The kids got Dale Sveum. The Cubs’ young players believed to be the core of the future didn’t develop the last two years -- in fact, they got worse -- and that sounded like the big reason Theo Epstein whacked his manager.
Epstein also cited the need for love before tough love when it came to developing the young talent the Cubs have storming through their suddenly considerable system.
And so, it seems as if Epstein has enabled the likes of Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro.
The new manager, whether it’s Joe Girardi, A.J, Hinch, Brad Ausmus or someone else, will be charged with teaching kids how to be good enough major leaguers to win a World Series. That always has been the idea.
But the fact that Sveum and his staff didn’t talk nice or present a unified message feels like it bulletproofs Rizzo and Castro to some degree.
Or it would if Castro could pay attention long enough.
It can’t all be the manager’s fault. The players have to bear a lot of responsibility. It’s their career, after all. Everybody had something to do with it, and if Epstein wanted to make that point, then he’d look at trading Castro for pitching. You have to think a young shortstop would bring a lot of pitching, or at least one pitcher better than what Jeff Samardzija was supposed to be.
Javier Baez is coming. A lot of position players are coming. Pitchers, however, aren’t.
If the Cubs like Baez at shortstop, they might as well let him get started on those 30 or 40 errors that rookie shortstops usually make in the first season and do it in a year when contending isn’t expected.
Castro hasn’t hit .300 the last two seasons and hasn’t figured out how to work a count.
His .283/.322/.404 slash line this season was the worst of his career. He struck out more than ever and had a minus-0.6 WAR.
Castro hasn’t learned how to learn at the major-league level. That’s what it comes down to. His raw talent when he came into the league was just that – raw talent. He was asked to work on shortcomings. He was asked to be a better hitter. He failed. He continues to fail at a dizzying pace.
Castro has heard a lot of different things from a lot of different people without much sticking the last two seasons, and now he will get his fourth manager in five seasons. I wouldn’t blame Castro for being confused.
But I also don’t believe he’ll figure it out.
At best, the new Cubs staff will have to spend a lot of time working to break some bad habits.
The Cubs might be better off letting some other team try it -- Castro has a friendly contract -- while acquiring needed pitching and letting their new manager teach a new shortstop major-league habits.
Something else Epstein mentioned at the news conference after Sveum’s firing: the need for accountability. That includes failing players, not just a failing manager. Trading Castro would seem to send exactly that message.