Commentary

Demonizing Luis Castillo unwarranted

For a player who's always been accountable to the Mets, ripping him is not justified

Updated: February 20, 2011, 1:52 PM ET
By Adam Rubin | ESPNNewYork.com

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- After Tom Glavine's disappointing performance during Game No. 162 of the 2007 season cemented the New York Mets' first collapse and made Jimmy Rollins a prophet, Luis Castillo was the last player remaining in uniform in the home clubhouse at Shea Stadium, lamenting the defeat.

It was particularly notable because Castillo had far less invested in those Mets than his teammates. He had arrived in a July 30 trade with the Minnesota Twins. He had not yet signed that ill-advised four-year, $25 million contract.

[+] EnlargeLuis Castillo
Brett Davis/US PresswireLuis Castillo is unlikely to be on the Mets' roster in 2011.

Eighty-eight weeks later, after dropping Alex Rodriguez's game-ending pop-up at Yankee Stadium and single-handedly ending Francisco Rodriguez's franchise-record saves streak to open a Mets career at 16, the media relations staff said Castillo would not be available postgame to speak. Yet Castillo, it turned out, was among the first people at his locker to talk about the devastating moment.

The point of dredging up those tales of heartache?

You can call Castillo a washed-up ballplayer. That may very well be true. The legs that led to 62 steals in 2000 with the Florida Marlins have wilted beneath him.

You cannot suggest Castillo does not care. Nor can you suggest Castillo is not accountable.

At least if you want truth to be on your side.

Look, it is little secret Mets fans detest Oliver Perez and Castillo because of their paltry production and exorbitant salaries -- a combined $18 million in 2011.

But you ought not demonize Castillo -- who did not report early to Mets camp like high-profile players David Wright and Jose Reyes -- simply because you want him out on baseball merits.

Can you really blame someone for not being early for the trial that is going to lead to his execution anyway?

It is highly likely Castillo will be released during spring training. Daniel Murphy should be on the team in some capacity. And Rule 5 pick Brad Emaus has former Toronto Blue Jays GM J.P. Ricciardi in his corner and fits the profile for the type of player the Moneyball Mets covet -- power potential (15 homers in 445 at-bats in the minors last season) while producing more walks than strikeouts.

Manager Terry Collins fueled the demonization of Castillo -- probably unintentionally -- on Friday by acknowledging disappointment that Castillo did not report early to camp. After all, the reasoning goes, Castillo is in a supposed fight for the second-base job. So why not demonstrate an eagerness to please?

Collins then reiterated his disappointment Saturday, when Castillo apparently was not at the complex. (The requirement is to be in town, not at the facility.)

Yet Collins was not angered. The first-year manager viewed it more as a missed opportunity.

"We all want stuff," Collins said. "I wish I had all 56 guys in camp the last 10 days. That's unrealistic. And I do know those guys that are in the Latin countries with those great academies now, we've got great coaches down there. I'm sure he's getting all the groundballs he needs. I just want to see it. That's all. I just want to see it."

Turns out, Castillo arrived Sunday at the complex, met with Collins and told his manager there was a medical issue in his family that prevented him from arriving earlier. Castillo said his 50-year old brother, Julio Cesar, is undergoing serious surgery Monday.

Collins indicated he never would have raised the issue of his preference that Castillo arrive early had Castillo mentioned the situation during their midweek phone conversation.

"I know my situation here, and I try to be focused on baseball," Castillo said. "But that's not easy, because my brother is my family. Tomorrow is a big day for me. I hope nothing happens because I have to show people here, and I don't want to think about my brother, but I have to do it."

Does Castillo belong on the 2011 Mets' roster? No, assuming Murphy stays healthy and/or Emaus shows he can handle major league competition in Grapefruit League play.

Will Castillo be on the 2011 Mets? Very likely no.

That does not mean fans need to invent reasons to justify the organization eating the $6 million owed to Castillo this season. On baseball merit, that should happen anyway.

Adam Rubin has covered the Mets since 2003. He's a graduate of Mepham High School on Long Island and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He joined ESPNNewYork after spending 10 years at the New York Daily News.
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