Top Ten Reasons to Keep Watching the Cubs in 2010

Let’s build us a happy little L flag that flies high in the sky every day. It’s gorgeous!

10. The Cubs have turned losing into an art form, and art is good for the soul.
9. Like a Godfather movie, even though you know it won’t end well, watching the bloodbath is half the fun.

8. You’re gonna want to be in a longterm relationship with Starlin Castro . . . baseballistically speaking.
7. You could win 5 $5 footlong subs from Subway.
6. One of these days Len Kasper is gonna snap, and you’re going to want to be the one they interview on the news and say, “He always seemed like such a nice man. Quiet, kept to himself. It’s just a shame.”
5. No matter how many times you think, It just can’t get any worse, it will. It always does. Do you really want to miss that?
4. If you stop watching now, you might forget how bad this team was when the Bears start to suck in September.
3. Real masochists obsessive junkies people who need to seek professional help addicts stalkers morans body-snatched pods fans keep watching no matter what.
2. Sometimes they win.
1. DeWitt. Blake DeWitt.

Cubs Facts that Don’t Make Me Angry

On any given day, the Cubs have a really solid chance of winning, even if it’s against the Pirates.

Pat Hughes is the best radio play-by-play man I’ve ever listened to on a daily basis.

Watching the Cubs lose in a hopeless summer is still better than the hopeful baseball-free winters.

There are an awful lot of Cubs fans that I like an awful lot.

Alfonso Soriano is no longer painful to watch.

The next heartbreaking playoff loss appears to be quite a ways off.

Ticket prices are going down like . . . well, like the Cubs.

Starlin Castro is still in the majors.

Tyler Colvin can hit.

The pitching has been pretty good this year, and I’ve always felt that bad pitching is much more frustrating to watch than bad offense.

Whether Tom Ricketts wants to run this team as a fan or as a businessman, he’s going to have to put a better product on the field to be happy.

I really like the calzones at Wrigley.

However awful the walk-up music is, I haven’t heard any Miley Cyrus or Justin Bieber yet.

Even if they did, a little “Party in the U.S.A.” never hurt anybody.

Most people won’t admit it, but Carlos Zambrano spoke for all of us.

I’m pretty sure I have a fear of success, and the Cubs have been very understanding in that regard.

The fire sale is inevitable. And who doesn’t love a sale?

Stream of Cubbie Consciousness

Carlos Zambrano belongs in the bullpen like Rod Blagojevich belongs on the Supreme Court.

Over the last week, the Cubs went 2-4 . . . and gained a game on the Cardinals.

The Toyota sign is a commercial, not a story.

Any team that doesn’t pull out all the stops to grab every dollar they can scrounge will show the same lackluster interest in wins.

I can’t stop watching ‘Til Death. It is not funny.

The National League is pretty bad.

Next Sunday’s Lost finale will leave us with a lot of unanswered questions. Most of them will start with “What the . . . “

The Cubs are a better team with Starlin Castro than with Chad Tracy.

Conan O’Brien’s anti-cynical farewell speech was good advice.

The purists said the lights desecrated Wrigley Field. I was one of them. I was 13. Change is good.

If Lou didn’t care, he would have quit a long time ago.

No. He didn’t. Very funny.

Carlos Marmol found the cheat codes for his slider.

Space Giants was a great show.

No sport has been more revolutionized by the advent of HDTV than hockey. I can see the puck now.

Marlon Byrd.

Over 1/3 of one-pitch at-bats result in hits.

Coffee is the quaintest of addictions.

When the Cubs start hitting as a team (and they will . . . this year) they’ll rack up a double-digit winning streak.

The Cubs don’t need a mascot. We are the mascots.

Wrigley Field ambassadors won’t stop fans in the bleachers from relieving themselves in empty beer cups, but they will hand out “not beer” labels.

I overhead a Wrigley bathroom attendant saying he had waited five years to get his current assignment. Heaven help the poor schmuck who inherited his 2005 gig.

Singing “the Cubs are gonna win today” after they win is . . . well, given the state of the bullpen, it’s almost premature.

Top Ten Things Cubs Fans Can Look Forward To

Better cigars = better clubhouse chemistry

The season hasn’t gone all that well for the boys in blue, but there’s a reason the phrase “hope springs eternal” gets used so often at the Friendly Confines . . . and not just because we’re all so darn sarcastic.

Still, that’s one of the primary reasons. So here are ten things Cubs fans haven’t seen yet this year that, while not necessarily qualifying 2010 as the year, would still be kind of awesome.

