castro baseball card ticketWho remembers May 7, 2010? Because it was, in a word, amazing.

Starlin Castro, after weeks and weeks (and weeks) of speculation and anticipation, was called up to face Homer Bailey and the Cincinnati Reds in his Major League debut. As fans, we usually set ourselves up for failure when it comes to prospects. We expect too much and sometimes get too little.

This was not so with the young Castro.

While some were sad that our favorite Cub, Ryan Theriot, had to move to 2nd base because of incoming talent (Wait, just me? Fine), Castro proceeded to show us why Theriot had been moved over.  In his first at bat, Castro launched a three-run homer on a 2-2 count much to the dismay of Reds Nation. He finished the night driving in a total of 6 runs after hitting a ho-hum triple later in the game as well. This marked the record for the most RBIs in a Major League debut by any player ever in the history of the world and/or universe. The MLB even kept his jersey and hat to send to Cooperstown.

I don’t care who you are, that’s an entrance. Again, just to be clear, the MLB took stuff that he wore during the game and put it in the Hall of Fame. Stuff from his first game. Ever.

Castro started his career in the bigs much like Kramer did every time he slid into Jerry’s apartment: It surprised the hell out of us, definitely made us smile, and had us wanting more (even die-hard The Riot fans).

Castro finished his rookie season in 2010 playing in 125 games and hitting .300. He also finished 5th in Rookie of the Year voting. That’s pretty much what you hope for when you bring up a young guy from the minors. And yet, all we heard as fans was, “Just wait, he hasn’t even reached his full potential yet.”

At the conclusion of 2011, the Cubs had lost 91 games and had finished 2nd to last in the NL Central. There was a bright spot, however, with Castro hitting .307 and being named to his first All-Star appearance. We all had hope. Sure his fielding needed work, but he was still only 21 years old. And so, we kept hearing, “Just wait, he hasn’t even reached his full potential yet.”

Somewhere between 2012 and now, however, that rhetoric stopped. We no longer heard that we had to wait. Instead, the praise and talks of potential not yet reached started to dissipate. It was replaced with sounds of grumblings about concentration in the field and lack of discipline at the plate.

What the hell happened? Was it his fault? Or the coaching staff’s? Or other outside forces?

Perhaps it was all of the above. Castro’s struggles are similar to a car crash. You’re never not at fault when you’re involved in accident. There’s always some percentage of the blame, no matter how low, that can be put back on you (Source: I used to be in the insurance game). It’s the same for Castro. The growing pains that Castro has felt over the past two years haven’t been a result of any one thing, but rather a multitude of factors: tough love from Sveum, legal troubles in the Dominican Republic, and just blatant lack of concentration on the field. All of these forces combined make it tough to play Major League Baseball and  handle the pressures of playing for a highly popular team (random thought: would Theriot ever have had these issues?? I kid, I kid). 

Are these just excuses? Shouldn’t a Major League ballplayer be able to handle the every day pressures that may come from a manager or outside forces or even in from within? Sure. Of course. But blaming Castro (if you’re in the front office, not as a fan) doesn’t get you far.

Where does this leave us as fans then? For some, Castro has been written off. For others, we want to see what he has mentally and physically moving forward. To get to a point, however, where our minds can be changed, we need to see the change. (That could be a band name actually, “Change for Change.” It’d be a Smashing Pumpkins cover band). Theo and Jed have put for the effort in helping this change come to fruition.

The Cubs believe they have the necessary tools in place to achieve the type of improvement we need to see for Castro. This starts with the new manager. Rick Renteria should not be looked at as a sort of savior, however (much in the way Theo and Jed are not saviors). But make no mistake, he was 100% brought in for his experience in coaching young talent and his ability to communicate effectively with his players. Translation: Castro needed someone else. No, he didn’t get Sveum fired. No, he’s not a “coach killer” (another good band name). But he is a young kid who needs a certain kind of tutelage. Hopefully Renteria can be that. I believe he will be.

We are at a crossroad. The change at this point is on Castro. The Cubs have done their part and tried to give him the tools to succeed. The rest is on him. While maybe the distractions were not all his fault, it’s time to step up his portion of the bargain. There is no doubt that he knows this.

