MILWAUKEE – Starlin Castro thinks Manny Being Manny can help Javier Baez.
“Oh yeah,” Castro said Sunday at Miller Park. “He looks like he’s crazy, but he’s not.”
One week later, it’s still hard to believe that Theo Epstein signed Manny Ramirez to be a player/coach at Triple-A Iowa. The Cubs president of baseball operations has pretty much seen it all with Ramirez – two World Series titles, a messy divorce from the Boston Red Sox, the PED past – and believes the potential upside outweighs all the baggage.
Castro stays in touch with Baez, who began this season as Baseball America’s No. 5 overall prospect and put on another show in spring training, making Cubs fans and the Chicago media wonder how fast he’d get to Wrigley Field.
While there may have been an emotional letdown in going to Des Moines, the Cubs didn’t expect Baez to hit .172 in April (or get into it with veteran catcher Eli Whiteside in a dugout confrontation). A stronger May – four homers, 15 RBI, .738 OPS – alleviated some of those concerns and the Cubs don’t think Manny’s presence will be a disruption.
“He did something crazy, but he’s not,” Castro said. “He works a lot. I talked to a lot of people that played with him. He’s crazy sometimes, but he works. He gets there early, he’s on the field every day and he works. He’s going to be a good advisor.”
Ramirez spoke a lot about his newfound religious faith while meeting with the media at Fenway Park during last week’s 10-year reunion for The Band of Idiots. He finally apologized to the Boston traveling secretary he once shoved during a dispute over tickets.
Castro skipped the Triple-A level and still wound up hitting .300 as a rookie in 2010. He got booed during his Wrigley Field debut and wound up in Lou Piniella’s office after committing three errors that night. He led the National League in hits in 2011 and made his second All-Star team by the age of 22. He got $60 million guaranteed, but no one would say it’s been a smooth ride.
“Everybody’s experience is different,” manager Rick Renteria said. “We all have to be very mindful that we’re trying to look out for the best long-term interest in both the player and the club.”
Castro used to stay at Alfonso Soriano’s place and seemed to follow the $136 million man around everywhere, soaking up lessons about work ethic, professionalism and how you shouldn’t change with the money. The Cubs hope Ramirez, one of the greatest hitters of all-time, can be a positive force for Baez.
“We have a lot of young, talented right-handed power hitters in our system,” Epstein said. “For us to be successful, we need those guys to develop to reach their maximum potential. Having someone with Manny’s knowledge – and his influence and his resume and his gift for teaching hitting – around those players can only help.”