Farewell to Theriot Caption Contest – UPDATE: We Have a Winner

Geo: We just suck.
Theriot: Yeah, but I’m awesome at everything.

Congratulations to Sue the Quiet Riot on her winning caption. In addition to honor, glory, and praise (and, by the way, Riot says, “Hi”), Sue also receives this hair-metal video dedication courtesy of Whitesnake. Yeah, that’s right, pay dirt. Thanks to everyone who submitted captions through facebook, twitter, and the comments section. Better luck next time, when something like this could be yours:

If you‘re a fan of like And Counting on Facebook, you’re already aware that there’s a caption contest currently underway to come up with the best (as judged by me) caption for the photo of Geovany Soto and the now dearly departed (and herein depicted) Ryan Theriot. The winner will receive glory, honor, praise, and a lifetime subscription to this blog. I’ll also mention you by name the next time I talk directly to The Riot.

There are already several entries, so you’ve got your work cut out for you:


Omc MGb (of One Minute Cubs):

You see the trick is to lick it, THEN roll the ends. If you try to roll the ends first, you end up…oh ho..iksnay….Umm yeah if you widen your stance a little you might be able to…ok so you end up spilling the…..

Susan (of @hey_sue fame):

Soto: We just suck.

Theriot: Yeah, but I’m awesome at everything.

Kin (who dreams of the World Series):

Soto: …and then I was benched for a guy with no fingers.

Theriot: That’s nothing! I lost my regular job to a guy who wasn’t even alive when I won the College World Series!

And an alternate:

Soto: I don’t think you’re wearing the right sized cup. And I just can’t stop staring at it.

Ernesto (the hilarious and faithful @hdzneto):

Soto: Can you believe they took away my pot. I mean, it was my kryponite but it’s helped me get through my 2+ years of being a Cub.

Theriot: (not paying attention) Hey, look! If I stand here, I’m taller than you!

 If you don’t like this page via Facebook . . . you probably made the right call. Regardless, I’d love to read your caption.

The Economics of the Cubs Dodgers Deal

If the buzz leading up to the trade that sent Ted Lilly, Ryan Theriot, and cash to the Dodgers for Wallach, Smit, and DeWitt, the primary snag prolonging the negotiations was the matter of just how much if any cash should be smuggled along with Lilly’s things. The number everyone was throwing around was $4 million. Ignoring the talent of the various pieces being swapped, I wanted to look at how much the Cubs are saving by making this deal.

I don’t know how anyone ascertains exactly how much is left on a player’s deal, but looking at the regular season alone, the Cubs had about 36% of their games left to play. I know that’s not perfect, but it’s close enough for me: it would leave Lilly with $4.37 million remaining on his contract and Theriot with $947 thousand (MLB Trade Rumors put them at $4.24 million and $918K). Like I said, it’s not perfect, but I’m okay with that margin of error for the sake of argument.


What I do know is that a lot of Cubs fans really liked Ted Lilly and/or Ryan Theriot, and the idea of jettisoning them to LA for a younger version of Theriot and paying the Dodgers to take Lilly strikes many fans as Hendriotic. But it’s not quite that simple or depressing.

The Cubs will pay the Dodgers $2.5 million and (by my crude calculations) pay Blake DeWitt less than $150,000 for the remainder of this year (and a cost-controlled salary for the foreseeable future); the two prospects will also cost the Cubs a negligible amount. That’s the money the Cubs have to say goodbye to as a result of the deal: $2.7 million or so.

Even using the slightly reduced numbers for Lilly and Theriot’s remaining contracts (about $5.16 million), that relieves the Cubs of about $2.6 million of payroll. Yes, it could potentially cost the Cubs the two compensatory draft picks they would have received if they had offered Lilly arbitration and lost him on the free agent market (or they’ll have to yield picks of their own if Hendry re-signs him). But there’s no guarantee Hendry would have offered Lilly arbitration.

As it is, the Cubs have an extra $2.6 million or so heading into next offseason. Obviously it would be best spent on the first of three installments paid an overpriced and injury-prone free-agent outfielder’s signing bonus, but we can only hope that dream comes to fruition.

I’ve really just wasted my time on this, haven’t I?

Lilly and Theriot to Become Dodgers, Cubs get Blake DeWhatnow?

UPDATE II: It’s Kyle Smit, not Smith and Brett Wallach, not Walch. I interpreted Smit’s name as an abbreviation and Walch as the entire name . . . got those two mixed up.

