Through Both Lenses: Why Do We Fear Greatness?

Posted: June 21, 2012 by Mauricio Rubio Jr. in Columns, Sports, Through Both Lenses
Tags: , , , , , ,

by: Mauricio Rubio Jr.
email: mr@99sportsproblems.com
twitter: @MRubio52

There is also a natural and very, very strong empathy with the underdog, with people who have suffered, people who have been pushed around by foreigners in particular, but also by their own people.

– Lakhdar Brahimi

The 2012 Chicago Cubs have a shot at becoming the worst team in franchise history. Given that the team has a reputation as the “Loveable Losers” of baseball, that’s not exactly a small feat. They would be worse than the ’66 and ’62 clubs that each lost 103 games. This, my fellow Cub fans, is what a full on rebuild looks like. You look absolutely awful in the early stages as you let go of guys that just can’t help you anymore. Aramis Ramirez would add a few wins to this club, but he wouldn’t be the difference maker for this team. Big Z would probably also add a couple of wins to the team, but he was such a clubhouse problem that it would be unjustifiable to keep him.

Point is, the team is awful and you’re being forced to appreciate players that are flawed for the meager skills that they can provide a major league team. Campana isn’t a Major Leaguer, but he’s forced to play placeholder for the Cubs as more talent is awaiting either a deadline (Rizzo) or trying to find their stroke (Brett Jackson) at the minor league levels. Campana has one tool, and it’s an outstanding tool, but it’s one that allows him to contribute, albeit sparingly, to a big league club. Cub fans love this guy. Personally, I kinda get it. He is the physical embodiment of the underdog. He’s small, scrawny, and he hustles. Watching him run is fun, but watching him do anything else is an exercise in masochistic fan behavior.

Starlin Castro, however, is a player that fans should legitimately be excited about. They are, for the most part I think. I hope. It’s probably more of a hope than an actual belief at this point because Starlin Castro is getting lit up by Cubs fans this year. The most prevailing and vocal thought is that Starlin Castro doesn’t have the acumen to play shortstop over the long haul, that he would be better served playing either third base or the outfield. Castro also doesn’t walk, and that makes him an awful offensive player and he’ll never walk enough because players never develop after the age of 23.

Ok, so the last part is a bit of an embellishment, but really, Cub fans, you’re mainly new to the whole OBP/taking pitches side of baseball. I know you are because we’re the same fandom that cheered on Soriano and his particular brand of walkless power in 2007/2008. Don’t start lying now, I saw you, you were there, getting delirious over HR balls and spotty defense in LF. I know the obvious rebuttals to that are LF defense isn’t as important, Soriano was hitting 30 bombs a year, and we now have a different understanding of what’s important in an offensive player, don’t hold us to the standard of 4-5 years ago.

Fair enough. All I’m saying is that Starlin Castro is an outstanding young player, and stop hating on greatness. We celebrate the underdog in this city far too often. I saw it with the Caleb Hanie love (actually, any backup QB in this league. Remember the crying over losing Orton for Cutler?), I see it in baseball way too often (Sean Marshall, Wood, Campy, DeRosa to an extent), and sometimes it even permeates to basketball. Fan reluctance to trade Deng for Kobe back when it was a rumor was astounding. This past year the reluctance I saw when the pie in the sky Boozer for Gasol rumors cropped up was baffling. Why do we do this? Why is it that when we the Chicago fan are looking at a talented albeit flawed player, we decide to root for the far less talented and far more flawed player? Do we think it’s fun or something?

Starlin Castro is a flawed, but enormously talented player. We pull out the microscope on this guy and point out all of his faults while losing perspective on what makes him great. We are so quick to move him to another position, to magnify his poor play that we are quickly forgetting that he’s younger than most Cubs prospects you’re excited about in the minors (Szczur, Rizzo, Jackson, all older, all in the minors). He’s making his mistakes on the major league level in front of everyone. If he was still in AA or AAA, people would be excited about his eventual call up and wondering about his future MVP candidacy and if he’ll win a gold glove at short. Instead, he’s proving his hitting ability in MLB and people are mad at him for not being perfect and trying to change his position.

Stop. Just stop. I get it, you read Moneyball and now you understand walks are all important. I’m sure Castro will figure out how to take a walk eventually. It’ll come with age and power, young kids tend to be overly aggressive at the plate, and Starlin Castro loves swinging that bat.

Perhaps I’m taking this to an extreme and catching all Cubs fans in the same net. I’m sure the majority of Cubs fans enjoy Castro, but it seems that the most vocal downplay his talents and play up his mistakes. Without a doubt, some of those fans wrote off the Patrick Kane stories as a young kid making mistakes, but when it actually happens, when a young kid actually goes out there and you see him make his mistakes, it becomes unacceptable for some reason.

We are a culture that loves to build up and drag down. Ask LeBron. Ask Kevin Durant in a few years, same with Derrick. We love them at first, when they have that new shiny label on them, but when young phenoms go through any type of growing pains, it’s seen as some sort of major transgression the player will have great difficulty overcoming.

Overall the message I’m trying to convey is simple. Just enjoy it, he’s the brightest of the few bright spots on the team. Be patient, because much like the Cubs overall, Castro won’t get better overnight.

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