There’s a joke going around in the Mets clubhouse these days. Perhaps you’ve heard about it. It involves the underachieving, soon-to-be 35-year-old second baseman who wanted out of New York despite the fact that he was given a long-term contract worth more money than anyone else would have paid him. What’s that? You haven’t heard the joke yet? Well, let me tell you the story about Luis Castillo, the man who recently told the New York Post that he no longer wanted to be in New York.
Back in 2007, the Mets were desperate for some stability at second base after using the likes of Jose Valentin, Damion Easley and Ruben Gotay at the position. Therefore, in a move made at the trade deadline, the Mets sent Dustin Martin and Drew Butera to the Twins for Luis Castillo. In 50 games following the trade, Castillo hit .296, scoring 37 runs and stealing 10 bases. The Mets got what they expected from Castillo. In those 50 games, he gave them stability, a nice batting average, run-scoring ability and some stolen bases.
However, look at who the Twins accepted for him in the deal. Two no-names with limited futures in Martin (who dat?) and Butera (do I know you?). Three years later, Martin has still not played in the major leagues and Butera finally got called up this year for a 96 at-bat tryout in which he hit .208 for the Twins. Doesn’t it look like the Twins knew Castillo was already past his prime and was not worth re-signing when he became a free agent at the end of the ’07 season? If they thought he was truly valuable, wouldn’t they have asked for more than “Who Dat?” and “Do I Know You?”?
Obviously, the Mets were satisfied with Castillo’s performance in those 50 games with the team. Not liking any of the other free agent second basemen, they signed Castillo to a four-year, $25 million contract to be Jose Reyes’ double play partner until 2011. At the time, Castillo was already 32 years old. Did the Mets really think Mr. Gimpy would play four full seasons for the team and be productive each year?
In the three years prior to signing what should be his last multi-year deal, Castillo hit .299, and averaged 82 runs and 18 stolen bases per season. Those numbers were good, but were a far cry from his numbers with the Marlins, when he hit .300 or better on four occasions, scored 90 or more runs thrice and stole at least 48 bases three times, including 2000 and 2002, when he led the league in steals both times.
It should have been clear to the Mets that they were getting a player on the downside of his career, but good ol’ Mr. Minaya felt that Castillo was worthy of a contract that was as long as a presidential term.
So what have the Mets gotten in return for their investment? In 292 games with the Mets under his new contract, Castillo has hit .272 (well below his .291 career average) and has only scored 143 runs, while stealing 44 bases. The man who was supposed to be a tablesetter for the Mets, along with Jose Reyes, has averaged less than 50 runs scored per season since he joined the team and is stealing as many bases as Jason Bay. He is nothing more than a station-to-station player now, who rarely collects extra-base hits (only four doubles and two triples this season in 200 at-bats.)
How much do the Mets dislike using Castillo now? They’d rather give the second base position to Ruben Tejada, who would lose a batting title to Bob Uecker and Mario Mendoza right now with his .180 batting average. Yes, Harry Doyle himself can out-hit the Mets’ second basemen.
Now we have the news that Castillo wants out of New York. He’s even trying to make it look like he has something to contribute to this team. Let’s look at some of his quotes on the subject.
“I came here to be an everyday player and I know it’s been hard with the injuries I’ve had, but I feel good now and thought I was playing well. I’ve been playing for 14 years and I’ve never gone through anything like this.”
Never gone through anything like that? In his 12 full seasons in the majors, Castillo has missed at least 20 games in eight of them. He has been hurt more times than Oliver Perez has recorded a three-pitch strikeout. Also, after batting a career-high .334 in 2000, he dipped to .263 in 2001, striking out a career-high 90 times in the process. He’s never gone through that before? Think again, Luis. You have. More than once.
“If they think (Tejada’s) the best player, that’s OK. I just don’t want to be a backup when I’ve been playing every day for my whole career.”
Again, how does a man who’s missed a total of 361 games over the past 11+ seasons (averaging a little over 30 games missed per season over that span) consider himself an everyday player? Having Luis Castillo on the team means you’re going to need a capable backup who’s going to end up playing for a least a month’s worth of games every year. Perhaps Luis Castillo needs to go on the disabled list for his memory loss.
“I can’t be here anymore. I know I’m not going to be here next year.”
Considering Luis Castillo’s track record with saying things that just aren’t true, I wish he wouldn’t have uttered the above quote. Does that mean we’re going to have to stick it out for another year of an occasional single here and there, more whining and an eventual trip or three to the disabled list?
Castillo is so unwanted that according to Jon Heyman, the Cubs didn’t want to trade clubhouse cancer Carlos Zambrano to the Mets in exchange for Oliver Perez and Castillo. It wasn’t because the Mets were throwing in El Perez-idente. It was because Castillo was included in the deal.
So Luis Castillo wants out of New York. The feeling is mutual, my non-friend. Somehow you convinced the Mets that you were the best available second baseman on the market following the 2007 season. Now you’re trying to convince them that you can still play every day. I think it’s time to update your passport picture because you certainly won’t be playing in the major leagues after your contract expires next year. Perhaps a team in the Far East will take you. Maybe Guam has open tryouts.
One thing is for sure. Luis Castillo has been with the Mets for a little over three years now. In that time, he has worn out his welcome in New York, a welcome I don’t recall ever giving him in the first place. He “endeared” himself to Mets fans with his one-armed bandit routine when he dropped the pop-up last year in an excruciating loss at Yankee Stadium. Now let’s see him try to hit the jackpot again when his contract expires after the 2011 season. Surely, Lady Luck will not be smiling upon him then.
You want out of New York, Luis Castillo? You got it. Just let any one of the millions of Mets fans out there know what day you need a ride to the airport and they’ll be more than happy to take you there.