By Nick Shepkowski–
(CBS) Perhaps earlier in life, you were introduced to someone who you were instantly interested in. You were attracted to this person and quickly thought this relationship would be different. For a while, it was, it was better than anything you had experienced, at least in quite some time, and you began to think this was the one.
Maybe you were in your early 20s, up to your shoulders in debt, with a job that paid next to nothing while living in a neighborhood where the only affordable entertainment was playing “Firework or Gunshot?” with your roommate. Sure, you had your own issues, but at least that special someone was there for you.
Back in early May 2010, that’s exactly how most Cubs fans felt about Starlin Castro. He was the top-rated prospect in the Cubs’ then-weak farm system, and when he was called up to the big leagues straight from Double-A, he made an instant splash by homering in his first at-bat and knocking in six runs in his first game.
Back then, the Cubs were the equivalent of you in your early 20s. Similar to how you were in debt, they had contracts that were starting to look awful in the likes of Alfonso Soriano, Derrek Lee and Kosuke Fukudome, just to name a few. In place of your small apartment in a bad neighborhood, there was their Wrigley Field. Sure, it had plenty of charm, but it was significantly outdated in many capacities, and the team couldn’t get approval to make any of the much-needed changes.
Still, with those issues there was at least that one bright spot for you. In your personal life, it was your significant other. In your baseball life, it was Starlin Castro. It might have been a little while still before you saw yourself not having to eat macaroni and cheese four nights a week, but when you’d be able to graduate to finer meals, there your significant other would still be. When the Cubs would finally start playing meaningful games in September again, Castro would assuredly be one of the main reasons why.
Over the next couple of years, your relationship was pretty great as you adapted to post-college life, slowly but surely finding ways to improve your financial standing as you were still together with your significant other, growing together and beginning to discuss future plans. Meanwhile, Castro was busy becoming the youngest ever single-season hits leader in the National League, and it appeared the sky was the limit for him.
But somewhere along the way, you began to get lost in both your relationships. Maybe it was because, you were told, you were spending too much time with your friends and not your significant other on weekends. Perhaps you weren’t making enough money for there to be confidence in long-term security. Or possibly you just didn’t want to commit to that next step quite while your significant other did. Whatever was the root of it, you were no longer in the honeymoon stage.
Suddenly, what you thought was your perfect little relationship had you rethinking everything, including the cute 20-something girl that was at your Brown Line stop each morning.
Meanwhile, Castro was following an identical path. While his batting average was still all right, you began noticing him not paying attention in the field. In 2012 — following an overhaul in management via Jim Hendry’s firing and Theo Epstein’s hiring — you began to see that maybe Castro wasn’t quite the fit you had once thought. His glove hadn’t improved like you had hoped, and he hadn’t gotten any better about working counts. By 2013, his on-base percentage dipped to a career-low .284.
Factor in the likes of Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez and Kris Bryant beginning to flood your Twitter timeline with monster home runs in the minor leagues, and you were starting to look elsewhere for your building block.
It seemed like it was sure to be over, but not before a few last sparks. Maybe it was late summer concert at Soldier Field or a drunken night at a friend’s wedding, but whatever it was, it made the issues in your relationship go away, at least for a brief time. That was Castro on the resurgent 2015 Cubs, even as you saw the writing on the wall for his future with the organization.
Then came the inevitable offseason trade of Castro, from the Cubs to the Yankees. He’s found a good fit where he’s needed and wanted, happy with his strong start in a new place.
As you reflect, you know you’re better off without Castro, just like he’s probably better off not being here.