ST. LOUIS – If you love Joe Maddon’s anti-rules philosophy and free-spirited attitude, then you can’t complain about Starlin Castro’s mime routine. It’s indirectly part of the liberal arts education at The Cub University.
Castro said he wasn’t clowning around when he stood behind Kris Bryant and mimicked throwing to first base. The All-Star shortstop said instincts took over on a groundball hit to the left side of the infield during Wednesday night’s 6-5 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.
“It was very entertaining,” Maddon said Thursday at Busch Stadium. “I don’t think there’s anything awful or wrong about it. Some purists might be offended. But I guess they never saw ‘The Gashouse Gang’ play. I have no problem with it.
“You’re not going to do it all the time, obviously. It was just one of those moments that does indicate that we’re playing the game in a manner. Meaning that we’re not uptight, which I really prefer. We’re just nice and loose and play the game.”
The manager had already been ejected from the game by the time Castro did what Cubs analyst Jim Deshaies described on the broadcast as “a Globetrotters routine.”
“Yeah, Castro deked me there,” said first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who gave him a what-was-that?-look, sort of laughed it off and appeared to tell him to calm down.
“I didn’t know who was throwing it,” Rizzo said. “And then ‘Rossy’ (catcher David Ross) just told me: ‘Hey, make sure you’re paying attention.’ It’s just one of those things where we’re goofing off.”
“He knows, he knows,” Castro said, “because he sees who catches the ball.”
Bryant made the play at third base not realizing a routine groundball would go viral.
“I just saw Anthony throw his hands up,” Bryant said. “We’re having fun out there. At the end of the day, we’re here to have fun and win as many games as possible. And (Castro) has a whole lot of fun, that’s for sure.”
Rizzo said: “We do things on the infield throughout the game. Little things. If people heard what we said or what we’re doing, they’d probably laugh at it. But it’s really keeping it loose and having fun.”
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Fair or not, questions about defensive concentration and pitch-to-pitch focus have followed Castro almost from the moment he made his big-league debut, which happened exactly five years ago on Thursday. No one in the National League has more than Castro’s 878 hits in the last five years, and at the age of 25 he should be entering his prime.
“Obviously, with good health, he’s going to put up some crazy good numbers over a period of time,” Maddon said. “To get to the playoffs and the World Series is really going to enhance his reputation. It’s a maturation process. He’s piled up all these good numbers already. As he really understands himself even better and more, I think it’s going to get better.”
Castro clearly enjoys playing for Maddon, his fifth manager in the last six seasons.
“He’s playing a nice, loose, free game of baseball,” Maddon said. “And that’s what I want.”