Castro likely will miss the rest of the season after suffering a high ankle sprain Tuesday nightsliding awkwardly into home plate, a scene that looked ugly enough to fear the worst. Almost immediately, the tough injury prompted the predictable debate whether Castro had played his last game as a Cub given the interest teams such as the Mets figure to show over the winter in a 24-year-old, three-time All-Star. And the Cubs covet pitching; young, powerful arms that might require a player of Castro’s caliber to obtain.
It sounds like a good story to create a buzz – but a bad idea. A team desperate for a young proven shortstop always could make the Cubs a deal they couldn’t refuse with two potential top-of-the-rotation starting pitchers but they should show caution aggressively shopping Castro.
The Cubs have at least two other shortstop prospects, Javier Baez and Addison Russell, whom they hope will mature into the kind of professional hitter Castro already is. The key word is hope. Baez and Russell both might surpass Castro offensively but the Cubs can’t count on that yet. They can count on Castro to continue the development he showed this season, which ends early but with optimism. Recent criticism over his base-running aside, Castro enjoyed a solid bounce-back season for which upbeat manager Rick Renteria deserves a share of credit.
The more relevant question that came to mind since Castro went down surrounded his future position, not future home. Baez, adequate as a second baseman, has looked more natural and confident playing shortstop filling in for Castro. Some believe Russell, could be in a Cubs uniform by next year’s All-Star break, might be the smoothest fielder of them all. Could Castro return as a third baseman? A second baseman? As long as Castro returns as a Cub, the rest are just details.
As easy as …
1. This is what Bears coach Marc Trestman really announced Thursday about the safety position with all of his careful comments and conditions: Chris Conte is the Bears’ best free safety so deal with it, Chicago. If Conte wasn’t the player at the position Trestman and Bears coaches trust the most, he wouldn’t be part of a “rotation” in Week 1 against the Bills after missing OTAs and mini-camp due to shoulder surgery and much of the last two weeks with a concussion. The competition Bears general manager Phil Emery promised never materialized. The lack of options suggests the Bears inadequately addressed one of their more glaring offseason needs. Brock Vereen looks promising but is still a rookie. Danny McCray, a career special-teamer, might split snaps but only until Conte gets back into football condition. M.D. Jennings was never a serious contender. That leaves Conte, whom Brian Urlacher told WGWG-FM was “one of the more talented guys in the back end I've ever played with.’’ Remember Conte has made 40 NFL starts. If he makes his 41st Sunday against the Bills it will be because nobody gives the Bears a better chance to win – which Trestman said without saying it.
2. Revisionist historians ripping Notre Dame for dropping Michigan off the schedule after Saturday and, coincidentally, signing a home-and-home series with another Big Ten power, Ohio State, beginning in 2022 conveniently forget how the two schools initially went their separate ways. In June 2012, Michigan made the first move by announcing a two-year hiatus in the rivalry in 2018-19. Three months later, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick rankled Michigan by handing U-M athletic director Dave Brandon a letter before kickoff officially exercising a three-year out in the series contract, which canceled games from 2015-17. Essentially, that evened the score; both schools willfully backed out of games against the other. Michigan coach Brady Hoke exacerbated a bad situation in a speech to boosters in May 2013 when, in jest, he said Notre Dame was “chickening out of” the rivalry. It all remains silly. Say many things about Notre Dame but the school shies away from nobody on its football schedule. Upcoming additions to the ACC-heavy slate include Texas and Miami – not to mention newly added Ohio State. I will miss seeing Notre Dame-Michigan play as much as any college football traditionalist. I won’t miss the petty bickering between the schools over who was responsible for ending one of the sport’s classic rivalries.
3. Nobody should be surprised if Northern Illinois emerges from the weekend having re-established itself as the healthiest Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) team in the state. The Huskies have a tremendous opportunity Saturday in Evanston against Northwestern, whose season already appears headed toward the brink. Outplayed and outcoached in a loss to Cal, Northwestern lost another key player this week in wide receiver Tony Jones and appears to be reeling. The Wildcats offense needs explosiveness incompatible with quarterback Trevor Siemian’s strengths and the defense suffers from familiar problems with athleticism. Even though NIU isn’t as strong in the post-Jordan Lynch era, it might have enough depth and talent to beat a Northwestern team looking for direction. Meanwhile, Illinois – the team that hands-down should be the state’s best – risks losing to a high-powered Western Kentucky team from the FCS. If Illinois and Northwestern both fall Saturday, proud NIU fans can celebrate the status quo in DeKalb.
Writing eloquently for Essence magazine, Pam Oliver provides plenty of fodder in a revealing, first-person account of her demotion as Fox Sports’ lead sideline reporter. Oliver, 53, discusses the humiliation she felt seeing Erin Andrews, 17 years younger, replace her on the sidelines and her thoughts on a constantly changing profession. “It’s not difficult to notice that the new on-air people there are all young, blonde and ‘hot,’ ” Oliver writes. It’s not hard to agree with Oliver that tough questions need to be asked by TV executives if they care about journalism.
Derrick Rose played five games in six nights for Team USA in Spain and, to every Chicagoan’s delight, he didn’t fall apart. He didn’t resemble a former MVP but the real measure of success this past week was whether Rose’s body would respond to the NBA-like grind of consecutive games. To read Sam Smith of Bulls.com, the former Tribune NBA expert, Rose accomplished much more in the FIBA tournament so far than just average 5.4 points in 17.8 minutes over this most recent stretch.
Tweet nothings – ex-Bears defensive end edition
@PhillipDaniels: “We don't ever put our kids on the back burner! Never have and never will!!!!” -- Phillip Daniels
--The parent of suspended Notre Dame wide receiver DaVaris Daniels, a former Bear, publicly expressed his impatience over the plodding pace of the university’s investigation into academic irregularities of his son and four other Irish players.
While Brown was tweeting his respect for the defending Super Bowl champions, NBC analyst Cris Collinsworth was comparing the Seahawks to the ’85 Bears. Yes, they were that good pounding the Packers on NFL’s opening night.
Last word: "I have no idea if the kid is very good [at basketball], kind of good, not good at all or a superstar or can even reach the basket. How is that a violation?"
--Connecticut women's basketball Coach Geno Auriemma, referring to his phone call to 13-year-old Little League pitching phenom Mo’Ne Davis – whose best sport is basketball. Auriemma was cited for a secondary violation by the NCAA, which didn’t buy the notion that one of the savviest coaches in America didn’t realize Davis was a UConn fan who excelled in hoops too.
I don’t either.