It was never Luis Castillo‘s fault that he was offered a contract that was four times the length it should have been, nor was it his fault that the organization that offered that deal couldn’t or wouldn’t find a better second baseman long after it was clear that it didn’t possess the kind of dynamic offense that could afford to carry an everyday player with such limited usefulness. And even now that we know Castillo has been released, it’s not even clear there’s a vastly superior option to replace him. So even if the Mets are doing the right thing today by cutting Castillo loose, there’s something profoundly sad about the whole thing.
Aside from a creaky first year and one really, really, really bad error, Castillo gave the Mets almost exactly what they should have expected from a slap-hitting, low-power, chubby, aging middle infielder with good on-base skills: Slap hits, little power, declining range and baserunning, and good on-base skills. As for Andy Martino’s provocative piece in the Daily News this morning, I’m glad he’s out there asking those questions, because he’s right about one thing: Fans have a bad habit of assigning character flaws to players whose performance disappoints, and the amount of fan abuse and media attention Castillo drew was way out of proportion to his crimes. He should not have ridden the pine last year so that a player who was so over his head offensively that he’s not even in the conversation as a starter this year could have played, much less while the Mets still had at least a prayer.
I’m sure we’ll see Mookie Wilson back wearing No. 1 again soon.
The Mets are apparently playing this afternoon in special, scary St. Patrick’s Day caps as pictured here (green-cap tip to the ‘Ropolitans for the photo).
In other news, the below post on the Mets-related calypso song got some love in UniWatch today. Paul Lukas has proposed a movement to make the song a hit; I’d be satisfied just to hear it at the park sometime. C’mon, Mets!
Not much on the Uni Number front to report, I’m watching the positional battles just like you and don’t have a clue whether Brad Emaus or Luis Castillo or Daniel Murphy winds up with a starting job. I would hope however that the decision is made based on who’s the best second baseman, and not whom the fans hate the least. I raised this point last year when Jerry Manuel inexplicably made Ruben Tejada the starter at second base, despite the fact that, as pathetic as it was to own up to, Luis Castillo was the best second baseman the Mets had at the time. The timing of that move was especially curious and, as we know, came right at the moment where an OK Mets’ season turned into an especially bad one.
Like every March, I’m impatient for the season to start. My enthusiasm is tempered somewhat by going into another year with a question mark in right field. I’m not down on Carlos Beltran as a person, I wouldn’t question his heart or overlook his greatness, but he’s played all of a couple innings as a DH this spring and already needed time to rest his knees, I’m just not comfortable with a guy like that in right. Where I’m hopeful is in the prospect of Lucas Duda’s awesome power, and in a good spring so far from Fernando Martinez, even if he’s already been optioned to AAA.
Had a good time despite the disappointing result at the Mets game last night, and even as I continued scratching my head wondering why they continue to start Ruben Tejada over Luis Castillo at second base, even as Jeff Francoeur continues to get the starts in right field. Anyone else find this difficult to reconcile? Sure Castillo has limited value, but he’s clearly better at this point in his career than Tejada, whose mistakes in the field are even blunting his advantages in quickness and range. Meantime, Francoeur, who unlike Castillo has no commitment from the club to keep him around for another season, gets the kid gloves despite having been a major drain on the offense since June. I just don’t get it.
The Mets however did accomplish something last night. When Jose Reyes bounced to first with the bases loaded and ended the game, the Mets fell to 63-63, marking their 11th contiguous point at .500 — that is, alternating wins and losses at a game above or below .500 — breaking the old record of 10 such contiguous points set in 2005. The Mets in other words have been 53-53, 54-54, 55-55, and so on up to their current mark of 63-63. Amazin’.
They still have some work to do to catch the 2005 team for most overall points at .500: That team had 27 separate .500 marks. But at 19 .500s already, the 2010 Mets right now are in third place all time and have 18 more shots for historic mediocrity ahead of them.
And you thought there was noting left to play for.
