Sore Winner: Castillo the Unhappy Hero

After last night’s game winning RBI (just his 2nd in his past 73 at-bats) Luis Castillo looked more defeated than ever. It’s funny because when I initially saw his reaction I sort of brushed it off. I have never been a big Castillo fan, though there was a time when the former gold glover could certainly get the job done and was a perfect ‘small ball’ type player. That time, however, is long gone and his inability to field this season has aggravated me to no end. I won’t even get into his overall performance at the plate.

With all that said, I don’t think Castillo is a bad guy or teammate. All indications are that he works incredibly hard and he has done his best to play hurt when asked. And that’s something I had to constantly remind myself of when I would see him hobbling to the hole and barely bend for a ball that most second basemen would shuffle over to and field routinely. He was on the field because his manager asked him to be. He was batting second because his manager put him there. Maybe he was even being asked to play hurt because Alex Cora was getting too close to a guaranteed 2011 contract. The poor performance is on him, but the role he was given is on team management.

Now we are at a point where the higher ups feel the defensive upgrade presented by Ruben Tejada, along with getting the youngster some experience at the big league level, is worth the automatic out he represents at the plate (the 20-year-old is currently in the midst of a 1-38 skid). I’m not sure I can say I disagree with that given the fact that Castillo hasn’t fared much better at the dish (he was 1 for his last 13 entering last night’s contest), though I do worry about what type of long term effect this type of failure might have on Ruben down the road.

So Luis was replaced in the starting line-up, a decision he was not happy about. After 14-years of starting, why would he be happy about being relegated to bench duty? Kudos to a player who WANTS to play and is even willing to do so when hurt, but let’s not be delusional about the situation here, Mr. Castillo is no longer a capable starter. According to Dan Martin of the New York Post, however, that realization has not set in for the 3-time gold glove winner. Over a week ago in his column on 8/25 (click here for full story) Martin quoted Castillo as having said:

I know I can play every day, I’m not a bench player. I can still play.

I came here to be an every-day 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.”

Like an old boxer complaining about a unanimous decision, you have to wonder if Luis is watching the same fight. In response to the news that Tejada would be seeing the majority of the time Castillo said:

They want to go with young guys, I guess, that’s what they tell me now. I’m not ready to be a backup.

If they think that he’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.”

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

While there’s obviously still some fire in the 34-year-old’s heart, it has long left his legs and bat. Despite his campaign for more playing time Jerry Manuel has made good on his word to entrench Ruben Tejada as his starter. But last night, in the 9th inning, after having not played in 3 games and being hit-less in his last 7 at-bats, Luis Castillo was given a chance to do something special, something he hasn’t done in a while, he was asked to help his team win a ballgame. To the surprise and enjoyment of many, he delivered. Teammates and fans rejoiced as the patented Castillo blooper to right drove in Ike Davis for the game winning run. After winning 4 of the past 6 games New York was now back in 3rd place in the NL East and things were looking…..well….not bad.

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

That is unless of course you were looking at the face of Luis Castillo, who apparently got a call that his puppy just died on his way to first base (click here for video). I think Jason Fry of ‘Faith and Fear in Flushing’ summarized the reaction best in his post ‘Unhappy Man Wins Baseball Game’ when he said:

….Castillo rounded first, turned toward home, watched Ike score and barely reacted. He displayed all the satisfaction of a man who’d completed a transaction at an ATM.”

Talk about hitting the nail right on the head. Along those lines, I’m starting to think along the lines of Stephen Keane over at ‘The Eddie Kranepool Society’, who wrote in his post ‘Tropical Depression Luis Castillo‘:

If there is anyone in the Mets front office who feels Luis Castillo should remain a Met, their opinion had to have changed after last night. I don’t care if you are a relative of Castillo’, his actions after driving in Ike Davis for a come from behind walk off win proves he hates being here as much as Mets fans hate that he’s here. Talk about irreconcilable differences, there is no reason to put Castillo or Mets fans through this loveless marriage anymore. Let’s do it for the kids.”