Castro may be, for lack of  a better phrase, on the “hot seat” for the 2014 season. But don’t expect him to be shipped off for peanuts or even a Gatorade vending machine. Our front-office has a lot of faith in Castro’s potential. Patience again will reign from Theo and Jed – they simply don’t trade just to trade. They want value that benefits the Cubs organization (this should go without saying). That being said, if the right deal comes along could he be moved? Sure. No player on this Major League roster is untradeable at this point. However the value will need to be worth it for the Cubs and fit into the overall “plan.” And at this moment, Castro is a huge part of said plan.

Perhaps I’m drinking the Kool-Aid of this new coaching regime, but I like what I hear from both players and coaches. Castro is trying to be a leader to fill the void left by Soriano and others. There are some other prospects coming up soon and he wants to be that mentor. He also knows this is an important year for him to show people he’s still an All-Star. I like both of these things.

2014 will be interesting. But I see Castro staying put. Probably. Well, most likely. Right?

  • Steve

    Prime example of locking up a young talent, gone wrong.
    Kid has no motivation now.

    • bbmoney

      Prime example of someone jumping to conclusions based on things they think they know, but really are just assuming. Steve has no idea if this is true or not.

      • CubsFaninMS

        Somebody send Steve a Jump-To-Conclusions Matt!

      • Steve

        I’m an Occam’s razor kinda guy.

        • Head and Heart

          You think “no motivation because he got paid” is the “Occam’s Razor” answer to Castro’s bad year at the plate??

        • bbmoney


          You see to me, it seems like you’re more of a “I’ll read whatever story line I’m interested in pushing into it, regardless of anything else that could be impacting the situation” kind of a guy.

          But hey, that’s just me.

    • ClevelandCubsFan

      Keeping up with the Joneses is still a real game, and 7/60 only gets you a nice 2 BR ranch in one of baseball’s 2nd tier communities. I think Castro would like to get PAAAAAIIIIIIID at around 30.

      Also, I think professional athletes get to that level because they are enormously successful, just really incredible at what they do. The idea that some just tank after getting paid is probably completely unsupported by meaningful evidence.

      • ClevelandCubsFan

        Apparently BN scrapes fake HTML tags, too… so much for my attemt to put a “smallfont” tag on that last use of “paid”.

    • brains

      i like castro but i do think we’ll trade him simply because he has a higher contract than younger players, and the ricketts have instilled austerity measures. in general i expect one more sell-off, which will be “branded” one way or another, which gullible people will take as progress. and it will hurt the development of our younger players. if the targeted improvement date is 5 years from now, as most reports indicate, there’s not much need to develop fan loyalty to any current players, especially if they’re temporarily underachieving.

  • Spoda17

    I do not see Castro being traded, and I do not want him to be traded. I do think we need to be more realistic on what his role/talent really is. He is an average (and average is good) short stop. He is not Jeter, he is not Tulo… he is a [good] short stop and well worth keeping.

    If we temper our expectations, I think our tolerance will be better with Castro.

  • Canadian Cubs Fan

    It’s really too bad he got hurt so early in the spring, because a really good camp would have been a great start to such an important year for him.

    Last year he was down in the count pretty much all the time, after being told he needed to be a lot more patient at the plate. That’s just not him, right? See ball, hit ball Starlin! The rest will take care of itself.

  • ssckelley

    Good article Myles, I share the same view points on Castro. After each Baez homer people are quick to want to ship Castro off for a bag of balls. But with all of Castro’s shortcomings he is still only 24 years old and already has 692 career hits. If he plays until he is 37 or 38 he may end up with over 3000 career hits, which is HOF material (gasp/shock). His defense has gotten better and I would take a career .726 OPS out of the shortstop position any day. He already has 37 career home runs and I think he is capable of hitting 20 in a season. If you want a good comparison go check out what HOF’er Robin Yount produced early in his career.

    It sucks Castro got hurt this spring, I was looking forward to seeing him play.

    • Spoda17

      I don’t see Castro as a 20 hr per year guy… I see 10-12, but that’s okay. I think if we expect 20 from him, we will always be disappointed and will always feel he is not living up to potential… I’ll take .285/.300/.700+ all day long from Castro.

      • Fishin Phil

        I would be absolutely fine with 10 to 15 HR from Starlin.

        • ssckelley

          If he goes back to the “see ball hit ball” Starlin can easily hit 15 and would probably have ~40 doubles with it.