10. Carlos Zambrano named the permanent Walgreens Bat Boy. 
Big Z has been making a very little contribution since being moved to the pen (just 7 2/3 innings in 7 games in the 21 Cubs games since the switch). That’s just not enough Zambrano for my liking. But that could all change if, as I suspect, Carlos is named the new bat boy. Those kids winning the Walgreens contest just aren’t getting it done, and this move would put Carlos in the action on almost every play. More Carlos. Better bats. This will work.

9. Calling up another Castro.
The dictator can play. Yes, I know his health is failing, but this move isn’t so much about the talent of Fidel so much as it’s about the message it sends to the team. If you don’t start hitting, you and your families will pay dearly. Tell me that won’t work! It sends a message.

8. Ron Santo losing it big time.

Everybody thinks of Ron as a generally happy guy who has overcome quite a bit of physical pain and Cub-related anguish. But this year, the complaints about his focus and disposition have made many wonder if he’s not too old to keep sane in the booth. We’ve heard the historic Nooooo!, so we know he’s capable of having an in-booth meltdown. But if Santo gave us another Brant-Brown reaction, but expanded it into a Lee-Elia style explosion, we’d have ourselves a memory that would last a lifetime.

7. Another sweep at the hands of the Pirates.
Last year, the Cubs owned the Pirates, winning 161 out of 15 games against them. If it hadn’t been for their -79 and 75 record against the rest of MLB, the Cubs would have made the postseason. The Cubs were better than the Pirates last season, and they’re better once again this year. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t expect the pendulum of luck to keep swinging back in a more Cublike direction. If the Cubs lose six straight to the Buccos, it’ll almost be like Barry Bonds has a normal size head again.

6. Mass Head Shaving
If we ask ourselves, “What would DeRosa do?” (and who doesn’t ask that question on a daily basis?) , the answer will eventually be, Shave our heads to bust out of this slump. It may not be effective, but we’ll feel better about the losing at the very least. Because where there are bald heads, there are smiling faces. I swear on Reed Johnson’s glaring dome, it’s true.

5. A New Logo
The Cubs might change up the unis again, but that’s not what I mean. Even here on May 14, it seems fairly obvious that the And Counting Meter is going to have to roll over to 103. That’s exciting. Right?

4. The Trade Deadline
This is actually completely serious. The Cubs have a plethora of players who may jump at the chance to shed their standard-issue no-trade clauses to skip town to a winner. Derrek Lee, Ted Lilly, and Ronnie Woo could all give some contender a chance to take a serious step toward World Series glory and to unload their can’t-miss (or some such) prospects into the Cubs farm system (aka, their current bullpen).

3. Booing the Cardinals in the Playoffs
Remember when Matt Holliday got ro-sham-bo’d by that routine line drive and the Cardinals wound up going down in flames? That was probably the Cubs’ best postseason memory in the last 7 years. Something like that could happen again and salvage 2010.

2. The Wildcard Race
Again, this is completely serious. The Cubs could go 0 for their next 100 games and they still wouldn’t be eliminated from wildcard contention until September 10. No matter how bad the Cubs are or might continue to be, the National League is bad enough that the excitement of wildcard hopes will last a very, very long time . . . and the Cubs have a legit shot at winning that thing.

1. Wrigley Talk Friday
Don’t tell me this is all just some elaborate Top Ten ploy to get me to listen to your stupid podcast! Okay, I won’t tell you that. But, since you brought it up, listen to my stupid podcast, here, in the player on the sidebar, or on iTunes.

Castro Is Fun to Watch. He’s Ready.

He can ride an invisible horse, for crying out loud. What else do you want?

Ryne Sandberg started his Cubs career going 0-20. After his first hit, he went another 12 at-bats before getting his second. That’s a 1-32 stretch to begin his Hall-of-Fame resume on the North side. But he was ready.

Mark Grace made 17 errors in his rookie campaign at first base, enough to lead the National League in that category. That was on his way to four Gold Gloves. He was ready.

Shawon Dunston made 17 errors in his first season with the Cubs (and in just 73 games). In his first full season (1986) he made 32 errors, the most of anyone at any position in either league. He also led NL shortstops in putouts and assists, and the world in Range Factor per Game (by a wide margin). Dunston shuttled between the majors and minors over his first few seasons, and it wasn’t until 1989 that his OPS+ reached the league average 100. But he was ready.

