Bottoms Up

It was August of 2013, and the Cubs were nowhere near a playoff spot. It was just another game in a seemingly endless morass of meaningless competition against a team that was far superior in almost every aspect. The Cardinals were in town and they were in the middle of kicking the crap out of the then toothless Cubs.

Do you know what the lineup was that day? In a word, it was awful.

  • David DeJesus 8
  • Junior Lake 7
  • Anthony Rizzo 3
  • Nate Schierholtz 9
  • Welington Castillo 2
  • Donnie Murphy 5
  • Starlin Castro 6
  • Darwin Barney 4
  • Travis Wood 1

That was back when everyone was hoping Junior Lake would catch fire. Javier Baez was the Cubs top prospect at the time, people were wondering if the Cubs would’ve nabbed Mark Appel over Kris Bryant if he’d been available, Jorge Soler was a sketch on a cocktail napkin, and we were still fooling ourselves into thinking Carl Edwards, Jr. could start. What I’m saying is that this game was a pretty long time ago and were it not for one moment, one season defining moment that could accurately be described as the low point in the franchise, this game would’ve faded into memory.

You already know what I’m talking about here.

Matt Carpenter hit a lazy pop fly to the area where third base, shortstop, and left field meet and Starlin Castro, one of two players in the above lineup who was billed as “the future of the franchise,” fielded the ball and completely forgot that Jon Jay was on third.

Jay scores.

Castro is pulled, then benched for the next game by then-manager Dale Sveum, and afterwards we get a bevy of think pieces positing what Castro’s future on this team will be.

You have to understand so much was unknown about the organization’s future at this time. A process had begun, but the fruits of the front office’s labor had yet to be harvested at the major-league level. Anthony Rizzo was still an unknown back then. He was in the middle of his first full season, in which he slashed .232/.326/.429. Castro was mired in one of the worst seasons in from a regular in recent memory, posting a .228 TAv and a 0.0 WARP (yes: zero point zero) and had suffered a multiple high-profile mental lapses that season. The Cubs were undergoing an absolutely ghastly, yet much-needed roster overhaul, and there was an outcry for the lack of pitching depth on the team.

Adding insult to injury was that the Castro gaffe happened against the Cardinals, the model franchise of Major League Baseball. The Cardinals had the best fans in baseball, the Cardinals were turning guys picked in rounds two through five of the draft into first-division regulars. The Cardinals were the team with the smart front office and organizational depth that came in waves and what did the Cubs offer at this point? A struggling Rizzo and Castro with some promise in Jeff Samardzija.

At that moment in time the Cardinals were everything that the Cubs wanted to aspire to and it never seemed further away than that day.

So now here we are, two years removed from the Castro mental lapse that almost ended baseball on the North Side and the Cubs have vanquished not only their divisional rival, but a franchise that is seen as the model for what a team should be.

And in that process the Cubs have arrived, rocky as it’s been. This team is young, improving, full of holes in the pitching staff, and they have a real shot to represent the National League in the World Series.

What a time to be alive.

Lead photo courtesy of Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

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1 comment on “Bottoms Up”


Nice microcosm of the last two years of growth. The rate of change since then has been dizzying.

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