MILWAUKEE - All this Cubs Way stuff? All that noise about a Starlin Castro-Anthony Rizzo core to that new foundation for sustained success?
Anyone who couldn't tell this unsightly rebuilding process was very much a work in progress with little certainty regarding any player involved needed only to listen to manager Dale Sveum Sunday morning to hear the point pounded home.
"I don't think [anyone's] invincible if you're not performing," a still irritated Sveum said of young "core" players such as Castro and Rizzo after a series of sloppy games and disappointing starts for both.
"It's not about what we think can happen three or four years from now. It's time to perform on a consistent basis. Not one good game and three bad ones. That's not what we want. That's why there's player development."
That's why even Castro and Rizzo aren't immune from being demoted back to the minors, Sveum said - although that seems implausible considering the marketing campaigns already built around these guys and, more importantly, the lack of reasonable alternatives.
Castro, in particular, is in the first year of a seven-year, $60 million deal and has two All-Star appearances and 550 big-league hits at age 23. He's not going anywhere, regardless of what Sveum called a "very average" April for the shortstop.
But Sveum was adamant about "accountability" and not assuming every young player with big-league skills in this process is necessarily a big-league player - a message he has delivered to his team.
Rizzo, the guy some have called the face of the franchise, had costly focus-related miscues Friday and Saturday and is off to a .190 start at the plate (.299 on-base percentage). He's still looking for his first full season in the big leagues.
"You've got to perform at the big-league level," he said. "There's reasons why people play in the big leagues and have long careers, because they perform on an everyday basis. There's reasons why a lot of [guys are] minor league players. You see it all the time; they can't perform at the big-league level. They're pretty good. They're really good players. But you put the third deck on the stadium and something happens.
"We've got to obviously find that out and make people aware that there are things that can be done if you don't start performing."