Starlin Castro has committed 5 errors in 5 games, good for a .762 fielding percentage, which I’m told is rather poor. He has also compiled a 1.067 OPS and a 169 OPS+, which I’m told is completely unsustainable. Get that? His fielding is awful and clearly indicative of his lack of maturity. His hitting is uncharacteristically awesome and sure to get worse.

Here’s what I see: Starlin has had a very good start to his shorter-than-Sullivan career, and his fielding percentage is more likely to drastically change than his offensive statistics. He will not continue to screw up in 1 out of every 4 opportunities. He won’t average over a base per plate appearance for very long either, but I’ve seen enough to know his hitting is less attributable to luck than his fielding is to nerves.

Regardless, this kid is a lot of fun to watch. The last I checked, that’s kind of a big part of the reason we like to follow baseball, is it not? It’s fun to see people with talent and/or infinite supplies of scrappiness play this game. Starlin Castro could be one of the five most talented baseball players I’ve seen come up through the Cubs organization, so I want to watch him play. It. Will. Be. Fun.

Obviously one could argue that any more prolonged defensive struggles would be detrimental to the Cubs’ chances of winning. But A) There really is no way he’ll make errors at this rate, and B) I think you have to ask yourself how important winning is to the Cubs right now.

That’s stupid. Winning is all there is. If winning isn’t your goal, you’re not a fan. You’re an idiot! Winning is kind of the point, isn’t it, moron?!? Fire Jim Hendry! Fire Lou! Fire Adam from this piece of garbage blog!


Now that we’ve got that out of our systems (Shutup, jerk, I’m still angry at how dumb you are!), I have a question: how many games do you think Castro’s defense will cost the Cubs over the course of the rest of the season, in combination with whatever gains/losses you expect from his offensive contributions? Go ahead, make a guess, write it down, enter it into your calculator. Now I want you to write down how many games you think the Cubs will wind up winning on the year if they demote young Starlin to AAA right this very moment. Now give those numbers a gander.

If you project the Cubs to win fewer than 85 games without Castro, it really doesn’t matter how many games you think he will cost the Cubs. You don’t think they’re going to the playoffs anyway. In the absence of winning, I’d rather watch a player who has a legitimate chance of doing something truly exciting every time he steps onto the field than, say, Fontebaker. Wouldn’t you?

If you think the Cubs are going to make the playoffs as long as Castro doesn’t hold them back, congratulations, you’re a part of the smallest club in America.

But if you, like me, expect Starlin Castro to actually make a net improvement to this team (maybe a small one, maybe a large one . . . I don’t know), then there’s no way you want to see Castro leave the ranks of the Chicago National League ball club.

Actually, I really don’t care either way. This kid has a chance to be something special, or at least something slightly better than ordinary. I would much rather see him develop before my eyes than read some scouting report about how well he’s doing in Peoria or who knows where. In all my life, I’ve never seen the Cubs even make it to the World Series, and the likelihood that a Castro-less team will do it this year is almost nonexistent. Starlin might not improve those odds, but that’s okay.

Because I’ve had a lot of fun watching the Cubs not win World Series. I have enjoyed watching Ryne Sandberg become a Hall of Famer, Mark Grace become a world-class Gold-Glover, and Shawon Dunston making him earn it. It has been fun seeing Carlos Zambrano try to grow up, Kerry Wood try to stay healthy and filthy, and Ryan Theriot continue to get dirty. Geo’s OBP getting higher than a World Baseball Classic after-party: love it. Carlos Marmol trying to reinvent the strike zone and the laws of physics: love it. Tyler Colvin trying to prove his identity: love it.

So why would I not want to see Starlin Castro go through the growing pains that lead to a more polished, sparkling career as a major-league shortstop? He’s got all the tools to do just that, and I think Cub fans (at least the ones intelligent enough not to boo him the first day they see him in person) deserve a ticket to that show.

The kid is ready. So am I.

Great Expectations

Aerosmith is a great band, but I’ve always felt that they peaked with their first hit, “Dream On.” Now, that’s a fine zenith, one that most bands would kill to reach, and a lot of my Aerosmith-loving friends would disagree with my assertion to begin with. But I know I’m not the only person to rank “Dream On” as Steven Tyler & Co.’s best song and one of the greatest in rock & roll history. You could argue they recorded a song or songs that were as good as “Dream On,” but I can’t be convinced that they’ve done anything that was better. (It was also the featured song of the above highlight reel ESPN played to close out 1999, which was, for me, the best of the uber-emotional musical sports montage genre . . . still gets me verklempt.)

