Starlin Castro, Get Your Act Together

Starlin Castro's Awkward Sliding Show

Starlin Castro is the best player the Cubs have, but he does some idiotic things on the baseball field that are going to destroy the Chicago Cubs if he doesn’t learn to stop.

I don’t care about his fielding. He could make an error a day every day for the rest of the season and I wouldn’t really mind. If he doesn’t hit another homer all year, I won’t care. Crawl to first base on a pop-up. I won’t say a word. But please, oh please, Starlin, if you can change one thing about your game, make it your inability to approach a base without scaring the crap out of me.

Tell me you’ve noticed this. When Castro slides into a base, he begins his slide about six feet too late. Maybe he believes what Kevin Goldstein said about his speed and is genuinely shocked at how soon he arrives at the base, I don’t know. But it’s ridiculous, no matter which scenario unfolds: the cleats jamming into the base at near top speed; the awkward contortion act as he reaches back for the base on the overslide; the fingers, face, and gut all plowing over the bag until only his toes claw at the very edge. 

I’m not worried he’s going to slide badly into outs. I’m worried he’s going to put himself out of commission.

Call it hustle, fine. He’s more worried about getting to the base before the out than he is about arriving safely. Gritty. Gutsy. Dirty. Whatever. He’s going to get hurt and badly if no one teaches him better sliding technique. Still, that’s a gradual process, I guess. What really bothers me is the lesson that should be ridiculously easy.

Run through first base, Starlin.

At first it was kind of cute. Castro slams on the brakes the moment after he touches first base on a close play. I don’t know why. Is it his signature move? Is it so he’ll be better prepared to bolt to second if the throw gets away? Is it because he just can’t wait to see what the umpire’s call will be? Dunno. But it’s stupid.

In Sunday’s game, I’m pretty sure it cost the Cubs an out. Castro was out at first on a double play that, replays showed, should not have been. Castro beat the throw to first, but as he screeched to a halt and turned, he watched the umpire make the mistaken call. I don’t know if Starlin’s refusal to run hard through first slows him down at all prior to touching first, but I do think it may play tricks on the umpire’s eyes. Or maybe an ump or two just doesn’t like that he does it and calls him out on close plays on principle. I don’t really care. That’s not a big deal.

Seriously, I don’t care about the handful of outs that may or may not be at stake or the bad lessons Castro might be teaching our children. Mostly I’m worried it’s going to lead to him getting hurt. We saw last week Castro slipped and stumbled over a wet first base as he tried to stop. We saw Castro more recently lunge into first base on a close play (he was safe) as he brought himself to a halt. He didn’t get hurt, but it was more dangerous a play than I’d like to see.

Running to first base shouldn’t be that much of an adventure. Run past the base, Starlin. The rules allow for it. Really, it’s cool. You don’t need to stop two feet after first base, and you might want to slide a little sooner than two feet in front of second.

It’s no mystery that Starlin Castro is my favorite player, but I’m sick of his reckless tendencies around the bases. It shouldn’t be that hard to teach him. Everything I heard from Cubs coaches is that he’s an excellent and eager student of the game. I’d hope his next good lesson in sliding comes from Bobby Dernier and not from a stint on the 60-day DL.