ST. LOUIS Starlin Castro watched the Cardinals get their rings and pointed at his chest.Its a pretty good energy for me, Castro said. Thats what I want to be one day, on this team winning the World Series. (It) makes me more aggressive. (I feel the) anticipation for working harder.Its hard to imagine how crazy this day would be at Wrigley Field. But if its going to come this decade sometime during the Theo Epstein administration their 22-year-old shortstop will almost certainly have to be in the middle of it.On Saturday morning, Dale Sveum wrote a reminder on the dry-erase board in the clubhouse: Ring ceremony, 11:30. The Cubs manager wanted his players watching in the dugout, to show some respect for the world champions.The Cubs stood there clapping as first-base coach Dave McKay who spent 16 seasons alongside Tony La Russa in St. Louis returned to their side after picking up his ring.The Cardinals won their 11th World Series title by capitalizing on mistakes and creating a sense of momentum. Clinching the wild card on the final day of the regular season after Atlantas epic meltdown reflected their style of play over the years.This was another snapshot in St. Louis. Castro committed an error to begin the fourth inning and the Cubs watched it morph into a 5-1 loss in front of 46,792 fans at Busch Stadium.Castros throw lifted Bryan LaHair off the bag, and the first baseman didnt land right. Sveum thought the shortstop had looked at Matt Holliday running down the line.Chris Volstad wasnt exactly rattled the next batter (Carlos Beltran) flied out to center but the Cardinals strung together four consecutive hits to take a 4-0 lead.Volstad wound up going six innings and gave up four runs (three earned). He didnt make any excuses about his routine the rain delay lasted almost two hours or his defense.(Castros) doing a great job, Volstad said. Theres no worries there. Hes got a powerful arm. Thats going to happen. Im going to make bad pitches. Thats just the way the game is.As much as the Cubs (3-6) would like to raise their game against the defending champs, they dont have much margin for error, and it really doesnt matter whos in the other dugout.You always have to play good games, Sveum said. I dont know if were going to pound the ball enough to make mistakes and give runs away.To close the gap on the Cardinals (6-3), the Cubs will need to see Castro continue on a steady upward trajectory. With the previous play still in his mind, he made another high throw to start the fifth inning and was charged with his fourth error of the season.Yeah, its very frustrating, because (Ive been) working hard in the Dominican and here, Castro said. That kind of thing (isnt) supposed to happen. Its the game everybody makes errors.If it happens one time, thats (OK). Two timesthat cant happen again. Sveum, who played shortstop in the big leagues, planned to have a talk with Castro. The manager understands how difficult the position can be, and noticed a slight mechanical issue around the wrist, but otherwise gave a pass.Those are still those mistakes you can work out, Sveum said. Its not something thats a major thing. But those are the things that, unfortunately, were still probably going to see a little bit.To put it in perspective, Castros hitting .371 with six RBI and woke up on Saturday leading the majors with six stolen bases. He intends to become a complete player.Thats what I want to do, he said, put everything on the same level defense, running, hitting.This is Year 3 for Castro, a pivot point that could preview what Cubs fans will see for years to come. He isnt weighed down by history. Everything still seems to be in front of him.Why not? Castro said. Keep playing together and I think one day theres going to be championships and a World Series.
Jon Lester didn't make any sort of statement by missing Monday's White House trip with his Cubs teammates. But at a polarizing moment in a divided country, a high-profile player on a World Series team felt the need to respond on social media and explain his absence from the championship ceremony.
For those of you so quick to jump to conclusions, we had a death in the family and the funeral was yesterday. Absolutely nothing political.— Jon Lester (@JLester34) January 17, 2017
President Barack Obama name-checked Lester during his East Room speech – both for his spectacular pitching performance and beat-cancer charitable initiatives – as the Cubs continued their victory tour off the franchise's first World Series title since Theodore Roosevelt lived in the White House.
Lester stood behind Obama when the 2013 Boston Red Sox were honored on the South Lawn. During that 2014 ceremony, Lester stood next to John Lackey, another Cub who missed this Washington trip. Lester also toured George W. Bush's White House with Boston's 2007 championship team.
On Martin Luther King Jr. Day – and with the specter of Donald Trump's inauguration looming – Obama used his administration's final official White House event to draw a direct line between him and Jackie Robinson and highlight the connective power of sports.
"The best part was the president talking about how sports brings people together," All-Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo said, "how no matter what's going on in this country and the world, three or four hours of any one particular game can just rally so many people together."
This team couldn't have created so much joy for generations of fans without Lester, who signed a $155 million contract with the last-place Cubs after the 2014 season, a transformational moment during the long rebuild that led to the White House trip that Obama never thought would happen.
"It was a thrill and an honor for all of us," team president Theo Epstein said. "It means so much more with his roots in Chicago and his final days in office. It couldn't have worked out any better. It's something we'll all remember for our whole lives."
Plenty of Cubs fans surely were star-struck to meet Addison Russell at Cubs Convention last weekend. But the 22-year-old All-Star shortstop has a shortlist of people he would be amazed to meet, too.
Russell reveres President Barack Obama, on Friday the outgoing Commander-in-Chief's work in the community when talking about getting to visit the White House. So on Monday, Russell got to check off meeting one of the people on his list. "There's probably about three people that I would be star-struck by, and (Obama's) one of them," Russell said.
One of those three spots is "open," Russell said. The other member of that list is former Ohio State and Tennessee Titans running back Eddie George.
Russell wears his No. 27 because of George, who wore that number during his career in which he made four Pro Bowls and rushed for over 10,000 yards and 78 touchdowns. Prior to the 2016 season, George sent Russell and autographed Titans helmet inscribed with good luck message.
After the season, Russell said George texted him seeing if the newly-crowned champion had time to chill. Few things rattled Russell last year — he became the youngest player to hit a grand slam in the World Series when he blasted one in Game 6 against the Cleveland Indians last November — but getting a text from George did. "I couldn't text back," Russell said. "It was nuts. I waited four days because I was thinking of what back to say."
Even the most famous athletes still get star-struck. Russell's been lucky enough in the last few months to meet and hear from two of the people who bring out that sense of awe in him. "Just to come in contact with people like that, it just makes me smile," Russell said. "It definitely gets me in the mood of getting better, and that's the goal this year, is getting better."