UPDATE: Jayson Stark is saying the Cubs will, along with Blake DeWitt, receive minor leaguers Brett Walch & Kyle Smith, and the Cubs will pay $2.5 million of Lilly’s remaining $4 million in salary. I feel it’s my duty to pretend to care, and I’ll update when I muster up enough feigned emotion to do so.

About a million people are tweeting that the Cubs and Dodgers have completed a deal sending Lilly and Theriot to LA in exchange for infielder Blake DeWitt and prospects. I’ll update when it becomes officially official.

Swing Away, Ryan

TOKYO - MAY 28:  Singer Mariah Carey throws the ceremonial first pitch before Japanese professional baseball match between Yomiuri Giants and Rakuten Golden Eagles at Tokyo Dome on May 28, 2008 in Tokyo, Japan.(Photo by Koichi Kamoshida/Getty Images)
Yes, Ryan Theriot swung at this pitch.

If I were to rank the complaints of Cubs fans this year on a scale of frequency and intensity of the rants, Ryan Theriot’s approach at the plate would probably rank somewhere around the 4th spot in between Zambrano’s tumult and John Grabow’s existence. Honestly, the objections of this fan base are so voluminous and varied, ranking them would be almost as difficult as addressing them.

Ordered lists of grievances aside, we can all agree that Ryan Theriot’s concept of patience has forced Cub fans to lose theirs. He swings at the ceremonial first pitch. He swings at bean balls. When the visiting team hits a home run, his biggest regret is not having a bat to swing when the bleacher bums throw the ball back. There’s no question what the perception is: Theriot loves to swing at the first pitch. I guess my only remaining questions are, Does he? and Should he?

Does Ryan Theriot love to swing at the first pitch?
First of all, I think what really bothers everyone (justifiably or not) isn’t that Theriot swings at the first pitch so much as that he puts the first pitch in play. You can see from Theriot’s plate discipline numbers that he swings at a smaller percentage of pitches out of the strike zone than the rest of the league, so it’s not a matter of Theriot swinging at bad pitches. So if he swings at a strike on the first pitch without putting it in play, the act of swinging really has no effect whatsoever other than maybe giving Theriot a better sense of timing. When Theriot swings, though, he makes contact 90.3% of the time (the 13th highest contact rate in the majors), so I really don’t think people are complaining about his first-pitch whiffs so much as his short at-bats.

So let’s just look at the plate appearances in which Theriot puts the first pitch into play, a pretty frequent occurrence. In 2010, just over 18% of Theriot’s PAs have lasted exactly one pitch. League average is about 11%. For his career, almost 16% of Riot’s plate appearances are one-pitch affairs, so he has definitely earned the reputation for hitting the first pitch more than the average player (and definitely more than the prototypical leadoff hitter). This year he’s been even more slap-happy than normal, but not much. A 2% increase represents about 14 PAs per season, and I highly doubt anyone has noticed that Theriot is hitting the first pitch an additional eight one-hundredths of a plate appearance per game.

That being said, yes, Ryan Theriot does seem to love that first pitch. Is that so wrong?


Should Ryan Theriot love to swing at the first pitch?
There are those who would say no regardless of evidence to the contrary. Since Theriot has been semi-regularly batting in the leadoff position, the unwritten (but oft spoken) rule dictates that he should take as many pitches as possible. It’s his job, I’m told, to work the count and get on base as often as possible. And in those cases when the pitcher just made the second out, he is required by law to take at least two strikes and foul off at least three pitches if necessary to give the pitcher at least a five-pitch time span in which to rest.

Forgive me for challenging the conventional wisdom, but I do think his main job is to reach base as frequently as possible and to advance as far along the basepaths as he can. I’d prefer to use wOBA, but without the split information for that particular stat I’ll look at OPS first. If Theriot’s on-base plus slugging numbers are better when swinging at the first pitch than in other situations, wouldn’t it be advisable (or at the very least forgivable) for him to continue in his relative impatience?

Well guess what: they are. For his career, Theriot’s AVG/OBP/SLG line is .349/.351/.453 when he hits (or gets hit by) the first pitch he sees, putting his 1st-pitch OPS at .803 (it’s .807 this year, so let’s just stick with the career numbers for better sample size). Now let’s look at those numbers in plate appearances he allows to go more than one pitch. After the count reaches 1-0, Theriot’s line is .287/.406/.387. Yes, his OBP goes up significantly, but his slugging plummets as well, yielding an OPS of .793. Keep in mind, that’s throughout Theriot’s career on all PAs that start with him taking a pitch and getting ahead in the count.

