Spiegel: Castro's attitude the correct one, and it's paying off
For four seasons, Starlin Castro was one of the only emblems of hope on a terrible Cubs roster. He was a three-time all-star, a precocious hitter with enormous potential and an oft-criticized work in progress.
Now 25 and on an exciting, winning team for the first time in his career, it has been mostly a terrible season for Castro.
He struggled at the plate like never before. He was dangled at the trade deadline with no takers. On Aug. 8, hitting .236 with an OPS under .600, he finally was benched.
Kyle Schwarber's bat had to play. Chris Coghlan went from left field to second base, with Addison Russell finally taking his rightful place at shortstop.
"In the beginning, I took it really personal," Castro said. "After that, I thought about it. You can't put those guys on the bench. They're really hot right now, and I understand. I thought about it last night. I'll do whatever I can do for the team."
May 14, 2011:
New York Yankees veteran catcher Jorge Posada is hitting .165. Manager Joe Girardi's lineup for a nationally televised game against the Boston Red Sox has Posada batting ninth.
Posada marches into Girardi's office, and says he feels insulted, disrespected. He asks to be pulled from the lineup. General manager Brian Cashman eventually would consult with the league to see if the team has any recourse for a player refusing to play.
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Cubs manager Joe Maddon said in his introductory news conference that the goal was to establish trusting relationships with his players, setting a tone that would allow them to speak to each other with brutal honesty.
We got a chance to see firsthand how that can work. Castro appreciated the direct communication and got past his disappointment quickly in part because of it.
Maddon promised him he still would have opportunities to play and help the team. Castro believed him and promised to stay ready.
Aug. 2, 2009:
Baltimore Orioles third baseman Melvin Mora is benched for the third time in four games and has choice words for his bosses.
"I don't appreciate the disrespect, because I've been playing hurt for a guy who won't respect you. I don't deserve it," the 37-year-old Mora said. "I need to have my respect."
Mora played sparingly, then left the O's at season's end.
• • •
Castro remained attentive and connected with his teammates in the dugout. He took pregame grounders at second and third. He soon got starts at second base and has become surprisingly trustworthy there, as part of a double-play combo with the kid who replaced him at shortstop.
Offensively, Castro immediately went to work in pregame sessions trying to tweak his approach. He and hitting coach John Malee figured out a few things. Castro has been on fire recently, going 17-for-40 at one point, and had a big 3-run homer in Tuesday's victory at St. Louis.
And all the while, the Cubs keep winning.
Sept. 7, 2015:
Veteran starter Matt Garza has a 6-14 record with a 5.63 ERA in 27 starts. The Milwaukee Brewers tell him they want to use September to let some young pitchers get a taste of the big leagues.
"It's (expletive)," Garza said. "It's not my decision. I didn't get much say. It's completely taken out of my hands. That's it. I didn't have any say at all.
"It is what it is. It's just (expletive)."
He is asked to go to the bullpen. Garza refuses, essentially ending his season.
• • •
It feels awkward to commend behavior we should expect, but here we are.
Starlin Castro took his benching like a professional and responded to it like an adult. He is now hitting his way into more playing time.
In the worst offensive season of his career, he most likely will still be a part of a playoff roster.
It seems Castro has responded to his role change by genuinely doing everything he can to be useful and to help his team achieve its goals.
Wouldn't you? Shouldn't everybody?
• Matt Spiegel co-hosts "The Spiegel & Goff Show" 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday-Friday on WSCR 670-AM. Follow him on Twitter @mattspiegel670.