Notice the price in the upper right of the ticket: $6.00

I bring this up now because of May 6 and May 7. You may recall a game that took place on May 6, 1998. Cubs. Astros. Ring a bell? You probably remember where you were when it happened. I do. I remember the telephone of my Chicago apartment ringing shortly after the game ended. It was my mom.

“Did you see the game?” she asked in a near shriek.

“Yeah,” I said calmly, followed by a pause for dramatic effect. “From the BLEACHERS!!!


I was supposed to have been at work. But for the third day in a row, I had been swinging a sledge hammer all day long, knocking down brick-plaster walls, picking up the scraps, and hauling away the wreckage. I was exhausted. So at about 11:30 I asked for the afternoon off. It just sounded like a good idea to catch a game. I thought Kerry Wood was pitching, and I really wanted to get to see him in person. One short El ride later, and I was at the Wrigley Field Box Office hoping, but skeptically, that there were still bleacher seats left. The attendant laughed off my skepticism.


“Oh yeah, we got plenty. We definitely have one.”


Score.


I took a seat in the left-center bleachers where there was plenty of room to stretch out. I was a bit worried by the clouds sweeping across the sky, some of them spilling a few drops here and there. It was one of those weird days when some of the ballpark was in sunshine while other seats were getting rained on. All in all, though, it was a beautiful day for me and 15,757 of my friends to enjoy.

Soon, a married couple of Astros fans (in town from Houston, they had seen the Astros win the night before) in Biggio jerseys sat in front of me. I felt a sting of anxiety when they smirked at Kerry’s first fastball, which sailed directly into Jerry Meals. But from that point on, the smirks were all mine.

Kerry’s fastball zipped so blindingly fast, there were times when I confused the smack of Sandy Martinez’s glove with the crack of a bat. Some of his pitches I genuinely could not see. But his breaking stuff? Normally I can’t tell a slider from a 2-seamer when I watch a game in person, but I could see Kerry’s slider swooping out of the strike zone like a Frisbee. I could see the fear in the Astros’ eyes, the wobble in their knees, and the swirly black thought bubble of frustration emanating from the tops of their heads.

As the game wore on, that crowd of less than 1/2 capacity exploded with ovations of glee. We were high-fiving. We were shouting. We were openly mocking the trespassers from the West who were outed by their Cardinals umbrellas when the rain got a bit too heavy for them. One guy to my left, wearing a newspaper for a rain hat, was announcing the strikeout totals with every batter. We were all grumbling slightly about Kevin Orie. We united as one in sheer joy over the crowning of baseball’s newest King of K’s.

After 2 hours and 19 minutes, we went home. Unbelievable. Unstoppable. Unequivocal.

Unrepeatable.

In the career of Kerry Lee Wood, the apex of his achievements occurred in his fifth start as a major leaguer. It was quite possibly the greatest display of pitching in the history of baseball. He could never improve upon that. Nobody could. I find it suddenly and incredibly sad to think that Kerry Wood’s finest moment, the most dramatic tear-jerking, goosebump-inducing highlight, came just a few steps into his journey as a pro.

It’s not exactly the same situation, but I’d hate for something similar to befall Starlin Castro. On May 7, 2010, he took the baseball world by storm, yet another 20-year-old Cub to set the standard for big-splash achievements. Starlin drove in 6 runs, 3 on a homer in his very first appearance at a big-league plate, and another 3 on a triple showcasing his yes-we-should-be-excited-about-this-kid speed. No player had ever begun his career with a 6-RBI game. Ever. How can Castro improve on that?

Tonight, Starlin has a chance to impress the Wrigley faithful as he debuts in a building that, according to Ozzie Guillen, he’s not even old enough to attend. The kid needs McLovin to help him buy beer, but 40,000 screaming fans are relying on him to deliver them a champion—you know, just another thing that hasn’t happened in over a century.

UPDATE: Starlin Castro went 0-2 with 2 walks and 3 errors. He got booed after the last one. Lou knew Starlin would be learning on the fly, but fans lack the patience for that. They want the prodigy but not the child. Starlin’s first lesson: Wrigley Field is infested with jerks, and the real cockroaches like to come out at night.

Castro Adds a Topic to Wrigley Talk Friday

Desperate move? Try crossing ex-Marine John Shale. That’s desperate.