      • ssckelley

        Notice that I said “capable of hitting 20 in a season”, not that he is capable of hitting 20 per season. Even with all the contact issues he had last season he still managed to hit 10 homers with 34 doubles, 2nd most he had in his 4 year career.

    • Myles P

      Something I didn’t mention was that has him most compared (though his current age) to Garry Templeton, Travis Jackson (awesome), and Edgar Renteria (meh).

      • ssckelley

        Don’t sell Edgar Renteria short. He was a 5 time all star, 2 time gold glove, and 3 time silver slugger award winner. He had a solid career as a short stop and I think Castro can easily surpass his career numbers (except maybe OBP).

  • The Real Wrigley

    I haven’t heard much speculation as to whether or not Castro will be traded. Actually, I’ve heard none.
    At this point, what are the Cubs going to get for him? Not a whole lot. Definitely, not that they would ask for…which, we all know would be out of this world — team mascot, and all.
    So, the idea that Castro is under, umm, ANY pressure, is simply ridiculous. He’s been extended. He got his payday.
    He’s not stuck with they Cubs. Make no mistake. The Cubs are, very much, stuck with him.
    We’d better all hope he regains his form.

    • mjhurdle

      “At this point, what are the Cubs going to get for him? Not a whole lot”

      well, here in STL, there were reports that the Cards were offering Martinez + some lower level prospects for Castro in a trade this off-season.
      I don’t know how true those reports were, but they were not met with shock from the STL media. In fact, the STL media was very much in favor of it if all it took was one of their prized young arms to land Castro. The general consensus was that the Cubs would not accept that offer.
      So I think the idea that Castro would not bring much back is a bit off. He is still a young, cost-controlled SS with a history of above-average play. I don’t think that the Cubs will trade him, but if they put him out there I imagine they could get a fairly good return.

      • The Real Wrigley

        “if all it took”…

        Thank you for making my point for me.

        • mjhurdle

          So your point was that a package (that even Card fans thought would be not be equal value) centered around the 31st best prospect in all of baseball is “not a whole lot”?

          I guess i misunderstood you then. I thought by “not a whole lot” you were saying that the Cubs would not get much value back. But if you meant that they would get 2+ top 100 prospects but not as much as the return for trading David Price would be, then I agree.

          • The Real Wrigley

            You said just the pitcher. Now, you say a deal “centered around” him. Which is it?
            Just Castro and the pitcher?
            Castro for the pitcher, and…who?
            My comment was, that if STL viewed Castro for their pitching prospect was a fair deal, then, no, that’s not a good return for Chicago. But, that kind of offer shouldn’t surprise anyone. As long as Castro underperforms, those are the kind of offers to expect.
            Those are not good returns.
            That was my point.

            • mjhurdle

              “well, here in STL, there were reports that the Cards were offering Martinez + some lower level prospects for Castro in a trade this off-season”

              when i said Martinez + lower level prospects, i was saying that there was a deal ‘centered’ around Martinez, and not just Martinez. The ‘lower level’ prospects would be the non-top 100 prospects that would be packaged with Martinez.
              So the Cardinals (supposedly) started the conversation with their #2/3 best prospect and a top 50 prospect in baseball, as well as 2+ lower (100-200 overall, 10-15 in the Cards system) prospects. And even Cardinal fans viewed that as an underpay.
              I am failing to see how that supports your idea that the Cubs could not get good return for Castro, unless as I said you are expecting a David Price type return.

  • BT

    I also take issue with the “never not at fault” claim. I was exiting an expressway when a girl in a car in my drivers side blind spot tried to cut over to that exit, and in doing so, cut off a semi behind me. The semi clipped her, she spun around, and her back end spun into me (despite my efforts to speed up at the last moment as I saw her spinning at me in the rear view mirror). I’d like to see the insurance company pin even a little blame on me there.

    • Myles P

      Unfortunately, they’d find a way. Even if it’s 1% for having been on that particular road.

      Glad you’re safe though. That sounds awful.

      • Head and Heart

        There’s obviously a difference between insurance company logic and real world common sense human logic.

        • Myles P


      • BT

        I hadn’t counted on the “you were driving a car, so it’s partially your fault” insurance company defense.

    • hansman

      You reacted poorly. You had a blind spot. You had a pine tree air freshener in your car.

      Boom, the accident is 100% your fault.