The difference is extremely slight, but Theriot’s ability to inflict damage on the opposition has been better when he hits the first pitch than when he gains the 1-0 advantage. What about after a first pitch strike? .266/.306/.309 with a .615 OPS. If  you’d rather see Theriot take that first pitch for a strike, you must really put a lot of stock into the benefit of “showing his teammates what the pitcher has to offer,” because the difference between hitting and taking that first strike is pretty damaging to Theriot’s chances.

All told, here’s Theriot’s career line in plate appearances that last longer than one pitch: .275/.352/.343 (.695 OPS). Here’s the net difference in his line when a Ryan Theriot PA goes beyond the one-pitch mark: -.074/+.001/-.110. So, yeah, when Theriot lets an at-bat go any longer than the minimum, he actually decreases his OPS by .109.

Complain about Theriot leading off and I’ll agree with you. Demand his trade and I won’t bat an eye. But to those clamoring for longer Theriot at-bats, I beg of you to find a new tree up which to bark. Theriot’s love affair with pitch 1 is well founded. Don’t try to get in between those two. They will very likely both hit you.

In Our Own Image

Chicago Cubs' Alfonso Soriano homers against the Houston Astros
Even I can run hard out of the box (which would be odd after a strikeout).
They make millions of dollars a year. They get paid those millions to play the game we love. They should consider themselves lucky to be professional baseball players and collect the hard earned money we shell out to watch them play the game we love. The least these players can do is to try their best.
Except, actually, that’s not the least they can do—that’s the most we could do. If we (and by we, I mean society . . . specifically the non-professional baseball playing segment of it) were to play baseball in the majors, we would absolutely suck. We wouldn’t be able to hit. We wouldn’t be able to pitch. We wouldn’t be able to hit the cutoff man. But we could try really hard. We could run out our ground-outs and pop-ups. We could make smart decisions. We could hustle. We could not admire our non-homers. We could dirty our uniforms. We could be scrappy.

For fans who wish we could play, it’s hard to forgive a multimillionaire for failing to do the things we know we could do or for making the mistakes we know we could avoid. So when Alfonso Soriano or Aramis Ramirez don’t sprint out of the batter’s box or when Ryan Theriot gets TOOTBLAN’d or when Lou decides John Grabow should pitch in a game we think the Cubs have a chance to win, we self-respecting Cub fans get a bit angry. I’ve been trying to figure out the reason behind the outrage, and the conclusion I’ve come to doesn’t reflect on us all too well.


The thought came to me as I was remembering the accounts and myriad replays of Carlton Fisk’s dramatic home run in Game 6. Pudge watched that homer. He jumped around and waved like a maniac. It’s the stuff of legend because he acted exactly the way any person capable of emotion would have . . . and because it won Game 6 of the 1975 World Series in the 12th freaking inning. Here’s my personal favorite recollection of that shot, courtesy of Good Will Hunting. It’s extremely NSFW, with a big stinking emphasis on the F. But I love the scene. Just don’t play it if you’re in an un-effing-friendly environment.

Anyway, I got to wondering: Pudge was waving because he wanted it to stay fair, but what if fair/foul wasn’t the problem? (It hit the foul pole, for crying out loud. How beautiful is that drama?) But what if it stayed fair and ricocheted off the Green Monster? Fisk could have been held to a single or even thrown out at second. What he did in that glorious moment—watched the ball and gestured emotionally—resembles pretty closely the antics of some of the most derided players in the game. What’s the big difference? The moment? The stakes? The results? Ultimately, I think the difference is the answer to the question, What would I have done if it were me?

We are proud people. As much as we want to live vicariously through the athletes who do what for us would be impossible, we just as badly want them to reflect the qualities we claim to possess in ourselves.

Sometimes it’s as simple as geography. I went to Valparaiso High School. Jeff Samardzija did, too. So I and all of my fellow Valpo Vikings wanted to see the kid succeed. It would promote the notion that somebody from our town could be great. Someone like me could be a big-league baseball player. As it is, I have to live vicariously through the graduates of Fort Osage High School.