I substitute taught today (along with yesterday) for the first time in my life. I don’t really know how it came about. I’m not a substitute teacher. I’m not a teacher. I do tutor at this school, but I don’t really remember even being asked to sub. I just kind of got the details and showed up according to what I was told through my wife who also works at the school. None of this has anything to do with anything.

Except for the fact that it forced me to miss the breaking news about Starlin Castro substituting for Chad Tracy on the Cubs’ roster.

Maybe the most surprising part of it for me was that Castro starting at short for the Cubs was one of my predictions guaranteed to go wrong, as I mentioned on Wrigley Talk Friday with Julie and Tim. For the immediate present, at the time, I loved the move because it gave us something to talk about on today’s episode (which you can also listen to in the handy player to the right).

There are a lot of opinions being tossed about the halls of Cubdom. I haven’t heard any reactions along the lines of “meh,” though. This is an exciting move, much more exciting than the Z-to-the-pen fiasco or being swept by the Pirates for that matter.

Wish I had more thoughts to dole out, but this post is more about promoting the podcast than anything. Which reminds me, become a fan of Wrigley Talk Friday, because it’s awesome.

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.

Permission to Speak?

I don’t care to start a blog war or even a twitter sissy slap party, I really don’t. But something I read this morning really struck a nerve. As fashionable as it is for blogs to blast other blogs, I’m not going to deride BCB or its author for annoying the crap out of me. He has that right. I do, however, want to obliterate the ridiculous sentiment behind the post.

It’s difficult to say this without being hypocritical, because the essence of my argument is that allowing people to think, speak, report, blog, comment, and tweet freely is important. It’s more than important. It’s essential to the integrity of society. So far be it from me to undercut anyone’s First Amendment rights as they relate to the Cubs blogocracy or the free world in general.

On the other hand, part of the freedom of speech is the freedom, nay, the responsibility to freely point out when an idea is a crock. So, my fellow citizens of Earth, the value of truth compels me to say, the half-baked notion that Twitter is ruining spring training is a simmering slow cooker full of fecal matter. But don’t let me tell you what to think.

Here’s all you really need to read to understand the post:

In general, I believe the relentless, breathless nature of Twitter is spoiling one of the best things about spring training:

Optimism.

To show this isn’t a personal attack, I’ll try to give his overall point a fair summary. Journalists disseminate updates via twitter at a breakneck rate, feeding rabid Cubs fans insatiable appetite for knowledge and triggering explosive and irrational reactions throughout social networks of all stripes. The trend has turned Cubs fans from hopeful, optimistic sunbeams into mopey, whiny, dark clouds of humbug. If the journatweets were more selective about their updates or fans were more patient in their thirst for and reaction to said info, we’d be much happier people.

None of this is worthy of Bill of Rights-grade outrage, but the fundamental argument behind it is: people can’t be trusted with facts; withhold information until it can be sanitized and spun; wait for the team management to disperse their version of the truth before you go drawing your own conclusions; it’s not journalism unless it passes the desk of an editor; if it’s important enough to affect the entire season, you can wait a few hours or until the next day before you hear it; leave the critical thinking to the experts.

I’d expect as much from the Cubs’ PR machine. But to espouse that nonsense as part of a free society is downright irresponsible.

I don’t care if you hate Twitter. Hate it. Don’t use it. Register and block everyone out of spite. I really don’t care. Twitter is not in your face. It’s a way that some people choose to communicate. That’s it. If a beat reporter uses it to communicate news to a lot of people, great. If a serious journalist refuses to use it, awesome. Take your time and write your dissertation. I might read it. But if people just stop communicating and opt instead to withhold breaking information for more prudent times, the only winner is ignorance.

If Starlin Castro gets hit in the butt with an errant Marmol fastball, I want to know. If some dude in his mom’s basement thinks that spells the end of the Cubs’ World Series hopes, I want him to say it. Smart people, dumb people, pessimists, and optimists, I want them telling whoever will listen what they know and what they think, because that’s how people learn. I hope the right people correct the wrong people and the optimists cheer up the pessimists and the ignorant listen to the informed and the irritable ignore the annoying.

There are few things more bothersome than people who would rather put a damper on truth than change the way they think and feel. If your optimism depends on the restriction or suppression of information, your optimism is stupid. The same is true of pessimism. And realism. And socialist fascism. As much as I’d like to tell people to shut up, I don’t really want them to. I mean, they should take the time to listen occasionally, but come on. Communication is good.  Do it more, not less. And if you believe in willingly constructing a false sense of optimism for the sake of tradition by withholding the truth from the masses, feel free to do it somewhere else.