The Cubs lost to the Cardinals 4-0 Saturday afternoon at Wrigley Field, the fifth time the team has been shut out in its last seven home games, but that's not what you want to talk about, is it?
The play you see in the photo at the top of this post is what you want to talk about. That's Jon Jay scoring the Cardinals' second run of the game... on a sacrifice fly... to shortstop.
That's right, shortstop, Starlin Castro by name. If you didn't see the game due to the Fox regional mess, consider yourself lucky. Situation: 1-0 Cardinals, top of the fifth inning, bases loaded, one out. Matt Carpenter hits a popup just on the outfield grass past shortstop. Castro waved Junior Lake off the ball, which was probably the right thing to do; Lake might have caught up to the ball, but Castro seemed to have a better bead on it. Castro caught the ball.
And then he stopped paying attention, and Jay took off for the plate. The startled Castro finally noticed, and flung the ball somewhere in the direction of Welington Castillo. Castillo somehow managed to make the play closer than it had any right to be; Jay scored. But then Castro and the rest of the infielders were far out of position, and the other Cardinals runners moved up.
No further runs scored in the inning, but the game was essentially over at that point; the Cubs had left the bases loaded in the third inning, their best scoring chance, and Travis Wood, though he had managed to not give up too many runs (two through five innings), didn't have his best stuff and was getting hit pretty hard even when he was getting outs. In the next inning, when he hit Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina homered to complete the scoring, you knew the Cubs were done for the day.
So was Castro:
Sveum met with Castro in dugout as he came off the field after the 5th. #Cubs— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) August 17, 2013
Castro was taken out of the game; Donnie Murphy moved to shortstop and Cody Ransom came in to play third base. It didn't really matter offensively as Castro had hit into a double play and struck out; the Cubs didn't touch three Cardinals relievers except for an infield single by Nate Schierholtz leading off the ninth.
I don't know what was said by Dale Sveum to Castro, but he absolutely did the right thing by removing him from the game. It was reminiscent of Braves manager Bobby Cox yanking a loafing Andruw Jones, years ago, in a game against the Cubs. (If I remember correctly, it was this game in 1998.)
There's just something about Castro... I don't know how to describe it. He just doesn't have his head in the game in every play, and that's something that's mandatory for major-league players. I would be in favor of benching Castro tomorrow, too -- Logan Watkins could use some playing time, and Darwin Barney could shift to shortstop for a game.
The reflexive thing to say is "Trade Castro!", but I won't say that. Too easy, and here's the thing: if we as fans can see this about Castro, don't you think scouts and management from other teams can see it, too? Maybe other teams might think, "We can fix that," and who knows, maybe they can. I would not be at all surprised if the Cubs do explore deals for Castro in the offseason. For Castro's part:
#Cubs Starlin Castro apologized to teammates, T.Wood, coaches after the game for his mental gaffe in 5th— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) August 18, 2013
#Cubs Castro: "I knew the outs and everything, but I put my head down and made a mental mistake. I don't want to make any excuses for that"— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) August 18, 2013
More #Cubs Castro: "It's my mistake and that's why I paid for that, that's why I came out of the game."— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) August 18, 2013
Asked if Castro gave him an explanation, #Cubs Sveum said, "There is no explanation." Not sure if Castro will play Sunday— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) August 18, 2013
Well, that's exactly right. At some point the manager has to make a statement, and here's a statement that Dale Sveum can make that would show some leadership. I'm all for it. The thing is: How many more Castro apologies do we have to hear before he stops doing this kind of thing?
Beyond that, there was a full house of mostly cheering Cardinals fans -- could have been nearly half the sellout crowd -- another gorgeous weather day, and Cubs relievers, at least, did well (3⅔ innings, one it, six strikeouts). At some point, though, the Cubs are going to have to do better in scoring runs at home (last seven home games: 11 total runs; last seven road games: 29 total runs).
But the Starlin Castro saga is the big story of Saturday's game. Discuss.