Being a rookie manager is like being a new parent in a lot of ways. And right now, Dale Sveum seems to be doing the wrong thing with a shortstop who’s going through the “terrible twos.’’
Sveum is threatening to bench Starlin Castro for embarrassing mental mistakes in two of the four losses in San Francisco over the weekend, and I’m thinking, if Sveum were more like Stevie Sunshine, he wouldn’t focus on the bad things and instead would take Castro for ice cream.
But Sveum was still angry from Friday when he found new another reason to get angry Monday. Castro started the series by stopping while running to second on a steal attempt, thinking there had been contact when there hadn’t. Then, Castro ended the series by forgetting how many outs there were when the Cubs needed to turn a double play.
“It’s the last straw,’’ Sveum said Monday. “He better start getting his head in the game, period.’’
Sveum said blah, blah, blah Castro blah, blah, blah “a good talking to’’ blah, blah, blah, but did not consider pulling him from the game.
“It's something obviously that's unacceptable at any time,’’ Sveum said. “Whether we could've turned the double play or not is irrelevant to not knowing how many outs there are in the most important part of the game.
"It's not acceptable. These things have got to stop happening, or we're just going to stop playing him.’’
This is mom or dad wagging the big verbal finger. This is mom or dad threatening big punishment. This is mom or dad doing the wrong thing by doing pretty much nothing.
Sveum should stop talking and start benching. No big talk, just big action.
I mean, what would the Cubs be losing here? It’s not as if Castro is leading the Cubs to the playoffs. In fact, the Cubs are the worst team in baseball and can’t score even with Castro in the lineup, so, do they need to lose face, too?
Castro’s attention span has been an issue going back to last season when he and the Cubs’ then-inadequate manager got pantsed on national television. Castro went on walkabout and even turned his back to the infield during a pitch, drawing criticism from then-ESPN analyst Bobby Valentine.
Castro always says he’s sorry and always sounds contrite. But these embarrassing episodes still happen. They might be happening less in the field this season than last year, but the baserunning gaffe that Sveum called a “brain fart’’ makes it seem as if Planet Starlin regularly takes new and creative orbits.
What worse, Castro’s blunders came after Cubs president Theo Epstein tried to deny trade speculation about the shortstop. Nobody with a brain believes Epstein. Anybody in this organization can be had. The price might be high for Castro, but there’s a price, believe me.
For now, the Cubs find themselves needing to get the attention of a kid who can’t pay attention. What did you do with your 2-year-old when he or she didn’t pay attention or listen? You put him or her in a timeout, right? Punishment equals learning.
Professional teams put players in timeouts. They’re called benchings. That’s what the Cubs need to do with Castro.
Or maybe Sveum is waiting until Castro lays on his back during an inning and makes dirt angels.