Obviously our personal stock in our favorite players isn’t limited to such specific minutiae. If you’re a hard-working, blue-collar type, you’ll tend to admire the multimillionaires who aren’t afraid to sacrifice their bodies to break up a double play. The intense competitors in the stands greatly appreciate those players who, when they hit routine grounders to short, consider the dash to first a race against death. Perfectionists love a guy with ridiculously impeccable fundamentals. Dancing bears bow to Kevin Millar. You get the idea.

We feel strongly about players who do the little things because the little things are all we have. When a professional with all-world talent still manages to play with the heart and grit of one of us common slow-pitch softball junkies, it makes us forget about the salaries they make and reminds us of what we could have been if only Disney hadn’t lied to us about all that dreams-come-true mumbo jumbo. Living out our dreams through someone else is more believable when that someone does things the way we do. Watching them do something that goes against our character feels like a betrayal of our dreams, like they’re dancing on the graves of our aspirations. Lazy selfish ballplayers make lousy vicars.

Our desire as fans to cheer for athletes who conform to our own image causes us to place too much importance on rather insignificant details and arrive at inaccurate conclusions. That could have been a triple. He shouldn’t have dived headfirst into first base. Or he should have. He doesn’t care. He’s lazy. He only cares about his own stats. He’s a clubhouse cancer. If he was more like me, he’d be a much better ball player.

Let’s get one thing straight: if players were more like us, baseball wouldn’t be very fun to watch. I don’t fault anyone who likes a player for espousing their same values or work ethic or haircut. But we need to understand the difference between what makes us like a player and what makes him a good player. Sometimes they’re the same thing, but not as often as we think.

On the other hand, talented people often think they’re above doing the things common people have to do to get by. And that sucks. But at some point, we need to realize that, if we’re honest with ourselves, we appreciate talent much more than character, hustle, grit, or work ethic. If Mr. Rogers were the starting second baseman for the Chicago Cubs and he made 6 errors in a game and went 0-5 with 5 strikeouts (but tried real hard doing it) we’d boo his face off. That’s a fact. But rousing applause will greet any Cub that hits two homers in a game, regardless of the little things he neglects and big blunders to which he’s prone.

Why? Because deep down we know the qualities we possess are much less valuable in a baseball player than the talent we lack. 


Nothing to See Here. So Let’s Do the Wave!

On Saturday, the wave broke out at Wrigley Field. This punky, spray-tanned castoff from the set of Swingers (not Vince Vaughn) served as cheerleader  drum major  douchemaster  moron-in-chief, eliciting a chorus of boos from dozens of onlookers . . . and, you know, the wave from tens of thousands of witless drones.

It’s bad enough this happened at Wrigley. Fans do a lot of unforgivable things in Wrigley. They throw peanuts at fans of opposing teams, even if it’s the team opposing the Blackhawks later that weekend. They stand on the ramps leading to the upper deck and toss food and water down onto the fans below. They hurl racial epithets at their favorite players. I guess they project quite a few things into the air, but usually they have the good sense not to include a successive parade of their butt-scratching hands in the mix. But here’s what made it worse:

All this went down with one out in the eighth inning of a tie ball game with the potential (and eventually the actual) game-tying run at second base. The wave is supposed to be the designated pastime of fans who have become bored with the actual national pastime. But to interrupt the most critical turning point in the game by conjuring the demonic ritual of wavus stupidus maximus takes some serious juevos (and just an extraordinary surplus of dumb). You’re telling me there was nothing else to grab the attention of these buffoons?

Allow me to offer up a photodump of evidence to the contrary:

Vince Vaughn set the tone by aiming for the upper deck with his ceremonial first pitch.

Look! There’s Soriano with a healthy knee and a newfound propensity for crushing the ball.

He even threatened to shoot anyone who even thought about starting a wave.

Don’t even think about it. I swear. Bang bang!

Theriot adjusted his pants. How can any of you think about anything else?

Marlon Byrd does a little dance move when they say, “Play ball!” It’s kinda cute.

Someone forgot to tell Kosuke April was over. He’s still a doubles machine.

Soriano’s underpaid bubble butt.

Now would be the time to look away.

Stephen Drew, not a fan of the floating strike zone.

My niece: a big fan of Dora.

Not too many pictures of the pitcher’s mound here. Mostly because they would all look like this.

This is the game getting exciting. If you believe in statistics, that is.

See? This game ain’t boring.

Take in the joy of a world where the wave does not exist.

