Given enough exposure, even the most endearing quirks can grow stale and annoying. Maybe it’s the way your spouse — who doesn’t read your work and thus won’t be upset by anything you say here — sneezes or how one of your podcast co-hosts vehemently defends the use of a soft G in GIF. Or how about the way Joe Maddon’s playful witticisms quickly morphed into contrived t-shirt marketing slogans?
Some of that is just collateral damage from popularity, a natural byproduct of success as something goes from handmade to mass-produced and thus loses a good deal of the charm that led to its success in the first place. Looking at you, Gumballhead and Zombie Dust. The Cubs are rowing in that same boat, bereft as they are of the extemporaneous joy that characterized their 2015 and ’16 teams.
In the seasons since, it’s felt as though they’re following a formula in an attempt to make fun happen rather than just letting it occur naturally. Instead of trying not to suck and respecting 90, they seem to have taken those things for granted and have decided that doing simple better is no longer an acceptable means by which to play winning baseball.
That’s what Theo Epstein talked about last October when he said the Cubs lacked the edge and sense of urgency they’d initially forged under Maddon. Team leadership bears a lot of that blame as well, mind you, since they’re the ones putting the roster together. From the front office on down, the organization as a whole has gotten lost in minutia in an effort to leverage the tiniest advantage.
Instead of tucking into the steak on plate in front of them, another in a long line of big meals they’d eaten, everyone from execs to players has been busy plucking crumbs from the floor. That’s why the addition of Nicholas Castellanos is so important to this Cubs team. Not only is he a perfect match from a performance standpoint, but he’s reminding his teammates what it looks like to play with hunger.
Bryant and RIzzo have a home plate celebration with Castellanos that involves… feeding him? eating? 🍴 pic.twitter.com/6vw9DDNXyz
— Randall J. Sanders (@RandallJSanders) August 9, 2019
That means not overthinking things and worrying about every single nuance of the game, but just doing you and trusting that it’s going to be better than your opponent. For Castellanos, it’s all about staying true to a simple four-step process that hasn’t changed a bit from his time in Detroit.
“It’s the same,” the outfield said. “Big in the box, kick high, swing hard, run fast. That’s about it.”
The impact Castellanos has already had in a short period of time is so evident that Patrick Mooney wondered aloud whether the Cubs might already be looking to bring him back ($) in free agency. That’s not as simple as it sounds, since Castellanos is represented by none other than Scott Boras and is only increasing value that was already high enough before he was traded.
At the same time, the Cubs will bid adieu to Ben Zobrist and Brandon Morrow, among others, and they’ve gone on record as saying increased revenue from the new Marquee Sports Network will be “available immediately next year.” That can only mean one thing: YOU get an extension and YOU get an extension and YOU get an extension!
Or, you know, they’ll be slightly more judicious than that. Whatever the case, it’s pretty clear Castellanos brings something to the table the Cubs were lacking prior to the deadline. Whether and how long he sticks around is a concern for another time, so for now let’s just enjoy the meal. I hear there might even be cookies for dessert.