Ryan Dempster lasted just three innings and allowed six runs in yesterday’s 9-1 loss to the Phillies, but afterward manager Mike Quade chose to call out the young middle infield duo of 21-year-old Starlin Castro and 25-year-old rookie Darwin Barney.
Castro lost a pop up in the sun during the first inning and even though Dempster allowed just two of his six runs in the opening frame Quade used that play as a launching point for what are clearly numerous complaints about the Cubs’ only All-Star and his double-play partner.
Here’s what the manager told Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago:
I needed to talk to kids in the middle of the diamond about that. We set a bad tone. [They] are communicating all the way. But I look back at this whole game and look at that play. The sun’s been in the same spot for however long Wrigley Field’s been here. Those are the kind of mistakes … there are some you accept. Others have to be taken care of.
Those are two talented kids in the middle of the diamond. We make enough mistakes. But it’s so important for those guys to play well in the middle. Everything goes through them, so if we’re going to be better at pitching, we have to be better in the middle.
After the game Barney took the criticisms in stride, saying: “I agree with him 100 percent.”
Still, with the Cubs leading the majors in errors and veteran first baseman Carlos Pena also committing an error in the same game it seems odd for Quade to repeatedly hammer on his 21-year-old shortstop. He’s been calling out Castro for various things all season and deserved or not publicly criticizing one of the few productive, promising players on a team that’s on pace for 98 losses seems misguided at some point.
Of course, if the Cubs don’t turn things around down the stretch Quade might not be back in 2012 and his relationship with Castro will be a non-issue.
On Sunday, it was reported that second baseman Neil Walker and the Mets were discussing a potential three-year contract extension worth “north of $40 million.” Those discussions took a turn for the worse. The Mets feel extension talks are “probably dead,” according to Mike Puma of the New York Post.
Walker underwent a lumbar microdisectomy in September, ending his 2016 season during which he hit .282/.347/.476 with 23 home runs and 55 RBI over 458 plate appearances.
The Mets may not necessarily need to keep Walker around as it has some potential options up the middle waiting in the minor leagues. Though Amed Rosario is expected to stick at shortstop, Gavin Cecchini — the club’s No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline — could shift over to second base.
The story of Rick Ankiel is well known by now. He was a phenom pitcher who burst onto the scene with the Cardinals in 1999 and into the 2000 season as one of the top young talents in the game. Then, in the 2000 playoffs, he melted down. He got the yips. Whatever you want to call it, he lost the ability to throw strikes and his pitching career was soon over. He came back, however, against all odds, and remade his career as a solid outfielder.
It’s inspirational and incredible. But there is a lot more to the story that we’ve ever known. We will soon, however, as Ankiel is coming out with a book. Today he took to the airwaves and shared some about it. Including some amazing stuff:
On drinking in his first start after the famous meltdown in Game One of the 2000 National League division series against the Braves:
“Before that game…I’m scared to death. I know I have no chance. Feeling the pressure of all that, right before the game I get a bottle of vodka. I just started drinking vodka. Low and behold, it kind of tamed the monster, and I was able to do what I wanted. I’m sitting on the bench feeling crazy I have to drink vodka to pitch through this. It worked for that game. (I had never drank before a game before). It was one of those things like the yipps, the monster, the disease…it didn’t fight fair so I felt like I wasn’t going to fight fair either.”
Imagine spending your whole life getting to the pinnacle of your career. Then imagine it immediately disintegrating. And then imagine having to go out and do it again in front of millions. It’s almost impossible for anyone to contemplate and, as such, it’s hard to judge almost anything Ankiel did in response to that when he was 21 years-old. That Ankiel got through that and made a career for himself is absolutely amazing. It’s a testament to his drive and determination.