ST. LOUIS – It got a lot of attention, and a lot of laughs.
But what if Starlin Castro’s bobble on the final play of Wednesday night’s game in St. Louis had turned into a game-tying play instead of a quick recovery for the final out of a one-run win for the Cubs? If the Cubs had lost?
Would the shortstop’s synchronized pantomime of third-baseman Kris Bryant’s throw to first in the sixth inning seemed as funny or harmless? Would it have raised all over again the questions about his focus that he’s done so well to quiet with his play early this season?
That’s a fine line these new-look Cubs walk during this season of suddenly great expectations, increased scrutiny and free-spirit tone set by first-year hipster manager Joe Maddon.
Nobody with the Cubs or Cardinals said they had an issue with Castro’s me-and-my shadow act that Castro said was just a moment of instinctive “fun.” And it was definitely funny:
But first baseman Anthony Rizzo didn’t seem entirely pleased when surprised by the dual throwing motions, and appeared afterward to signal Castro to tone it down.
“Well, when you see two arms coming at you, yeah,” Rizzo said of his surprise.
If he does it again? “I hope he does,” Rizzo said. “Why not? I was just laughing. It was a fun play.”
Said Maddon: “I was OK with it. It was very entertaining. 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.”
Of course, those 1930s Cardinals teams of Dizzy Dean and Pepper Martin kept the goofiness off the field, setting themselves apart on the field more for things like aggressive base running and hard slides.
“Starlin, he’s a funny dude,” Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong said. “He’ll think of things like that, and it’s crazy. He’s a guy that loves to have fun playing the game, and also likes to mess around I guess.
“There’s certain times where you kind of look at it, and you’ve got to understand you have to respect the game. But when you look at what he did, it’s all in fun.”
In Texas, Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus has made an art form out of live-play mockery of his pal, third baseman Adrian Beltre, in recent years. And they went to two World Series together.
“I have no problem with it,” Maddon said. “You’re not going to do it all the time obviously. It was just one of those moments. It does indicate that we’re playing the game in a manner [that shows] we’re not uptight, which I really prefer.
“We’re just nice and loose and play the game. So it was OK.”