Too lazy, too spacey, too soft, too young. Too quick to make errors, unwilling to run. Trade him to the Mets, they’re dumb as can be, then replace him with Russell or Baez or me. He makes the team worse as he stares at the trains, and as they are growing he’ll bring nothing but pains.
You may not have channeled Dr. Suess, but if you’ve ever said or thought these things about Starlin Castro, the three-time All-Star has a message for you: Stop. He’s not doing lengthy interviews or firing off witty quips to the media, a la Joe Maddon and Theo Epstein. The relatively reticent Castro has, however, opened up a bit on his new approach and what’s driving him.
“I have good talent to be a good shortstop,” Castro explained. “I don’t want to be no joke anymore. I’m going to try to make every play aggressive. If it happens, it happens.”
“I try to be aggressive, try to get my confidence, try to get every ball,” he repeated. “I’m feeling really good at the plate. I’m feeling really good on defense, and that’s the most important thing.”
It hasn’t gone unnoticed by the rest of the Cubs either. Jake Arrieta, who picked up the win Monday night, was impressed by what he saw from his oft-criticized teammate.
“I saw something out of him tonight that I hadn’t seen in a while. He seemed to have more of an aggressive nature about him. He was fluid. He was just tremendous at short. He stood out to me on the defensive side.”
Castro credits Joe Maddon with giving him the confidence necessary to just go out and play and Maddon says he doesn’t think we’ve ever seen his shortstop playing better baseball. Notice any common themes here? Aggressiveness and confidence, two things not often associated with Starlin Castro, at least not from a consensus standpoint. But he’s not just throwing out buzzwords; Castro has allowed his play to do the talking in April. And oh, has it spoken.
In case you haven’t heard it, it sounds a little like this:
In Tuesday’s 9-8 come-from-behind win over the Pirates, Castro was 3-5 with 4 RBI to raise his season average to .352. But, you know, he did have that one bad season at the plate a couple years ago. Under a manager who’s no longer in Chicago.
Castro has had a great start to the season and is looking every bit like a guy who has no intention to cede his position easily. Consider that he’s been hearing whispers about his would-be successors for quite some time, but never more loudly than this season. With Addison Russell performing well, maybe were calling for Castro’s departure. I don’t care what Starlin might say, he had to have heard those footsteps.
Up until Tuesday, those footfalls were coming from Des Moines. Now, however, the click-clack of Russell’s cleats are literally right behind the incumbent shortstop. Having to perform while your presumed understudy stands just a few feet to your left might not be the most comfortable situation for some, but Castro didn’t seem to mind. Not only did he drive in two game-tying runs with a bases-loaded chopper against Mark Melancon, but he also did this:
That’s dead sexy right there. I love the way this guy seems to be thriving under the pressure that’s been placed on him as both an elder statesman and a man who shares a position with several prospects. His time in Chicago may makes it easy to forget that this guy is just 25 years old himself, not quite in danger of getting his AARP card anytime soon. Sure, he might net a couple prospects in a trade, but seeing him leading the Cubs to a win is much more satisfying.
Rather than being a part of the problem for a team that had been accused of giving up in the past, Castro has become a clear catalyst. He talked about exactly that following his team’s improbably win on Tuesday.
“We wouldn’t win that game last year or the year before,” he said. “We quit [last year]. If we were losing after seven innings, we quit. Now, we never quit. If we get extra innings, we play hard, we never quit. This is the time I’ve waited for. I put in my mind, every day you can’t be good, but you try 100 percent. This is the moment I’ve waited for in my life.”
Sure, some will read that and wonder why there had to be a shift in attitude at all, why the Cubs shortstop is just now saying this is the time he’s waited for. But when you think of the teams he’s played on prior to this one, it makes a lot of sense. Castro has been around for the whole rebuild — he is one of the cornerstones on which it’s been built — and he’s seen more than his share of change. Now it looks as though all that work is finally paying off.
And if you still don’t think Castro is a part of this team moving forward, he has only one thing to say to you.