Monday's game against the San Francisco Giants was bad enough for Starlin Castro, based solely the box score. The Chicago Cubs shortstop went 0-for-4 at the plate, leaving four runners on base in a 3-2 loss to the Giants that capped off a four-game sweep at AT&T Park.
What people were talking about after the game, however, was something that didn't show up in the box score and had Cubs manager Dale Sveum fuming after the game.
With one out in the fifth inning, the Giants' Brandon Crawford hit a ground ball to second base. Darwin Barney flipped the ball to Castro at the bag for what looked like a potential double play. Castro took the relay and stepped on second, but rather than attempt a throw to first to get the third out, he trotted toward the Cubs' dugout.
Uh, Starlin? There was only one out in the inning. You made the second out, buddy. The inning wasn't over.
The Giants tied the game at 2-2 on the play, so if Castro had made an attempt to throw to second base, perhaps the Cubs escape the inning with the lead. However, in watching the play, the ground ball to second was a slow one, and it seems clear that Crawford would have beaten a throw by Castro.
But that was irrelevant to Sveum, who was furious at his shortstop losing focus out on the field.
"It's the last straw," Sveum said to reporters after the game. "He better start getting his head in the game, period."
Of course, this isn't the first time Castro has zoned out during a ballgame. In Friday's game, he stopped running on a stolen base attempt, thinking that contact had been made and the ball went foul.
Castro committed a more memorable mental error during a nationally televised Sunday night game last season, turning his back to home plate while a pitch was being thrown. Sveum wasn't the Cubs manager when that happened, but that sort of play tends to form a reputation for a player.
After the organization publicly committed to Castro last week by saying they won't trade him, the Cubs are surely wondering if their young shortstop can stay focused enough to develop into the superstar player that a team can be built around.
An 0-for-11 slump over his past three games could also raise the question of whether or not Castro is taking that lack of concentration to the plate. His slash average of .305/.319/.423 is the lowest it's been since mid-April.
At 22 years of age, Castro is just far too young to give up on. Sveum and the Cubs have no intention of doing so, either. But a manager can use the threat of benching to send a message to a player not giving full effort.
If that doesn't work, perhaps team president Theo Epstein will have no choice but to see what he can get for someone who is sure to draw heavy trade interest around the league.
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