If you wanted to start your waving as a performance art protest against Arizona’s immigration laws, this would have been a good time.

If the wave could stop this man from entering the game, it would become a staple at Wrigley.

But there are happy things to cheer about and watch. Soriano made the scoreboard do this . . .

Game tied.

The guy in front of me was very excited to see Marmah warming up. Everyone in the stadium not wearing a Diamondback jersey was glad to see it wasn’t Grabow. Seriously, he must have called him “Marmah” at least 267 times.

I mean, come on! His name is right there on the jersey, plain as day.

This is Tylermania! He’s glad to be in scoring position. He’s ecstatic that the bases are loaded for Derrek Lee. He’s a bit confused as to why the wave is going on.

Hey, wavers! The Cubs are winning now. Your efforts to ruin my day completely have been undone by the Cub offense. That should give you some idea as to how inept you are at life.

Where have I been the last seven games? 

What’s down there? What was left of the dignity of Cub fans? I don’t know. There was a pole there.

Marmah strikes out the side. Cue the song.

So there you have it. A bunch of pictures of things that aren’t the wave. Shame on the reprobates who dared create their own sideshow during the main event.

2010 Cubs Predictions: They’re NOT Gonna Happen

More optimistic than psychic, all hope and no sense, these predictions are guaranteed never to come true. But if even one does, I will brag about it for the rest of my life. Tribune photo by Zbigniew Bzdak (Also posted at LOHO)

This is the last worthless weekend that we’ll have to spend. All introductory east-coast-biased Sunday Night Baseball aside (that’s right, Yankees and Red Sox, we don’t care what happens between the two of you, no matter how much Joe Morgan insists that we must), Monday marks the dawn of the 2010 baseball season. So we’re running out of time to make bold  educated  sabermetrically generated half-baked predictions for what the Cubs will be able to accomplish this year.

If the LOHO NCAA Pick ‘Em Challenge has taught us anything, it’s that my annual tradition of picking Kansas to win it all is guaranteed to go dreadfully wrong every year (except in the occasional instance when I break from tradition and allow them to succeed . . . sorry, Jayhawks). And if it has taught us two things, it’s that I suck at predicting things. So here is a list of things I’m utterly confident will not happen, which is precisely why I am prognosticating that they will:

Alfonso Soriano will hit 40 homers. Do you remember last April? Soriano started the season hotter than a Gatorade-machine-bashing tantrum. And then he decided to test his knee reflex on the left-field wall. I’m hoping it was the injury that caused the precipitous production decline and not a failure to renew some Faustian deal with the devil. If I’m wrong (and I usually am) we’ll be seeing more of Tyler Colvin in left than anyone is really hoping to get. (Tyler Colvin’s mom excluded, of course.) If I’m right, Wrigley could be hosting its fair share of October baseball.

Ryan Theriot will collect 200 hits and 30 stolen bases. I’m not just saying this because he’s my starting shortstop in the SABR-jerk fantasy league (in which I don’t belong, but every basement needs a dweller). Well, actually, I am pretty much saying this because he’s my starting shortstop. But it could happen. I’m not expecting Rudy Jaramillo to work miracles up and down the Cubs batting order, but I do think he can help detect and correct problems a bit sooner. Don’t expect a power surge from the Riot, but you might see some better consistency from him and the rest of the Cubs bats. And the TOOTBLAN reduction will just be a freak aberration. I’m predicting big things from Theriot, and I’m predicting that most of them will come while he’s playing second base. Because . . .

Starlin Castro will be the Cubs starting shortstop by June 13. Why June 13? Don’t ask me to explain these things, I don’t know. But everyone in the Cubs organization thinks this kid is the real deal. And by June 13, most people in the Cubs organization will have their doubts about the Fontebaker project. Castro is going to shine at AAA, I can feel it. Or maybe that’s indigestion. Either way, I’m pretty sure Castro is coming, and he’s coming for good.

Carlos Zambrano: Cy Young Award winner, 2010. Big Z is good at baseball. Big Z is emotional. Big Z is occasionally a risk to himself and others. But more than anything, Carlos Zambrano is fun to watch. I’m not one of those who think his emotional outbursts have anything to do with the actual baseball results. If anything, I believe his excitability is more responsible for his success than his meltdowns. I think he’s been unlucky of late, and I expect that to turn around this year in a big way. But I expect a lot of things.

Carlos Marmol will earn 50 saves in 2010. He’ll probably also issue 100 walks, but this will be the year Marmol figures it out. Again. Without the World Baseball Classic and Groggles to torture us this year, the wild one will stay relatively consistent all season long. That means he’ll consistently work his way in and out of jams while no one ever seems to actually hit any of his pitches. Except with their elbows.

Carlos Silva and Milton Bradley will not only prove to be welcome additions to their new clubs, they’ll actually earn their contracts. No, wait, don’t leave! I swear, I’m going somewhere with this. Milton Bradley is a good baseball player. 2009 was not a good year for him, but the guy can hit a baseball (or watch a bad pitch go by). Seattle is the perfect place for him to shine, or at least where he can blend in with all the other rain clouds. And Carlos Silva has a chance to be a rock-solid fifth starter. Okay, maybe a moderately fluffy fifth starter, but Seattle paid us to take him, and he’ll earn that money. Wait, what does that even mean? Um . . .

Geovanny Soto will return to the All-Star Game. I don’t know what the stats will say when it’s all said and done, but Geo is going to have a hot start to 2010. He’s trimmed everything from his waistline to his eyebrows, and the net effect is going to be brilliant. At least as long as his mask covers up the eyebrow thing.

The biggest scandal to come out of the Cubs clubhouse will center around Mike Fontenot. Little Babe Ruth and another little person who frequents the place are going to have words, and it won’t be pretty. Which one gets run out of town is anybody’s guess, but I’m predicting the Cajun Connection stays in tact. (Help Wanted: Beat Reporter with penchant for drama)

Tom Ricketts will pour beer on a St. Louis Cardinal. It will be an accident, but it will happen.

The Toyota sign will shoot fireworks after every homer, and neither the city of Chicago nor the Wrigleyville neighborhood will have the slightest problem with it. White Sox fans will be equal parts furious and smug about the North Siders stealing their tradition while Cub fans will use the occasion to vaguely remember that the White Sox fanbase does, in fact, exist.

The Cubs will win the World Series. Of course they will. This is the year. Also, world peace will finally be achieved and the season finale of Lost will make total and complete sense.

Okay, that’s all I got. Gimme your predictions, and make sure they’re no less likely to occur than mine. I don’t want to be upstaged in my wrongness.

Down with Castro?

Starlin Castro looks like Rudy. That is all.

Pepin le Bref is once again stirring up rumors about players who aren’t on the Cubs roster, only this time it’s a guy with a solid chance to work his way onto it. Starlin Castro was a non-roster invitee to the Cubs’ spring training festivities, but he has looked like a guy you wouldn’t mind having on the big-league club.

In 15 plate appearances.

Pepin would have you believe the Cubs brass is conflicted about what to do with the phenom sporting the 1.600 OPS (in 15 PA): start him in AAA or give him a shot on the opening-day roster. As previously reported by his Bref-ness, Lou wouldn’t want Starlin to be a bench player; the kid needs to play:

Cubs manager Lou Piniella ended any speculation Sunday that Andres Blanco’s knee injury would open up a job for 19-year-old shortstop Starlin Castro. 


“No, no,” he said. “Starlin is going to start the season in Triple-A (Iowa) and play. The only way Starlin would come into this equation, and I’ve said this before, is if he shows he’s ready to play here and there’s a problem physically with Theriot.

“Now, we don’t want that. But I’ll tell you what, I’ve been very impressed with Starlin. He’s smooth up there, got a nice throwing arm, good hands. He gives you a nice at-bat. But no, we’re going to go with Theriot at shortstop, and certainly (Castro) wouldn’t be up here backing up under any circumstances. We want this kid to play.”

Less than a week after collecting that gem from Lou, le Bref suggests the decision isn’t so clear cut, even though Lou hasn’t changed one iota of his story:

Manager Lou Piniella continues to insist Ryan Theriot is his shortstop and he’s not interested in moving him to second to make room for Castro at short.

Prospects headed to the minors typically get sent to minor league camp midway through Cactus League games. Will the Cubs give Castro a longer look?

“That’s going to be up to (general manager) Jim Hendry and (assistant GM Randy Bush),” Piniella said. “Unless the kid is going to start here, their preference in the past has been to send these kids out to get them familiar with where they are going to play.”

But few Cubs prospects have performed as well as Castro has early in the games. When he smacked a first-pitch home run to left in the fifth inning, Piniella looked at bench coach Alan Trammell with a wild-eyed grin on his face.