Is this what it has come down to?  A team so completely divided that the joy of winning is not a unifying emotion? I’m not sure what the answer is and I’ll be damned if I can think of any type of solution.   One thing is for certain, though he said all the right things in the post-game interview, apparently Castillo’s demeanor during the “celebration” was not unnoticed.  Normally a big hit like that would earn you the starting nod over a guy who has a .026 avg over his last 38 at-bats, but that’s not the case tonight……..and I’m happier for it.

I asked my dad, who occasionally writes some ‘angry’ posts for the site, what he thought about Castillo last night and he offered up this nugget, which I will use as my way of signing off on the incident:

If your heart isn’t filled with seemingly excruciating joy when you’ve had the game winning hit, then, I submit, you are so consumed by self misery, so solipsistic, so bereft of hope, that there is no human company that bring you relief.  Rest in peace, the player formerly known as Luis Castillo.  You’ve died and don’t know it.”

-Ken Robotham, Angry Mets Fan

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  • http://section518.wordpress.com/ Section518

    I absolutely agree with your overall point, that we should all be happy that Tejada is getting the start (and the bulk of the playing time going forward). He needs to play and we (and management) need to see if he can handle an everyday job. But as for Castillo looking happy? Who cares? First of all, there’s no know way to know what he’s thinking: just because he didn’t have a huge smile on his face doesn’t mean he wasn’t happy to get the hit. More importantly, why should he be giddy? He’s never doubted his skills: we (the fans) have (and rightfully so: he’s had a horrible year). In his mind, he thinks he’s perfectly capable of being the starter or of winning the game in the bottom of the ninth. If anything, he’s “acting like he’s been there before”.
    I wish everyone wore their emotions on their sleeves like Jose Reyes. I feel more connected to him because I can see his emotions on every play. But not everyone is like that. We can knock Castillo for his batting average, his slugging percentage, his lack of range, etc., but there’s no reason to knock him for not being more obviously emotional: that’s just piling on.

  • Anonymous

    It’s one thing to ‘act like you’ve been there before’ by not ‘dancing’ and showing up your opponent. It’s another to have your teammates jumping on you and looking like the game meant something while you do your best to get to the dugout without cracking a smile. That’s just my opinion, some people agree as you can see from the posts I linked and some don’t. Fair enough. Look I don’t want the guy to break a leg while stepping on home or twist an ankle while throwing shaving cream in someone’s face. Of course I don’t know what he was thinking, if I did I would be writing for Oprah’s magazine, not this blog, but I can make a guess as to what I think was going through his head. That’s all this is and I’ve convinced myself of what I wrote above. Obviously I haven’t convinced you, lol. If this hadn’t come on the heels of his public statements about starting and playing every day then maybe I wouldn’t connect it to him being a ‘sore winner’ but in my estimation that’s exactly what he was. I think it’s perfectly fair to knock him for not being obviously emotional if it’s connected to his attitude towards the team and the current situation, which I felt it was.

  • http://section518.wordpress.com/ Section518

    Fair enough. Obviously, it’s really difficult to defend Luis Castillo about anything these days, and this certainly isn’t the battle I would choose. I think we can both agree that the sooner he becomes a former Met, the better.

  • Anonymous

    Definitely agree with that and apparently so does Castillo. He came out today and again mentioned that he is unhappy being a back up (http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/baseball/mets/2010/08/26/2010-08-26_playing_backup_to_ruben_tejada_isnt_sitting_well_with_luis_castillo_josh_thole_h.html). I can understand his position, sorta, but just don’t think it’s realistic. I feel like he has to know that the Mets would have moved him already if they could have. When he comes out and says stuff like this it just further convinces me that the other night wasn’t an instance of a guy holding in his enthusiasm, it was an example of a guy who had none. 2012 seems so far away my friend………

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