Castro, Rizzo in Sveum’s crosshairs after Cubs poor play
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org April 21, 2013 9:02PM
Updated: April 22, 2013 9:02AM
MILWAUKEE — What if they’re wrong?
What if team president Theo Epstein, general manager Jed Hoyer, all those progressive-minded player-development guys and manager Dale Sveum are wrong about these core players the marketing department is already pinning ad campaigns on?
“That’s why I make statements like I did [Saturday] night,” Sveum said Sunday of his perform-or-lose-your-job oration after an error-filled loss. “You’ve got to perform at the big-league level. There’s reasons why people play in the big leagues and have long careers, because they perform on an every-day basis.
“There’s reasons why a lot of [guys are] minor-league players. You see it all the time. They can’t perform at the big-league level. They’re pretty good. They’re really good players. But you put the third deck on the stadium and something happens.
“We’ve got to obviously find that out and make people aware that there are things that can be done if you don’t start performing.”
What that might be after the Cubs were swept in Milwaukee isn’t clear considering the woeful lack of alternatives.
But the fact the still-chapped Sveum had Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo in his sights when he made those comments threw a sudden dose of skepticism and doubt into the widespread assumptions about the Cubs’ core.
“I don’t think [anyone’s] invincible if you’re not performing,” Sveum said when asked about the status — and recent mistakes — of Castro and Rizzo. “It’s not about what we think can happen three or four years from now. It’s time to perform on a consistent basis.”
Rizzo and Castro were among six Cubs who committed errors during the three-game series — giving the team 17 errors in 17 games — helping lead to eight unearned runs. The Cubs committed three errors in the series finale, which they lost 4-2.
Scott Feldman was the key culprit Sunday. He had a one-hopper bang out of his glove for an error with two outs in the fifth — five pitches before he hung a breaking ball to Ryan Braun for a three-run homer.
“It’s one of those games that falls squarely on me,” Feldman (0-3) said.
But the Cubs’ 5-12 record has been a true team effort, with poor late-inning relief and worse fielding already setting the stage for another sell-off at the trade deadline.
For another long summer.
For another hit of the snooze button on that promised championship reawakening.
Several players said the problem is that the team is pressing. Sveum said it doesn’t matter; this is the big leagues.
“Bottom line is you have to perform,” Sveum said.
And if you don’t, the team will find somebody else to do the job, Sveum said, whether your name is Castro, Rizzo or recently waived Alberto Gonzalez.
Of course, Castro — with two All-Star appearances and a seven-year contract — isn’t going anywhere. Despite Rizzo’s lack of experience, he leads the team in homers and RBI (he hit a two-run shot Sunday) and isn’t going anywhere, either.
“You can’t think about that,” Rizzo said. “No one wants to go down to the minors. Whatever happens, happens. And I’m sure this team’s going to have a lot more transactions throughout the year, like every team. But you can’t worry about getting sent down. I’ve done that before, and it never works out when you think about that.”
But Sveum is clearly at his wit’s end looking for some semblance of progress.
“It’s very important to understand that this is an organization that’s trying to get to another level,” he said. “But as a major-league team, it’s very difficult to get to that other level until we get people playing — no more, no less — but just up to their capabilities on an every-day basis.”