Houston Astros v Chicago Cubs
Updated: November 30, 2011 12:17AM
A player couldn’t ask for much more in a season than an All-Star Game appearance, a likely 200-hit year and a streak of games reaching base matching a Hall of Fame legend.
All those accomplishments will be part of Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro’s 2011 resume, only his second in the majors.
Yet the youthful star is more melancholy than celebratory about this season.
“It’s not good,” he said of the Cubs’ terrible season. “It’s better when the team wins. Everything happens more easy then. You don’t have to work so hard because everyone is good.”
Baseball still is as much about the joy of the game as it is the business of it to the 21-year-old Castro. He knows he has had an eye-opening season. He knows he can get even better. And he knows how important his future is to the Cubs.
But he has learned, too, that lack of success for the team dampens the joy and brings with it changes beyond his control.
He knows some of the people who have meant the most to him, Alfonso Soriano and Aramis Ramirez, may be gone next season. The coaching staff also would change if manager Mike Quade is replaced by the next general manager.
“I’ll miss them [if they are gone],’’ he said of Soriano and Ramirez, fellow natives of the Dominican Republic who have been like family to him. “And Ivan [DeJesus] and Bobby Dernier, too. They’ve been very good.”
Dernier counsels Castro on baserunning. DeJesus has been Castro’s infield tutor and was his translator, a job no longer necessary as Castro continues to master his second language. Even that has been part of his maturation off the field.
On the field, the ongoing learning process has included the euphoria of his first All-Star selection — he was the youngest Cubs All-Star in franchise history — and the humbling criticisms about his defensive lapses and 27 errors, the most in the majors at his position.
Baseball experts expect that to improve with time and with the work ethic he has shown.
With a leadoff double Sunday, he is five hits away from 200. He also extended his streak of reaching base safely to 31 consecutive games, surpassing Ernie Banks’ record as a shortstop and putting him within one of Woody English’s mark set in 1930.
He leads the National League in hits and is third in the majors (trailing Adrian Gonzalez of Boston and Michael Young of Texas). He ranks seventh in the league in hitting at .306.
While Quade has looked to rest some of his veterans, Castro refuses a break, and not because he is pursuing 200 hits.
“He’s having too much fun,” Quade said of Castro, who has played in a team-high 149 games. “He’s done a great job offensively all year. It’s really something to see a kid that young so accomplished at this point in his career.”
Castro will say he doesn’t need rest because he isn’t physically tired. But there are days when he has been weary.
“Sometimes I feel a little tired [mentally], but not every time,’’ he said. “I’ll rest after the season for a little while and then start working out. I don’t know about winter ball yet.’’
Castro lights up at being mentioned with Banks. “It makes me feel real good,’’ he said, smiling.
“It’s a pretty good year for me, and I will try to do it every year — make the All-Star team and get 200 hits and help the team win. That’s my first part — to help the team win.
“It’s more fun when you’re on a winning team,’’ he said. “Everyone is happier and it’s easier. I hope next year is better. We’ll see.’’