The below chart ranks Mets teams by the number of times their record was .500 . Thanks to the Post’s Mike Vaccaro for inspiring the research.
Five-hundrliest seasons, in order:
1. 2005 (27)
2. 2002 (20)
3. 2010 (19)*
4. 1970 (18)
5. 2004 (15)
6. 2008 (14)
7. 1976 (13)
8. 1994 (11)
9. 1990 (8)
13. 1973 (6)
18. 1977 (5)
21. 1969 (4)
25. 1968 (3)
29. 1966 (2)
39. 1983 (1)
43. 1962 (0)
*- Still active (barely)
As bad as the Mets have been going, recently and no-so-recently — really, they’ve been awful since Puerto Rico — I’m convinced another hot streak could start any time now.
The reason is simple — they finally have the lineup they want out there most nights. Nobody cried when he limped off the field with a foot problem a few weeks back, but we’ve missed the modest contributions of Luis Castillo, who returned to the lineup last night in Phoenix. Ruben Tejada showed some good skills in Castillo’s absence, but was overmatched offensively and is back in AAA where he belongs. Jose Reyes in the meantime returned to the lineup and despite two shaky plays contributing to Pelfrey’s disaster, is obviously a huge part of the offense and will get going again.
I’m no fan of Jerry Manuel’s passive game-managing style, but he’s done a bold thing in benching Jeff Francoeur here. I’d have sworn the Mets had invested too much in marketing Francoeur to sit him, but it’s good to see the team recognize that Angel Pagan’s contributions trump good will with the writers. Next on Jerry’s to-do list ought to be the same solution for Rod Barajas: this will be trickier, but the fact that Josh Tholeis still on board with both Barajas and Blanco healthy enough to start again indicates it’s at least under consideration. Ideally Jerry could get by with 6 relievers instead of his customary 7 and use Thole freely.
The impending return of Oliver Perez in the meantime might not be a disaster if it gets Hisanori Takahashi out of the rotation for a while and allows the team to strengthen the bullpen. I’d be surprised if the Mets don’t move to acquire a reliever and a starter in the next few weeks anyway, so the pitching will remain fluid.
Quick update before I head out to the park tonight (meet me at McFaddens! I’ll be wearing No. 70):
Gary Matthews Jr. has been designated for assignment, at long last — only to be replaced on the roster by … surprise! … Omir Santos, our old friend from last season who unfortunately is hitting Class AA pitching about as well as Sarge Jr. hit in the majors this year. This development was sparked by reports indicating Henry Blanco has been hurting. Omir you might recall wore No. 9 last time we saw him.
Also returning to the squad, and reportedly in tonight’s lineup, is infielder Ruben Tejada, who was recalled when Luis Castillo finally went onto the disabled list with achy breaky feet. Tejada wore No. 11 last time through.
Holy crap. I’d be surprised if the Mets, once they wake up, don’t make a few quick roster moves for relievers this afternoon after playing 20 innings last night. And though it’s more of a long shot, it’d be also nice to get a few hitters considering they were blanked for 18 innings and managed only to squeak out single runs despite facing position players on the mound for three innings thanks to Tony LaRussa and his seeming strategy to defeat the Mets by humiliating them. This after failing to hold a 1-0 lead on Friday night. Can’t wait till Jose Reyes gets back. What? Oh…
Anyway, it wasn’t a pretty game by any wild stretch but props to Alex Cora for a terrific catch and to Hisanori Takahashi, who became a vicious strikeout artist at the right moment to squelch a 2-on, no-out situation in the 14th. Jerry Manuel’s absurdly passive game plan reached new heights by ordering Luis Castillo to bunt in a plan that successfully resulted in a single run in the 19th but predictably was proven not enough. Mike Pelfrey with the save. Ridiculous!
Thanks for the readers who pointed out Jon Switzer‘s debut in No. 56 last night. I was lucky enough to be out celebrating my anniversary with my wife and missed his debut — but we were unfortunate enough to arrive home in time to catch the 9th inning on TV.
