— Dylan Steele (@evenloserswin) September 25, 2013
The other day I exchanged tweets with John Arguello of Cub’s Den and suggested that Starlin Castro is this generation’s Shawon Dunston. Obviously, it is an imperfect comparison. Dunston was drafted with the number one overall pick in 1982, while Castro was signed as a 16 year old amateur free agent. Starlin was two years younger when he hit the majors and put up dramatically better stats his first few years in the league. I’ve never seen Starlin wear a Mr. T starter kit. Like I said, different players. But, in both cases, the physical tools seem(ed) to be ahead of the product on the field. In their 4th season each will have nearly identical OPS (.627, with three games left for Starlin this season). But there are drastically different perceptions of the two players, at least based on my memory of Dunston’s career. It seemed as though even through struggles, Dunston was cheered, urged on by fans and the Shawon O Meter in the bleachers. Where is the Starlin O Meter?
I suppose you could say that Castro’s superior performance his first three years in the majors has set the bar higher for him, that fans have a right to be disappointed and angry about his sub-par season. But shouldn’t it be the opposite? Shouldn’t we recognize that this is a good player having a bad year, as good players sometimes do? As fans shouldn’t we cheer even louder when a player, or team, is doing poorly? There are many who want to trade Starlin Castro, run him out of town even though there is no evidence that he is lazy or mean or a bad teammate. All of the evidence I have seen points towards a likable, hardworking team player who, while struggling with the bat for most of this season, has shown improvement in other aspects of his game. As a Cubs fan shouldn’t this be one of your favorite players?
There is growing cynicism today, in the world, in sports, and throughout Cubs fandom. “Fans” act like spoiled brats, whining about not getting the bright, shiny championship they want, as though the team is purposefully keeping it from them. Instead of rooting for their teams and players they turn on them at the first sign of trouble. They hold up the receipts for their tickets and scream that the team isn’t doing enough for them. But if the team exists because of, and for, the fans, then isn’t the opposite also true? Don’t fans exist because of, and for, the team?
We aren’t owed championships. Being a fan doesn’t entitle you to winning seasons. In fact, if you can only cheer for a winning team, you are the very definition of the fair-weather fan. One who, I would argue, is not a fan at all. I believe fans are supposed to be part of the solution, the force rooting for the team to go onward and upward, especially when they’re at their lowest. Instead we kick them while they’re down, all the time screaming at them to get up. It’s ridiculous. There are those who say, and write, that this is it, after all of the years of losing, for some reason this is the season that made them give up. I say good riddance.
Shawon Dunston played parts of 12 seasons with the Cubs and I imagine that most remember him fondly. Through the strikeouts, the rocket throws into the 1st base bleachers and the caught stealings we cheered for Shawon Dunston, urged him to harness his physical gifts and were rewarded with one of the better, beloved players in Cubs history. Starlin Castro has better days ahead. Hopefully it’s in a Cubs uniform. Hopefully you will be standing next to me, cheering him on.