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updated: 8/19/2013 7:11 AM

Cubs, Sveum won't give up on Castro

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  • Associated Press A day after being benched for a mental mistake, Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro was back on the field. The Cubs and manager Dale Sveum knows the only way Castro can become a consistent major-league player is to play.

      Associated Press A day after being benched for a mental mistake, Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro was back on the field. The Cubs and manager Dale Sveum knows the only way Castro can become a consistent major-league player is to play.

 
 

There remains the notion that Theo Epstein did Ryne Sandberg a favor by refusing to saddle him with a terrible team for at least three years, only to see him get fired around the time the team would be in a position to compete.

The only problem with that is it isn't true.

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Epstein was never going to hire Sandberg. He doesn't know Sandberg and doesn't know anything about Sandberg.

And that just isn't Epstein's way.

He hires people he knows. That way there's no learning process and no adjustment period for management.

So why would he hire someone unknown to him, an icon he was certain he'd have to fire someday? It was a no-win for both Epstein and Sandberg.

Instead, he hired in Dale Sveum a man he already knew, certain Sveum would manage in a way that fit Epstein's plan.

When Sveum ultimately goes the way of all managers and is again looking for work, Epstein will again employ a manager he knows and understands.

The question now is whether Sveum will still be here when it finally is time for the Cubs to compete again.

From the start, Epstein and Jed Hoyer have made it clear that Sveum is their guy and not someone merely taking up space in that chair while the Cubs are bad and developing their farm system.

"When we set out to hire a manager, the last thing we were thinking about was a placeholder," Hoyer told us on "Hit and Run" recently. "You want to bring in someone to coach the young players well, teach the right things and set the right tone.

"One of the things that really drew us to Dale in the interview process was we knew he was going to be steady and he would never lose the clubhouse.

"You need that kind of guy when you know you're going to go through a potential downtime at the major-league level. For a team that has lost as much as we have, we've been free of controversy and players continue to play hard.

"The effort's been there, and sometimes that lacks in a situation like that. He's done a really good job with that."

But anyone in Sveum's position, who has been through two years of this, has to be wondering if he'll survive long enough to see the good times.

"It wouldn't be fair to judge wins and losses at the major-league level. He's done a lot of other things really well," Hoyer said. "We've told him repeatedly (what) we're looking for, and he's given us that. We want to make sure our young players are getting better and staying focused."

The problem is Starlin Castro has gotten progressively worse in just about every way a baseball player can get worse, and Sveum is at a loss for what else he can do.

After another mental error, Sveum benched Castro on Saturday, saying, "There are only so many meetings and so many things you can say, and obviously when you've played this much baseball it gets to the point where you have to do it yourself."

In other words, Sveum doesn't know what else to do.

"There's no question that it's up to both of us, but it's always up to the individual," Sveum said. "He's played in the big leagues long enough, and we've had our discussions. There comes a point in time where you have to cross that bridge and get to the next level."

The belief here has always been that Castro is not an Epstein-type player, and that the reason the Cubs haven't moved Javy Baez to another position is that they think he's going to be the shortstop in Chicago by 2015 -- and maybe much sooner than that.

But even if that's the case, the Cubs have to get Castro back on track so that he can play another position in Chicago or increase his trade value.

The truth is Castro is the only one who can make that happen.

But fair or not, Sveum will be judged on whether he can facilitate the process.

Fair or not, he is charged with getting the most out of a young player who lacks baseball fundamentals and instincts.

Fair or not, Sveum will be blamed by many -- maybe even his bosses -- if Castro can't turn it around.

That's the way it works in baseball -- and there's really nothing fair about it.

brozner@dailyherald.com

Listen to Barry Rozner from 9 a.m. to noon Sundays on the Score's "Hit and Run" show at WSCR 670-AM, and follow him @BarryRozner on Twitter.

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