So why manufacture a story that goes against every quote from the people who matter and is supported by nothing but 15 plate appearances and a post-homer smile?

Well, to give Pepi some credit, Castro is an exciting player. He’s bigger and faster than Theriot, but he’s also a full 10 years younger. Meanwhile, Theriot is having just as much success as Castro this spring (not to mention how ridiculous it is to base any significant decisions on a handful of spring at-bats against a bunch of guys with sub-Silva type stuff . . . oh, crap, I just mentioned it; but it was in parentheses, so it doesn’t really count).

But I don’t think Piniella, Hendry, or Bush will be making a decision based on Castro’s numbers. Frankly, they probably won’t be basing that decision on anything other than what they’ve already said. Their decision is all but made, and if they do change their minds it will be because of what they see of him in person, not on paper. They won’t gamble the fate of this season or, more importantly, the future of a could-be superstar, when they’re perfectly content with Ryan Theriot at short.

Except that Ryan Theriot isn’t really the guy to compare to Castro, because he wouldn’t be the one to get bumped out of the lineup. It’s the Fontenot/Baker platoon that would get replaced as Castro stepped in at short and Theriot moseyed on to the other side of second base.

That’s the question of the moment: would the Cubs rather have a middle infield of Theriot/Bakenot or Castro/Theriot? And would they rather have a batting order featuring Castro’s sizzling speed and a font of potential or . . . just Fontebaker? I understand those who think either one of those guys could be solid, but I don’t know how often anyone will actually utter the words, “Oh good, Fontenot is up,” or “Sweet, it’s Baker time!”

Look, I’m excited to see what Starlin Castro can do as the Cubs’ everyday shortstop, but I can wait. I’m not setting myself up to become incensed by the impending news of Castro’s assignment to AAA Iowa. But I’m certainly not begging the front office to indulge their sense of patience. I think there’s a decent chance that Starlin Castro would outperform Theriot in the field, that he’d outperform Bakenot at the plate, and that Theriot would improve the defense at second.

But I also don’t know jack, and I trust Lou’s judgment. And Jim’s. And Randy’s. I’m just glad to see Castro pass yet another test on the way to Wrigley.

Random Cubs Facts, Opinions, Fabrications, and Outright Diversions

Firing Jim Hendry is a bad idea.

Jay Leno is not as unfunny as people give him discredit for. He’s also not as funny as Conan.

1998 was the best year of my adult life. The home run race was a part (nowhere near all) of that. I wouldn’t change a thing.

If the Cubs win the World Series this year by cheating, I will celebrate until I collapse in an unethical heap of exasperation.

If the Cubs win the World Series this year through methods of interrogative torture that cross lines even Jack Bauer wouldn’t step over, I would have second thoughts.

I do not endorse cheating, torture, illegal steroid use, or the designated hitter.

Wrigley Field is unique and one of my favorite places in the world. So is the house I grew up in, but I’m glad my parents remodeled.

If Wrigley had a JumboTron that could replay controversial calls, they’d have to stop the game every other inning to rid the playing field of angrily discarded beer cups.

Everyone’s at least a little racist.

Ryan Theriot isn’t getting any better.

Put an @ before someone’s user name to make sure they read your tweet. Use @@ to attack them with a giant 4-legged robot.

Going two-sies in the Wrigley troughs is a breach of etiquette.

The best Cubs-related movie of all time is Die Hard.

Dick Stockton will be the play-by-play guy for every Cubs 1st-round playoff game from now until the end of time.

I looked up the word curse in the dictionary, and I don’t see a single definition that doesn’t apply to the Cubs.

I love the Cubs, I hate the Cardinals, but to each his or her own.

Former players are entitled to their opinions about steroids, but I expect them to be no more objective than they were when they argued with umpires.

Parking at Wrigley has the exact same cost-to-pain ratio as getting a root canal.

Just once I’d like to catch a foul ball at Wrigley Field.

Alfonso Soriano will be great again.

Carlos Zambrano is the best Cubs pitcher, and he’s worth every penny.

The Cubs will win it all in my lifetime.

I am not to be trusted.

Which Chicago Cub Are You? (It’s Scarily Accurate)

I hate those Facebook quizzes that make you answer five questions about something as arbitrary as your affinity for or aversion to cured meats and then proceed to tell you which Saved by the Bell character you are. First of all, the questions are always multiple choices, and all of the choices usually stink. Second of all, I am so not Kelly Kapowski.

