Sunday Night Baseball this week was awful.
It was all the talk during warm-ups for our doubleheader last night. Our softhanded third baseman Jim Dorn brought it up first as he gently coaxed his right arm into playing shape.
What happened was Bobby Valentine turned game commentary into an audition for the soon to be open job of Cubs' manager. The Cubs will have a new general manager next year and it's a good guess whoever fills the role will be looking for a new skipper. Was Billy Beane watching Sunday night baseball?
Not likely. According to Moneyball, he can't even bear to watch his A's.
Valentine was so bad, folks who hated Joe Morgan on Sunday Night Baseball (not me, by the way) might actually have briefly hoped for his return.
Valentine became fixated on Starlin Castro, the Cubs' fine young shortstop who is currently hitting .307. It was unseemly. Inning after inning he offered Castro damning praise while ripping into his inability to focus on the game.
It isn't that Valentine was wrong. He was right. And, right. Right again. Right. Right. Right. Very right. Right. Right. Right.
The producers obviously caught his obsession and focused the cameras on Castro in a way I've never seen before. Throughout the middle innings they had Castro in the lens between nearly every pitch. By some accounts they were focused on him unrelentingly for 10 long minutes.
They proved their point. Castro is young, somewhat undisciplined, and only loosely focused. At one point they showed an amazing replay of a pitch during which Castro was standing with his back to the plate, his glove hand in his back pocket rummaging for sunflower seeds, staring off into the distance beyond left field. Castro, in the bright circle on the screen -- a technique generally reserved for showing terrorists in airport cameras -- never saw the pitch. Thank god it was a ball.
Valentine put the Cubs' current skipper, Mike Quade, in a bind. Over and over he chirped Castro must be disciplined. For his own good, somebody must discipline him. If this goes on unchecked, he'll be ruined.
After the game, the Cubs' skipper did, dutifully, bench Castro for one game.
The thing you have to remember is this kid learned to play baseball in such poverty the only glove he had was made from a milk cartoon, according to fine baseball writer Jeff Passan. This year, at 21, he is making $440,000 which must seem like $4 billion, and soon he will be rewarded with a contract well into the millions. To go from a cardboard glove to the prospect of millions at the age of 21... well can you blame him if sometimes he looks up at the sky in wonder instead of watching the pitch being delivered?
Personally, I love to watch him play. His eyes simply sparkle when he is at the plate waiting for a pitch. He plays with love and he swings with abandon. Bobby Valentine needs to pick on somebody his own age.
And, Billy Beane, that audition should convince you hiring Bobby Valentine to manage what ever club you direct next year would be a huge mistake, something akin to signing Yuniesky Bentancort to play short and hoping he will learn to take a walk once in a while.
Screen capture courtesy http://larrybrownsports.com/baseball/starlin-castro-benched-day-after-espn-shows-him-not-paying-attention/83567