Luis Castillo Gets Scapegoated by Sandy Alderson: Who's Next?
If the Mets' handling of Luis Castillo is an indication of things to come, the so-called rebuilding of the team is going to be a lot of smoke and mirrors and scapegoats. Make no mistake, that's largely what Sandy Alderson has done by releasing the man who's been the team's second baseman for the last four seasons. And the New York sports media seems to be pretty much going along with it.
Here's Mike Lupica at the Daily News: "Whatever future the Mets will have under Sandy Alderson - you either believe in him or you don't - begins by taking apart the recent past, piece by piece. It started around 11 o'clock Friday morning in Port St. Lucie be sending Castillo - as much a symbol of the recent past as anybody, a symbol of money spent badly - to the parking lot."
Now, hold on a minute.
There's a third possibility with Alderson - we don't know whether or not to believe in him, and we haven't yet seen anything of substance that he's done with the Mets. And how exactly is Castillo "a symbol of money spent badly"? Granted, largely because of a bone bruise to his left foot, he wasn't much last year - just .235 in 86 games, though with a not-terrible .337 OBA (Derek Jeter's, it should be pointed out, was just .340).
But a very good case could be made that what Castillo has done since coming over from the Twins in July, 2007, has been pretty much exactly what he could have been expected to do. Nobody thought he was going to this with power; all they expected was a good fielder and base runner who made contact and did a reasonably good job of getting on base. Well, from 2007-2009 Castillo's batting and on-base averages were .296/.371, .245/.355, and .302/.387.
Granted, Castillo should have had to prove himself in spring training this year, and he seemed to be doing a pretty good job of that: a .285 BA and .355 OBA. Was anyone seriously expecting the second coming of Joe Morgan?
The ugliest part of this whole move is the way the Mets front office has played it up as if they were only doing what the fans wanted them to do. Here's Alderson in the Saturday papers - you can find this in all the New York-area dailies: "I don't think there's any question that there's some linkage between his situation and a perception of the Mets that has existed at this point. That's something's that been taken into account. At some point, you have to make an organizational decision that goes beyond just an ability to play or not to play ... Realistically, it's a factor."
Can Alderson really be so full of bullshit? What is the "it's" that is a factor? A few hundred Mets fans still booing because Castillo dropped a pop-up to lose a game to the Yankees in 2009? That's it? And since when has Alderson ever made a baseball decision that "goes beyond just an ability to play or not to play"?
What Alderson seems to be saying, and which many sportswriters who want to perceive him as a genius before the Mets have won a single game are buying into - is that he's here to exorcise the Mets curse and that this can be done be making Castillo the goat.
On MetsToday.com, Joe Janish does a good job of asking the questions not being asked by the mainstream writers:
"What I don't get is why Castillo hung around this long. Further, why he was asked to report to Port St. Lucie in the first place, taking reps and at-bats from Brad Emaus, Dan Murphy, and Justin Turner. Further, why was Castillo the one dismissed from auditions first?
"Here's my point: if Castillo was being seriously considered for the 2B job, then what was it that the Mets were looking for him to do, and what was it that caused him to be cut? None of the other candidates have shown themselves to be anything special, and although Castillo hasn't been particularly outstanding either, he also hasn't been awful -- in fact, it could be argued that he has been the top all-around second baseman this spring."
Finally, I'm also not seeing addressed the question of what the demonization of Castillo has done for Mets' morale. Castillo, after all, was a popular respected teammate, particularly with Jose Reyes, who told TV reporters "When you see somebody go, it's going to hurt. He was playing good. It's not like he was playing terrible ... Everybody loves Castillo in the clubhouse. I didn't even have the chance to say goodbye."
If I was Reyes or anyone else on the team, I'd say my goodbyes now because heads are going to rolling quick and thick before we get to the midway point of the season.