But I think there’s potential in a “Which Chicago Cub Are You?” quiz, because this team is loaded with personalities I recognize from high school, former workplaces, and maybe a family reunion or two. I’ve probably seen flashes of Milton Bradley in my own mirror . . . partly because I can be moody, too, or perhaps because he’s stalking me for making fun of him. Either way, here are some of the possible results. See if any of these people sound familiar outside of Cubdom:
You are Carlos Zambrano. You have loads of potential and unlimited passion for everything you do. You’re the life of the party and you love to have fun. But sometimes your passion and intensity get the best of you, causing you to lose focus, lose control, and even lose a few friends. Your friends love you, your enemies fear you, but you have everyone’s attention.
You are Milton Bradley. You want nothing more to succeed, and some day that might happen. But you are easily hurt both emotionally and physically. Some people perform better when they’re angry; you are not some people. Those close to you regard you as the ultimate team player who is willing to do whatever it takes to win. Those not close to you have good reason. Still, you have plenty of skill just waiting to emerge, and if you’re surrounded by people who believe in you, you will be a shining star.
You are Ted Lilly. You generally let your actions speak louder than your words, which is good—saying, “I’m better than you, and you like it,” out loud can be rather unbecoming. What you lack in talent you more than make up for with fierce determination and skin as thick as rhino armor. Outside of a Cub uniform or a bar fight, most people wouldn’t recognize you in public. You also have a bit of a temper, but you can usually focus that productively. In those moments when you can’t, people know better than to get in your way.
You are Derrek Lee. You’re a gentle giant, smart, debonair, quick as a fox, and strong as an ox. Not easily ruffled, you measure your words, your responses, and your emotions. You lead not with speeches but by example. You keep things at an even keel, except when you’re exploding on a fastball over the plate or pouncing on a screaming line drive headed for the right field corner. Some people wish you’d be more outspoken and demonstrative, but you’re big and strong enough not to have to care what some people wish for.
You are Alfonso Soriano. When it comes to performance, you’re a human roller coaster, although you never wear your emotions on your sleeve. When you find you’re groove, there are none better, but when you get stuck in a rut . . . well, there are few worse. Your preferences and quirks have earned you a reputation as a prima donna, mostly undeserved. It’s not your fault if you get preferential treatment, you earned it? Your flair for the dramatic can, unfortunately, fizzle out on occasion. And your easy going style sometimes comes off as lackadaisical. But if you just keep walking softly and carrying a big stick, eventually, people will appreciate your even bigger upside.
You are Ryan Theriot. People don’t expect much from you at first, but you thrive on sneaking up on them with your scrappy, fiery approach. You work hard, play hard, laugh hard, and die hard. You try to be blue collar, you really do, but you just can’t seem to shed the image of the consensus clubhouse leader. Your biggest weakness just may be a propensity to forget how hard you have to work. Success will never come naturally for you; but when you chase it, it will never outrun you, either.
You are Ryan Dempster. You’re a complete goofball, and a scream at parties. But when you’re at work, you’re all business. Maybe people underestimate you because of your antics, but your professionalism will make short work of any doubters. You thrive on positive vibes and encouragement in a friendly environment, and conversely sometimes falter under intense pressure or adverse conditions. Focus is your best friend; lose it and you will wilt, but maintain it and you will dominate.
You are Lou Piniella. You know perfectly well who you are, and if I try to tell you, you’ll shoot a glare at me that says in no uncertain (yet silent) terms, “Shut up or I’ll bludgeon you with Santo’s prosthetic.” Next.
You are Ron Santo. You are 100% emotion. You rise and fall with the performance of those you hold most dear. People thrive on your emotion and sometimes laugh at the pure theater of your reactions. You deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, but this world sucks sometimes.
You are Carlos Marmol. You are equal parts wild, untouchable, breathtaking, and heartstopping. No one can control you . . . even you can’t control you. But can you grasp the wind and put it in your pocket? Can you put sunshine in a bottle? Can you tie a rainbow into a knot and tell it, “Stop being colorful”? No. Such is Marmol.
Okay, you get it. I’m not going to go through the entire 40-man roster, front office, and broadcasting booth. Maybe you could help me fill in the blanks. Go ahead, channel your inner Carrie Muskat.