This was all so Cub.
The worst team in the league became the first to beat perhaps the best pitcher in the game this season.
Oh, and that pitcher, Masahiro Tanaka, is the 25-year-old Japanese stud who took the Yankees’ considerable mint of cash over the Cubs’ far lesser offer.
Oh, and that pitcher was out-pitched by Jason Hammel, who was signed by the Cubs for, I don’t know, about $150 million less in place of the No. 1 who got away.
And still, the Cubs remain the worst team in the league.
So Cub, indeed.
But here’s something that isn’t so Cub: Starlin Castro.
At least, he’s not so Cub under Theo Epstein’s regime.
Epstein’s philosophy is built working deep counts and getting on base. Castro didn’t work a count deeper than the first 59 feet and didn’t take walks. He swung early and often.
And well. Castro hit over .300 and slugged better than .755 in his first two years, becoming an All-Star in his first full season and leading the National League with 207 hits.
In those seasons, Castro was just seeing the ball and hitting it. He wasn’t going to the plate to think or change his approach.
Then came Epstein and his “Cubs Way’’ that helped win two World Series in Boston. Then came misery for Castro.
He hit .283, then .245. He was getting worse trying to work counts. His head was getting worked over trying to change his apporach. He career was ending. This was a disaster, even for a Cub.
Then Dale Sveum was fired because Epstein said he didn’t “love’’ his young players before delivering “tough love.’’ Castro was one of those young players. Anthony Rizzo was the other. Both are having great comeback seasons. Hat tip to Epstein and Ricky Renteria.
Castro’s is the more interesting of the two stories because he plays a more important position and the Cubs appear to have given up playing My Fair Pedroia with him. They’re back to the future with Castro.
To underscore that, they moved Castro to the No. 4 spot, where it’s all about see-ball, hit-ball. In 22 games at cleanup, Castro has four homers and 14 RBI, a .326 batting average and an impressive .950 on-base-plus-slugging percentage.
In the last seven days, despite hitting just one homer, Castro has a .789 slugging percentage and a stunning 1.263 OPS.
Overall, Castro’s batting average and slugging percentage surpass marks he hasn’t reached since his first two seasons, also known as Cubs BTE -- Before Theo Epstein.
A little more than a quarter of the way through this season, Castro has a 1.4 wins above replacement. If he continues at this pace, Castro would exceed his career-best WAR number, perhaps by one-third.
His raw power numbers aren’t what you’d want from a pure cleanup hitter, but perhaps that will come. Alfonso Soriano thinks his former teammate can hit 30 home runs.
Funny how the Cubs imagined a shortstop as a cleanup hitter, but that would be in a couple seasons and that would be Javier Baez. That also might’ve meant trading Castro.
But Baez is a mess at Triple-A, hitting an embarrassing .176 and slugging an impotent .320.
The Cubs were always going to keep Castro around until they determined Baez was ready and settled on a position for him. It’s possible Baez might’ve played second and Castro would’ve remained a Cub. Now it's tough to imagine Castro anywhere else.