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Starlin Castro feels wrath of Dale Sveum, who’s bringing accountability to Cubs

San Francisco Giants' BrandBelt (9) is forced out second base by Chicago Cubs shortstop StarlCastro bases-loaded ground ball by BrandCrawford

San Francisco Giants' Brandon Belt (9) is forced out at second base by Chicago Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro on a bases-loaded ground ball by Brandon Crawford during the fifth inning of a baseball game in San Francisco, Monday, June 4, 2012. Buster Posey scored from third base on the play. The Giants won 3-2. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

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Updated: July 7, 2012 8:47AM



It’s easy to want to take a boot to Starlin Castro’s behind these days.

Heck, pick out your favorite Timberland and get at the end of a long line forming behind the bald guy wearing the No. 33 Cubs jersey.

Tough love at its finest.

And just what Castro has needed.

The Castro-Dale Sveum showdown has been building. Little mistakes here, another oopsy there. By the time the four-game sweep at the hands of the San Francisco Giants was mercifully over Monday, enough was enough for the Cubs’ manager.

Castro had a strange baserunning gaffe Friday, inexplicably taking off for second, only to slow down because he thought Joe Mather had fouled the ball off. Mather hadn’t, and Castro was thrown out.

On Monday, Castro took the flip from Darwin Barney on what had the makings of a double play with one out, then started jogging casually toward the dugout, thinking the inning was over.

Inexcusable for a major-leaguer; a sin for a major-league shortstop.

Sveum made that point very clear.

“Last straw. If he wants to play, he better get his head in the game, period,” Sveum said.

It wasn’t just his words that were carrying weight as a warning. Sitting behind the desk in the visiting manager’s office at AT&T Park, Sveum looked completely fed up.

If looks could kill, Sveum would be serving Day 2 of a lifetime sentence Tuesday in Milwaukee while the locker formally occupied by No. 13 would have a neon light above it flashing “Vacancy.”

And if Castro thought Sveum would soften with time to think about it, he should think again.

“I’m not reneging on what I said, and he knows that,” Sveum said Tuesday. “It’s the last straw meaning a number of things. It’s not just that brain fart on the field. It’s the whole package of doing everything you can to make yourself and the people around you better.’’

Your move, Castro.

The 22-year-old either can embrace the life lesson or shrink from it because what has become very obvious is that the old Cubs culture is dying.

Under Lou Piniella in 2010, Castro was a rookie for a manager who had checked out in the spring. Discipline? In a clubhouse full of crazy that year, singling out the 20-year-old was the least of the Cubs’ problems.

In some regard, Castro has been a product of his environment, where as long as you didn’t take a bat to a Gatorade cooler or fight a teammate, it was a good day on the North Side.

That doesn’t fly in Sveum’s world.

His belief is the shortstop has to be the smartest guy on the field, the quarterback. He needs Derek Jeter smarts. You want to daydream, play with sunflower seeds in the dirt and forget how many outs there are? Not on his watch, no matter what the talent level is.

Castro has shown an ability to be an offensive force. He has shown at times that he can be an above-average fielder. What he still has to show is that he can be a man, he can be a leader. The dressing down he received courtesy of Sveum is a nice first step in that process, and it seemed to take.

In talking with the media, Castro seemed legitimately contrite, almost childlike.

“It’s very embarrassing,” Castro said.

The defiant swagger that Castro has shown with the media at times was nowhere to be found. It was as if he knew there was someone in charge. Someone to answer to.

That’s a good thing because I’m betting Sveum has a lot of boots in his closet.



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