    • Coop

      I got rear ended by a drunk driver while I was sitting at a red light (and I was sitting – not a case of stopping and him not stopping). It was about 1:00 in the afternoon on a Saturday. My fault for actually stopping at the red light? Shouldn’t be out during daylight on a Saturday afternoon? Hmmm…. further evidence that all insurance companies suck?!

      • Critterbeard

        I’ve been rear-ended twice while stopped at a red light. Neither of them drunk, just not paying attention to the red light, stopped car with tail lights blaring in front of them or maybe the cars crossing through the intersection. I should probably get some sort of a credit from somebody’s insurance company because I kept those vehicles from the intersection!

  • Spoda17

    Castro’s issues have NOTHING to do with his contract. He didn’t give up now that he got paid… he got a very club friendly deal, and the Cubs easily could trade him. He had a bad year, he is 24 years old… He has not checked out.

    • Head and Heart

      Very well put. I often wonder if people believe their crap when they write stuff about a player getting paid and then not caring anymore. Or that the Cubs are “stuck” with a 24 year old 2 time All Star shortstop. Or are there people who come to this message board just to be negative for negatives sake? It’s pretty easy to be down on the season Castro put together in 2013 without being down on him as a player.

      • ssckelley

        I agree, and I can’t help but wonder how well Castro would do on a winning team. I might be wrong on this but he strikes me as a guy who could produce even more if he was having fun.

        • Head and Heart

          I think RR was brought in to manage this team in part because it always seemed so tense around the team with Dale at the helm. At least from the outside looking in. Obviously I have no idea what it was like behind closed doors and I am just guessing.

  • Chad

    The best thing for the cubs is if Starlin gets back to him oldself and if that includes better defense that’s great. If he does then the cubs have to decide if they prefer a Castro/Baez middle infield with Alcantara as super utility (IF, CF) or trade bait, or if they prefer a Baez/Alcantara middle IF with Castro hopefully bringing back some big pieces. I always prefer to have proven mixed with prospects, but whatever is the best for the cubs. If Castro can bring back two guys like say Bradley and Skaggs (I know Skaggs is an Angel, but just hypothetical) that would be pretty interesting.

    This season is extremely important for Castro and those that are behind him. Even if he does well if Baez and Alcantara prove to be a better combo, who knows. It’s a good problem to have, but again it assumes everyone will play to the potential we think they have.

  • The Real Wrigley

    A two time All-Star. Very true.
    You say that, like it should have helped him last year. It did not. Nor, will being a former All-Star help him this year.
    I never said Castro doesn’t care.
    And, yes, his contract was/is team friendly…but, only if his on field performance remains consistent with when the deal was inked. It’s no longer a “bargain”, if he’s not playing well.
    I hope he regains form.
    I do, although, have my doubts.

  • woody

    Speaking of trades I have to wonder if something doesn’t go down this week. The Rangers have signed Scott Baker and are still looking for a catcher and second baseman. According to MLB trade rumors they like Barney better than Donnie Murphy. This could solve the utility infielder over load, particularly if Olt gets the nod out of ST (which I believe he will). I would think that it would need to happen pronto, if it happens at all.

  • Darth Ivy

    first let me disclose that I’m optimistic with Castro. I think he’ll be fine

    But just an interesting thought: The part about MLB putting his jersey from his first game into the hall made me wonder what our sentiment on Castro will look like if he repeats his 2013 in 2014. Will people start talking about him being one of the most disappointing players in MLB history? Again, they put his jersey into the hall from his first game. That’s serious. If he repeats 2013 in 2014, you have to start wondering if that’s his new normal (“wondering” not “concluding” or “assuming”).

    But again, that’s just playing on an idea. I’m optimistic on Castro and I think he’ll rebound. This is just the thought I had when reading about his jersey going to the hall

    • Myles P

      That’s an interesting point, actually.

    • ssckelley

      So they put Castro’s jersey into the hall?


      • Darth Ivy

        yeah….I’ve noticed that people tend to ignore certain parts of an argument when making a counter argument. So I’ll repeat specific points that I think someone might ignore.

        I know it can get kind of annoying sometimes.

        • FFP

          So some people tend to ignore points?
          (I see what you DI-did there.)

  • cub4life

    Well for all of that I think Castro will regain at least some of his form back this year and then more next year.


    Did you read that Castro would be open to moving positions for Baez? What is you opinion about that?