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SportsMonday: Starlin Castro Still Standing At Wrigley Eating Sunflower Seeds

Editor's Note: Jim Coffman is on special assignment investigating the psyche of a Cubs fan. He will return next week - God willing.

If Mike Quade wasn't a dead manager walking, he'd be an even bigger problem than Starlin Castro right now. Castro is 21 and still learning. Quade should know better.

In one of the most outstanding moments in Cubs broadcast history, Bobby Valentine and the ESPN cameras caught Starlin Castro last night gazing at the sky as his pitcher went into his motion; fishing for sunflower seeds out of his back pocket as his pitcher began to deliver his pitches; looking down at the ground as other Cubs fielders - or at least Darwin Barney - set up their defense; standing around with his glove off as his pitcher prepares to make a pitch; and in at least one case, turning his back on the infield and not even looking as his pitcher threw to the plate.

Quade saw none of it.

"I can't watch everything," Quade told reporters after the game. "I certainly try to. I'm managing a ballgame. I'll have to talk to my infield people about that, I don't know. The sunflower seed thing, guys stay loose with sunflower seeds or whatever."

Maybe, Quade said, he'd call Valentine to ask about what he saw.

What, you have no coaches on your staff who would have seen something?

And, um, where are the veteran Cubs?

Maybe this is what Todd Hollandsworth meant.

But really, it seems there were more Cubs than just Castro not paying attention - starting with the manager but including the whole organization.

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Here's the priceless video. (Unfortunately accompanied by wrongheaded commentary.)

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Could Sun-Times Cubs beat writer Gordon Wittenmyer be any more of a company man?

Sometimes it's subtle:

"'I'll have to talk to my infield people about that,' Quade said of the criticism from a broadcaster who was open about his interest in the Cubs' managing job a year ago," Wittenmyer writes.

Note that Quade didn't mention that Valentine has shown interest in the job; Wittenmyer did in a way that questioned Valentine's motives for ripping Castro. As if millions of Americans watching the broadcast didn't see for ourselves what Valentine was talking about. He didn't make it up.

Wittenmyer's recent defense of Jim Hendry was even worse; see this takedown for more.

And this morning Wittenmyer was defending slacker Aramis Ramirez on The Score, on the heels of playing stenographer to Ramirez' agent, Paul Kinzer, in the paper today.

''The Cubs are one of the best organizations in baseball," Kinzer told Wittenmyer, who uncritically accepted that preposterous statement.

But then, they were both in Hendry's camp.

''At this point, it was pretty much a slam dunk [Ramirez would return if Hendry was retained]," Kinzer said. "It would have taken something serious for us to move on. We have to see what's going on there - not only with the GM, but with the manager and everything else."

A lot of managers, including Ron Gardenhire of the Twins, whom Wittenmyer used to cover before coming to Chicago, wouldn't stand for Ramirez' bad habits for two innings, much less two games. Like Alfonso Soriano, the numbers Ramirez winds up with by the end of each year aren't worth the runs he gives up in the field and on the basepaths, nor his streaky hitting which pads his stats when he's hot and kills his team when he's cold. He's exactly the kind of guy Hendry loves, but like Steve Stone keeps saying, this is the major leagues, not a fantasy team.

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Lost in the shuffle: Some corners of the media have asked about the timing of Hendry's firing - the fact that he was fired but allowed to stay on through the draft and trading deadline - but a comment by Hendry about that seems to have gone unexplored.

Again, leave it to Wittenmyer to defend Hendry (and by extension, Tom Ricketts), by buying the malarkey that letting Hendry go would have imperiled the signing of some of their draft picks.

"Prep pitcher Dillon Maples, who made headlines when he gave up college football to sign a $2.5 million deal as the Cubs' 14th-round draft pick, called Hendry's involvement key to him signing last week and seemed surprised by his firing," Wittenmyer writes today (same link as above).

'''I developed kind of a relationship with him because my dad was talking a lot to him,' said Maples, who toured Wrigley on Sunday before heading out to play in three weeks. ''Him being let go, it made me feel a little less comfortable, I'd say. But you've got to move forward with stuff.''"

General managers get fired. As Maples himself recognized, "you've got to move forward." Besides that, Ricketts could have waited to fire Hendry until after the deadlines. What was gained by firing him and then keeping him around? Totally nuts.

But even more importantly, what about the fact that Hendry said he was reluctant to make trades because he thought player personnel decisions should be left up to the next manager?

Maybe that's why Jeff Baker was inexplicably untouchable.

And maybe, as Stone has pointed out, a different general manager (or team president filling in; you know, a baseball man overseeing his baseball man) might have played hardball with Ramirez, telling him that if he didn't accept a trade he should realize he shouldn't expect at-bats the remainder of the season either.

Only the Cubs can do the right thing - firing Hendry - the wrong way.

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