They’re called baseball players

Fans like to feel that they’re close with their favorite players. We refer to them by using only one name, talk about them endlessly, purchase merchandise with their name on it and we also congratulate and condemn them when we feel it necessary. If someone says something negative we stand up for them as we would for those closest to us.

Somewhere along the way we begin to ignore that these are baseball players we’re talking about. There’s no personal relationship. The only benefit this player or that player adds is how many runs he’s worth on the field. It’s only the baseball player that I care about.

After the 2008 season I argued that the Cubs should sign Milton Bradley. Prior to 2009 he had been a very good ballplayer when he was on the field. I should have paid more attention to the on-field distraction that Bradley was, but his off-field behavior didn’t matter to me.

I wasn’t rooting for Milton Bradley the person to be successful. I was rooting for the baseball player to be successful because it would help my favorite team. By all accounts, Bradley is a piece of shit. While many teammates have stood up for him over the years, he’s also alienated many of them. He’s alienated almost every fan he’s ever played in front of. There’s plenty of evidence that he was also a piece of garbage away from the field.

It’s that last part I don’t care about. This may be insensitive, but I just don’t care how a baseball player acts away from the field. Unless it affects his ability to play I don’t care. Yes, I’m talking about legal issues too. More specifically, the legal issues that Milton Bradley was involved in. I didn’t care and I still don’t.

It’s not that I don’t care about the alleged crime. I most certainly do. It’s that it has no impact on his ability to be a baseball player and that’s the only freaking reason I’m paying the least bit attention to him in the first place. I sympathize with the alleged victim like I do with all victims. I want justice to be served if there’s adequate evidence and I’d favor harsher penalties than most of you would. But this is a separate issue.

I was disappointed with the report the other day about Starlin Castro being accused of sexual assualt. I was not surprised. How can I be any more surprised that he’s been accused of this crime than I would be if Random Joe is accused of it? I know as much about Random Joe as I do of . While I am disappointed, the only god damn thing I care about Starlin Castro for is his ability to play baseball. I have never, not one time, been impressed with an athlete’s ability to follow the law.

I hope for the sake of the alleged victim that no crime was committed, but it won’t surprise me if one was. It also isn’t going to change the way I feel about Starlin Castro because my entire opinion about him is related to his ability to play baseball. Unlike a lot of people, I don’t have an opinion about the jewelry he wears. I don’t have an opinion about his hair. I do have an opinion about his fielding, baserunning, and hitting. I don’t have an opinion about what cars he drives or how he dresses. I do care about how good at baseball he can be in the future.

If a crime was committed I’m sure there will be cries that we should hate the guy and I won’t disagree with those, but doesn’t it go without saying that if someone committed the type of crime he’s being accused of that he isn’t likable? But what does it say about his ability to hit a baseball? Or field one?

I know this may sound cold and it is, but I don’t know these people and the only reason I pay attention to them is because of the game they play. If evidence exists to convict him he should be sent to prison like any other person who committed a crime like this. I would root like hell for Castro to be sent to prison for a very long time, but as long as he’s wearing a Cubs uniform I’m going to root like hell for him to be productive and help my favorite team win. I don’t have to like the players that are on the Cubs. I’m quite sure I’d like very few of them.

Starlin Castro, like all other athletes, are defined by the sport they play and not by the type of person they are. We root for the players not based on the quality of person they are, but the quality of athlete they are. Would I want Castro over to my house for dinner? No, but I’d have answered the same way a week ago. I’m not in the habit of inviting strangers to dinner. I am in the habit of rooting for athletes to accomplish something even though I have no idea how good a person they may be.

We’ve heard more often than ever from Cubs executives this offseason how baseball is a business. The new front office has talked about players as assets, which they are. If Theo and Hoyer decide that Castro is still an asset then I’m going to be happy to root for Starlin Castro. The baseball player.