By Tim Baffoe-
(CBS) In what should be one of many not-so-memorable Cubs seasons in a long line of such, this team is certainly finding ways to be newsworthy. A general manager finally and deservedly canned, a manager hanging on to his job by as many hairs that are on his head, and a starting ace who threw a water fountain through a window and ran off into the great unknown (and decided he’d prefer to come back to the comforts of the nuthouse).
But now a mountain of focus has shifted on a molehill of an issue. Shortstop Starlin Castro having a brain fart during a game.
Let me get this straight. Castro—the only ray of sunlight sneaking through this bloated armpit of a team, a guy who leads the National League in hits, who has garnered two NL Player of the Week awards and a Player of the Month this season to go with his selection as the youngest Cub to play in an All Star Game, who is the first Cubs prospect in who knows how long to actually live up to the hype, and who otherwise seems like a happy, genuinely nice young man who will be a staple of the team for years to come—is a liability who chases butterflies in the shallow outfield and cares more about the juice boxes and Rice Krispie treats after the game than the next pitch?
Certain national broadcasters would have you believe so.
For more than seven minutes—the time it takes me to cook a whole package of red beans and rice—Bobby Valentine berated Castro on live television for not paying attention when pitcher James Russell was delivering a pitch against the Cardinals Sunday night, along with the Cub organization for apparently letting this kid be completely spastic like he’s the dog from the film “Up.”
Castro also had the audacity to pop some sunflower seeds into his mouth while on the field, which apparently never happened during Valentine’s fifteen-year managerial career that produced just two playoff appearances. Sounds like somebody’s kicking it into overdrive for a campaign to manage again and using a harmless gaffe from a 21-year-old as fuel.
And, yes, I said harmless. Nothing came of Castro having his back to the plate during the pitch or sucking on seeds.
Do I condone such a space out? Of course not, but it surely isn’t some defining moment for a guy who should have a long and great career.
Down four runs late in a game, fifteen games out of first place, playing in his 124th craptastic game, Castro lost focus for one pitch that was inconsequential to the outcome of the game. It’s Zambrano all over again!
Or is it ADD? Yes, because Castro looked for a moment like a tee-baller examining blades of grass, that question has been floated about, because when you zone out for a bit at the office or I start slamming my head off my desk in my classroom and mumbling uncontrollably, we must have some sort of condition that can be diagnosed and medicated, right? As a precaution I’ve warned my superiors at school to ban sunflower seeds on the campus just in case.
At least manager Mike Quade squashed the notion that his shortstop has a neuropsychiatric condition. “I’ve spent enough time around [Castro] that no one has even made that a consideration,” he said after Sunday’s loss.
That was the only thing Quade got right in this spilled milk episode, though. The coaching staff did not notice Castro kicking dirt instead of focusing on the hitter and was informed of it following the game, and since no ball came at the shortstop at the time, Quade could have easily squelched this whole issue by calling it what it was—a nothing.
But more than once now Quade has publicly criticized his best player for not being perfect while the gate to the sty has been left open for the rest of the players lucky to have jobs to roam around the funny farm. He shouldn’t let Castro off scot free, but elaborating on disappointment instead of publicly calling it a nonissue can do nothing but cause more woe to a young All Star who knows nothing else about big league ball except dysfunction.
Starlin Castro is a fantastic baseball player who happened to have a mental slip up, nothing more. The sooner his critics, including his own short term manager and a guy who once wore a fake mustache to sneak back into his dugout after being ejected, realize this, the sooner Castro can be appreciated now as a special talent and in the future as he matures and polishes his game. And the sooner focus can be centered on the myriad of real problems with the Cubs organization.
And I prefer the BBQ and Chili Lime-flavored seeds, for the rec… SQUIRREL!
Tim Baffoe attended the University of Iowa and Governors State University and began blogging at The Score after winning the 2011 Pepsi Max Score Search. He enjoys writing things about stuff, but not so much stuff about things. When not writing for 670TheScore.com, Tim corrupts America’s youth as a high school English teacher and provides a great service to his South Side community delivering pizzas (please tip him and his colleagues well). You can follow Tim’s inappropriate brain droppings on Twitter @Ten_Foot_Midget , but please don’t follow him in real life. He grew up in Chicago’s Beverly To read more of Tim’s blogs click here.