As Green Day once sang, Starlin Castro is a walking contradiction. His play on Monday night was so dichotomous that it left many of us shaking our heads the whole time in amazement, then dismay, then back to amazement. It was as though he had distilled his entire career into 9 innings.
I have been, and will continue to be, in Castro’s corner but I’ve also been critical of his focus and continued inability to make routine plays. In fact, I even went so far as to suggest dropping him to bottom of the order or swapping him with Addison Russell. Drastic, I know, but you know what they say about omelets and eggs.
A great deal was written and tweeted about Castro’s play last night, which led to even more being written and tweeted about what had been written and tweeted. Makes sense, huh? Basically, Castro is a lightning rod for both praise and criticism, with people taking increasingly staunch and antagonistic stands on one side or the other.
Discussing the Cubs shortstop has become like bringing up women’s reproductive rights, immigration reform, or the Affordable Care Act in partisan company. I guess with a name like Castro, you’re bound to become embroiled in some intense political discussions.
In response, I’ve taken to simply tweeting out the following photo each time Starlin produces another conversation starter:
In fact, I got to use that handy-dandy image a couple times last night, though there was a big head-scratcher in between. With two outs in the bottom of the 5th, MLB batting leader Dee Gordon took his .370 average to the plate and lofted a little humpback liner into shallow left-center.
Given the location and Gordon’s speed, the hit could have gone for a double were it not for a very nice play by Starlin Castro.
Ah, but the rabble was not to be silenced for long. In the bottom of the 7th, with the Cubs leading 4-1 and Jason Hammel still cruising, Castro booted a routine grounder off the bat of Christian Yelich. The miscue extended the inning and led to Hammel giving way to James Russell to close out the inning.
Now it was my turn to stay quiet.
Castro, however, was far from silent, yelling at himself in frustration. He seemed to harness that anger, channeling it all into his next trip to the plate. After seeing two Bryan Morris cutters to open the at-bat, Castro turned on the third and sent it rocketing into the seats in deep left-center.
But even in success, Castro managed to be divisive. Many were unhappy with the pace of his home run trot, which they felt was a bit too leisurely. The Best Fans in Baseball, fresh off a 1-0 loss to the Brewers, really took umbrage with the way Castro circled the bases. I’ll spare you the gory details, but suffice to say some of the reactions were less than classy.
Love him or loathe him, it’s hard to deny Starlin Castro’s entertainment value. Whether it’s his on-field performance or the cottage industry that has grown up around breaking down his every play, there’s rarely a dull moment.
I enjoy the playful banter, but the increasing levels of vitriol being spewed from both sides of the fence here are getting to be a bit much. So the next time you feel like getting into it with someone over your opposing views of Castro, I offer this little gem: