Believe the hype: Castros as good as advertised

447893.jpg

Believe the hype: Castros as good as advertised

Sunday, April 17, 2011Posted: 4:10 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

DENVER Starlin Castro didnt understand anything. Hed sit down at a restaurant in Daytona, Fla. If the menu didnt have any pictures, then, well, he wasnt going to eat.

The game came naturally. Castros father wanted a baseball player and called his son Starlin because it was a real ballplayers name in the Dominican Republic.

When Castro returned home to Monte Cristy this winter, he could feel that he was being looked at differently, like a big-league man.

Its the same in the Cubs clubhouse, where Castros no longer a rookie but the teams most dynamic player. He gets it walking the downtown streets in Chicago, and its all so new that he still enjoys being recognized.

Those close to Castro could see this coming. Vice president of player personnel Oneri Fleita, who oversees Latin America for the Cubs, stressed the importance of learning the language and told him that he didnt need an interpreter at his side.

Castro rubbed his fingers together while recalling what his agent, Paul Kinzer, told him: If you dont speak English, you dont make money.

By now, its clear that everyone will want a piece of Castro. At 21 years and 24 days old, the shortstop is the youngest player in the majors, but he carries himself at a level far beyond that. He woke up Sunday morning batting .397 and leading the majors in hits (25).

I dont think anything surprises me anymore, catcher Koyie Hill said. After his first at-bat in Cincinnati, it should have all been downhill from there. But hes proved us wrong every day.

Now its time to believe the hype. Castro homered in his first at-bat and set a major-league record with six RBI in his debut last year. But hes proven that he values his craft and can do it once the adrenaline wears off.

Castros batting .336 since the All-Star break last season no one else in the National League has more hits during that time. More than that, its his approach, the way he knows the strike zone and works 13-pitch at-bats.

Cubs pitcher Casey Coleman, who once played with Castro at Double-A Tennessee, pointed to the three-run bomb he hit Saturday night off Rockies reliever Felipe Paulino into the left-field seats.

His ability is amazing, but his baseball smarts are even better, Coleman said. He knows what pitchers are trying to do with him and his hands are so quick. The home-run (pitch) was down and in off the plate, 95 mph. You dont see that, especially from a young guy.

Castro does not get fooled at the plate. The analytics on the website FanGraphs show that hes made contact almost 92 percent of the time when he swings. He has an advanced understanding of what he wants to do, but is still only scratching the surface.

Im so happy with him, manager Mike Quade said. It would be really fun to see him gain a little bit more discipline and maybe lay off some of those pitches that are off the plate and really put him in good situations pitch-count wise. (But) right now, hes doing things just fine. I got nothing to say except: Keep going, kid.

The other night, Alfonso Soriano walked into the clubhouse and smiled when he saw Castro surrounded by reporters doing a postgame interview. Soriano takes great pride in Castros development and yelled out: Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!

Soriano had told Castro that you have to talk to the media when you play like this.

He goes 0-for-4 and the next day hes got four hits. Its incredible, Soriano said. He does not get down.

Castro stayed with Soriano last year but has his own place now. His family lived with him during spring training and will come to Chicago in May for the rest of the season.

Castros face doesnt hide what hes thinking. He smiles easily and his eyes widen when he gets excited, then narrow when hes trying to make a point. He lounges at his locker while talking on the phone. His body language says: I was born to do this.

Its easy to envision Castro on more billboards and in more commercials. But all that is secondary for someone who takes this very seriously. He attacked the language studies because hes looking to improve. He learned more English watching ESPN and the MLB Network. This is a singular focus.

Baseball is my work, Castro said.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Catch a glimpse inside 'The Cousin Eddie,' Joe Maddon's tricked-out RV

Catch a glimpse inside 'The Cousin Eddie,' Joe Maddon's tricked-out RV

We finally have a full glimpse inside the "Cousin Eddie."

Joe Maddon's luxury RV has been name-dropped ever since before the celebrity manager became embedded forever in Cubs lore.

Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer tell the story about sitting with Maddon down in Pensacola, Fla., outside the "Cousin Eddie" as the trio discussed Maddon coming to manage the Cubs.

[SHOP: Get your Cubs gear right here] 

Maddon has since mentioned the RV several times as his offseason oasis.

Nearly two-and-a-half years later, we can now catch a glimpse inside the "Cousin Eddie" as Maddon was recently profiled on "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel:"

The pimped-out RV has four TVs, a fireplace, heated floors, a sweet kitchen with a regular-sized fridge and on and on.

His RV is better than most apartments in Chicago.

Essentially, it's good to be Joe Maddon.

The Maddon profile airs Tuesday night on HBO at 9 p.m. CT.

Check out a full trailer:

Why Sammy Sosa compared himself to Jesus Christ in candid interview

Why Sammy Sosa compared himself to Jesus Christ in candid interview

For more than a decade, Cubs fans probably thought Sammy Sosa could walk on water.

They weren't alone in that respect.

In a recent tell-all interview with Chuck Wasserstrom, Sosa compared himself to Jesus Christ being accused of being a witch when the Cubs icon was asked about being accused of PEDs.

"Chuck, it’s like Jesus Christ when he came to Jerusalem," Sosa says. "Everybody thought Jesus Christ was a witch (laughing) – and he was our savior. So if they talk (poop) about Jesus Christ, what about me?"

Talk about a God complex.

It's been 10 years since Sosa last suited up in the big leagues — and 13 years since his Cubs career ended — but the slugger is still just as polarizing as ever in the candid interview. Wasserstrom was let go by Theo Epstein and the Cubs in 2012 after spending 24 years in the organization in the media relations and baseball information departments.

[RELATED - Between Cubs' victory lap and Hall of Fame vote, Sammy Sosa barely staying in the picture]

Sosa talks a lot about his pride and it's very clear from his answers about coming back to Chicago and being a part of the current Cubs product that his pride is a major factor steering his ship even still.

He even drops a line in there:

"When nobody knew who Chicago was, I put Chicago on the map."

I'm not sure exactly what he means by that, to be honest. I would venture almost everybody in the world knew what Chicago was before 1992. It is the third biggest city in America.

If he means the Cubs, well, the Cubs were Lovable Losers and a draw for so many people well before Sosa got there. 

[SHOP: Get your Cubs gear right here] 

Of course, Sosa did do some absolutely incredible things for the Cubs and the entire game of baseball. Many believe he and Mark McGwire helped put baseball on the map again in a resurgent 1998 season that helped make the strike of 1994/95 an afterthought. Count me among that group, as well.

He deserves all the credit in the world. People would show up to Wrigley just to see Sosa run out to the right field bleachers and camera bulbs flashed by the thousands every single time he came up to the plate for the better part of a decade. Waveland was sometimes so packed with ballhawks that there wouldn't be room to walk.

I also agree wholeheartedly with Sosa when he says, "you're never going to see the show Mark [McGwire] and I put on [again]." He's right. That was an event that transfixed the nation and will absolutely be something I tell my kids and grandkids and — hopefully — my greatgrandkids about.

Sosa continued to push the onus of any possible reunion with the Cubs on the orgainzation, saying he would absolutely say "yes" if they ever extended an invite to join Wrigley Field.

But he wants to do it "in style."

"If one day they want to do something, I want to do it in style. If it’s going to happen, it’s got to be the right way. Don’t worry, one day they’re going to do it. I’m not in a rush.”

Sosa also said he would rather have all the money — he earned more than $124 million in his career — than be in the Hall of Fame.

Go read the entire interview with Wasserstrom. It's as transparent as you'll see Sosa, especially nowadays.