The backlash to Starlin Castro’s long-cited, and oft-exaggerated “laziness” problem has reached sufficiently high levels that, anytime Castro does anything well these days, Twitter is almost exclusively populated by sarcastic (and sometimes funny) quips about how “lazily Castro rounded the bases on that homer” or how “Castro just wanted to lay down on that diving play.” (Often accompanied by that perfect picture right there from earlier this season.)
I’m not saying folks should stop with the jokes; but I am saying that anyone who watches this team knows that Castro is not lazy, so, you know … we get it. Has Castro, in the past, at times, appeared to lack focus in the field? Yes. Is it a persistent, ongoing problem? No. Is it more of an issue for Castro than for other players in baseball? Eh, I’m really not sure it is. But once the all-seeing eye focuses on something/someone, you don’t stop hearing about it. And then you don’t stop hearing about how wrong that view is. At some point, both sides just have to let it go.
At some point, everyone should recognize something very simple: Starlin Castro is a damn good baseball player. Full stop. That’s it. No other qualifiers necessary.
To that end, I think Matt Snyder did a good job buttoning up all things “Castro lazy” with this great piece at CBS. Snyder recounts the origins of the Castro muck, takes it down piece by piece, and wraps things up by speaking to Castro’s teammates, who see how hard he works every day.
Starlin Castro came up to the Cubs at a time when they proved to be consistently not competitive, and with a farm system bereft of high-end talent. Castro, then, had to carry the banner for all sides as a super-young, super-talented player. He was, for a long time, the only “future” upon which Cubs fans could dream, and I think too often that meant unrealistic expectations and crushing focus on every little slip up.
Imagine if Castro, instead, were breaking in now as a 20 or 21-year-old middle infield, not unlike Addison Russell is. Think it might have been a little easier? Think he might have had more success? Think it would have been harder for naysayers to pick apart every little thing?
I’m impressed that Castro made it through that long period relatively well-spirited, and still with a bright future (after all, he only just turned 25 last month). The pressure is off him, specifically, and onto the team as a whole. He can simply be a very good shortstop on a good-looking young team. You know: the thing he’s always been.
Speaking of Castro being a very good shortstop, did you catch this great play – especially the strong throw from the seat of his pants – yesterday against the Reds: