hold them accountable under any circumstances.

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