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Cubs Tue Apr 23 2013

Idle Threats Aren't What The Struggling Cubs Need

Cubs_200.pngIt's only late April, but the Cubs are doing a fantastic job at losing games in just about every way possible. Extra inning collapses, bullpen implosions, defensive miscues, you name it and the tenants at Wrigley have probably lost that way.

The most annoying of those have been the mental lapses in the field, particularly the ones being made by the 'futures of the franchise.' Starlin Castro has never been known for his defensive prowess, but Anthony Rizzo has been widely regarded as a potential Gold Glove candidate at first base at some point in the future. Unless, of course, he gets sent back down to Iowa.

"If people keep playing like that, you have to find options," Dale Sveum said before Sunday's 4-2 loss to the Brewers. "Give people playing time at Triple A to figure this stuff out."

Sveum was trying to make a point about his club in general and not aim squarely at his two best players, but then what's the point of making the comment about the minor leagues in the first place when those were the guys that made the biggest mistakes the previous day?

The Cubs aren't sending down either of Castro or Rizzo. Not even if they fall into an 0-for-30 slump or make errors in five consecutive games. Castro is just starting the seven year deal he inked last season for $60 million, and Rizzo has more than 25 percent of the team's home runs so far this season.

If Sveum wants to make a point to these guys, the most that he can do is sit them down for a game. That's a manager's prerogative and his only true weapon if he wants to let his team know that the kind of defensive silliness that has the Cubs leading the league in errors in unacceptable. His other option, one that has far more risk when it comes to player psyche and media attention, is to have Castro practice at a different position during BP. Continue to make mistakes, and we'll put you somewhere to minimize their affects. That's how you make a point as a manager.

It's beating a dead horse, but bears repeating: Rizzo and Castro are each just 23 years old. The pressure of leading a team isn't the easiest thing to do at that age. Alfonso Soriano is the only veteran offensive player the team can truly lean on, and despite how good he is in the clubhouse, he only makes an impact with his bat for a few different two week stretches every year. He's also being constantly discussed in trades and has basically been auditioning for his future suitors the past 18 months.

Even though 18 games is far from a significant sample, it's clear the organization's extremely tempered hopes of making a sneaky playoff run this year are pretty much out the window. It's definitely not just the fault of Rizzo and Castro and might even be a bonus for them going forward to simply allow them more time to grow as leaders of the franchise.

There's no help on the way for those two this year, and maybe not even until late in 2014 as well. Until then, they need to continue taking their lumps and be given a day off here and there by Sveum to keep their minds clear. There's no pressure -- yet.

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