I have no explanation for all the horrendous plays we’ve seen this year but it’s obvious there’s been way too many of them, and I won’t suggest Luis Castillo needs your forgiveness right now. But rather than lead an ugly campaign to make someone pay, I’m gonna suggest instead you get outdoors, have dinner with your family, take a few days off. That’s what I’m gonna do.
Sorry for the lack of updates last week: I had a story about the bullpen woes and Omar’s future on the unemployment line loaded and ready to blast a week ago, but then they started accomplishing good things, and I decided maybe it was best to give it the “no-hitter treatment” while it lasted.
But the forthcoming addition of Luis Ayala to the Met scrolls, and Billy Wagner‘s latest setback, are noteworthy enough to briefly interrupt my winning streak silence.
Though Ayala has been worked pretty hard — he’s in Heilman/Feliciano territory as far as appearances are concerned — I like this deal if only because anything could help and he came so cheap.
One only needs to look at the uni numbers to see Anderson Hernandez had no future here. As a late-season callup in 2005 and opening day starter at second-base in 2006, Anderson wore No. 1, but he was stripped of that by the time the Mets acquired Luis Castillo and reappeared in No. 4. That number was subsequently issued to Robinson Cancel, and then to Argenis Reyes: Losing two numbers, to three guys, in less than a year, is a condition rarely recovered from. As for Ayala, he’s No. 56 with Nationals: That uni currently belongs to Mets’ bullpen pitcher Juan Lopez.
The update we didn’t record was the unsurprising demotion of Carlos Muniz for John Maine last Wednesday.
Late in tonight’s satisfying blowout over the wretched St. Louis Cardinals, Argenis Reyes made his Mets debut wearing the No. 4 jersey most recently belonging to chubby backup catcher Robinson Cancel. Reyes, a singles-hitting middle infielder and a veteran of the Cleveland farm system, had a nice first spring training with the Mets and gets an opportunity while Luis Castillo rests up a quad or something on the disabled list.
Arriving along with Reyes was outfielder Chris Aguila, swapped in for reliever Carlos Muniz, still smarting from Troy Glaus’ game-ending home run Wednesday night.
Aguila, interestingly, is back in the same No. 29 jersey he wore in his brief appearance last month; the Mets had since issued 29 to Andy Phillips, whom they claimed on waivers from Cincinnati a week ago, designated for assignment on Monday, and, we learned today, subsequently lost back to the Reds on a waiver claim.
So, after a 2-2 split in the four-gamer in St. Louis, the Mets arrive in Brotherly Lovetown Friday to for more fourplay: This may (or may not) say something about where the team is headed.
When the 2003 Mets crashed and burned for good, fired Steve Phillips, and hired doomed interim general manager Jim Duquette, one of Duke’s first orders of business (along with the promotion of Jose Reyes) was to clear the team of its disappointing deadwood: Roberto Alomar, Armando Benitez and Jeromy Burnitz among them. And not only did the Mets bounce these guys, but they moved rather quickly to erase their memories by re-issuing all of their numbers, on guys who played the same positions, before the year was out. Before you knew it, Alomar’s 12was on the back of second baseman Danny Garcia. It was reliever Orber Moreno (remember him?) in Benitez’s old No. 49. And in the outfield, Prentice Redman, and not Burnitz, wore No. 20. How cruel. How brilliant.
With that in mind, do you think Johan Santana might mind downshifting by 10 from his customary 57? Because, provided he winds up with the good guys, that would be an appropriate tribute to Tom Glavine, the last of 2003’s disappointing veterans and the newest member of the Atlanta Braves. Can you believe Reyes is now the senior Met?
Hello again to Luis Castillo, whose four-year contract represents about four times the commitment he probably deserves. Expect to see Castillo back in the No. 1 jersey next year, hopefully without the spare tire providing emphasis.