Are Players Better When the Team is Competitive? And Other Bullets

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Are Players Better When the Team is Competitive? And Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs

starlin castro featureThere will be Cubs baseball games tomorrow. Two of them. Sure, they’re just Spring Training games. But they’re coming. Tomorrow. My excitement cannot be tempered.

  • Patrick Mooney wrote a great piece on Starlin Castro, with a variety of angles. Give it a read. One aspect that really jumped out at me, and it’s something we’ve discussed around here a little bit, but never intensely: will Castro up his game if he’s playing on a competitive team? And, if so, is it understandable that a guy might not be at his absolute best when he’s played only on fifth place teams, routinely out of the running by May? That he might lose some focus, especially if he’s young? Do we have a problem with that kind of reality? Do we, as fans, realistically expect that every player will be at his 100% best, regardless of the situation surrounding the team? Do we buy the idea that players generally play just a touch better when their teams are competitive?
  • I don’t think there’s a right answer to those questions, and I also don’t think there’s a perfect set of answers with respect to all baseball players as a group. This is a tricky discussion, because you can simultaneously be offering understanding about a player’s performance … and be seen as criticizing the player’s lack of effort or desire or whatever. It’s easy for fans to sit back and think we’d be 100% focused, and 100% max effort every single game of the year regardless of the standings, but, man, 162 games is a really long time. Even a gamer like Miguel Montero mentioned this weekend that it’s tough being at your best when you don’t feel like you have a real shot of winning anything. Maybe, then, we’ll see guys on the Cubs stepping up even more early on in the year now that they feel like there’s a winning culture coming on? And, speaking of which, the whole idea of “winning culture” is a debate around the game, but some organizations subscribe to it from bottom to top, really trying to get their farm teams to expect to win (the current Cubs administration seems to be of that mindset). Maybe we’ll start seeing that aspect play out, too. Or maybe I’m just trying to talk myself into some ethereal reason why various Cubs players will be great this year.
  • Jorge Soler must be having a good Spring – bench coach Dave Martinez has been awarding hat stars (kind of looks like helmet stickers) for good work or good deeds, and Carrie Muskat says Soler already has three. Did Soler get one just for being a physically amazing freak of awesomeness?
  • The Ricketts Family recently sold limited partnership shares (i.e., non-voting minority stakes) in the Chicago Cubs, and, while we knew South Bend Cubs owner Andrew Berlin was one, four more have been revealed by the Cubs, as you can see in this Tribune report : William Comrie, the DeVos family, Cory Thabit, and O.C., L.L.C. You can read the Tribune’s piece for bits on each new partner, except for the mysterious O.C., LLC, which I choose to believe is the company that owns the distribution rights to MTV’s ‘Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County’ (but not Fox’s scripted ‘The O.C.’). Prove me wrong, Cubs. When we see Lo singing the Seventh Inning Stretch, we’ll know for sure.
  • With the schedule for the opening of the bleachers a little questionable following the Cubs’ apparently failed attempt to get permission to work longer hours, the Tribune asked Cubs players how they felt about not having fans behind them in the bleachers for a couple months. Short version? It kind of sucks for everyone, but the players have to focus on playing, the atmosphere will still be great, and eventually it’ll work out.
  • Gordon Wittenmyer writes about Kyle Hendricks as a “technician,” with a little more on how the righty utilizes the tools available to him at the big league level – so, so much more than in the minors – to improve his game.
  • Grantland’s Michael Baumann takes a look at the human side of the Kris Bryant promotion/service time question. The discussion isn’t going away any time soon.
  • Vine Line offers a lengthy, lovely look at the Cubs’ facilities in Mesa, including Sloan Park.
  • Baseball in the Dominican Republic, via the Tribune. A great look at the evolution there, and the complicated relationship between MLB teams, spending, buscones, and young players.
  • Don’t forget: today’s the last day if you want to get $5 off of BN store purchases over $30. Just use the code PARTY15 when you checkout.
  • If you missed Michael’s great piece on the Cubs’ last decade (or more) of underperforming projections and expectations, it’s really worth a read. Being “bad” is one thing, but so consistently underperforming projections and expectations (which often already baked in the “bad”) is a head-scratcher.

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.