Posts Tagged ‘Luis Castillo’

Faced With a Losing Season, Mets Fans Look on the Brighter Side

September 19, 2009

With the Mets’ season on life support these days, the will to soldier on has reached the point of absurdity. After winning for just the second time in twelve games on Saturday, any reason for a positive outlook is most welcome. Witnessing one disappointing performance after another by Mets starting pitching coupled with bad base running and worsening defensive plays, you could see why any die-hard fan would be searching for other forms of entertainment. However, before you start calling for the heads of Daniel Murphy and Angel Pagan, let’s look at some of the good things that have materialized this year for the Mets.

Right fielder Jeff Francoeur, since being brought over to the team via a trade, has hit .318 with seven home runs and 34 RBIs in just 63 games. With so many questions heading into the 2010 season for the Mets, Francoeur gives them a solid number sixth hitter who can drive in runs.

Luis Castillo may be this season’s National League comeback-player-of-the-year, justifying his four-year contract by simply staying healthy. He’s played a large part throughout the majority of games for the Mets thus far this season and is currently batting .306. Castillo is among the team’s top three in hits with 136 and runs with 76. He is also second on the club with 16 stolen bases. Castillo has been their most consistent hitter in addition to playing very solid defense at second base.

Catcher Omir Santos has been a nice surprise filling in for the often-injured Brian Schneider this season. Santos’ two-run homer in the top of the ninth inning back in May that gave the Mets a 3-2 lead against Boston Red Sox closer, Jonathan Papelbon, will go down as one of the most exciting wins for the Mets in 2009.

Right-hander Elmer Dessens, the Mets unofficial long man, has quietly pitched in 25 games so far this season. Dessens has shown that he is a stable choice as a middle reliever coming out of the bullpen. One of his many bright spots this season has been his ability to hold big league hitters to a .218 batting average.

So after all is said and done, it’s been a pretty forgettable and disastrous season for the Amazins. Admittedly though, this is hopefully a one-time thing—can’t imagine there will be many more seasons where your entire set of starters end up on the DL one after the other. At least there were a few positives along the way.

Mets Lineup Showing Stability within an Unstable Environment

July 29, 2009

As chaotic as the Mets front office may seem these last few days, the makeup of their everyday starting lineup has remained a symbol of stability. Since placing veteran outfielder Gary Sheffield on the 15-day disabled list, Mets manager Jerry Manual has left his lineup card on auto pilot. With the exception of splitting up the catching duties, the remaining spots in the Mets lineup have been designated to include the same group of guys.

Centerfielder Angel Pagan has enjoyed the leadoff spot with three triples and two doubles in his last ten games. Second baseman Luis Castillo has seen his batting average skyrocket over three hundred and is currently batting .306. Third baseman David Wright continues to produce and get on base. He is now hitting .321. First baseman Daniel Murphy has benefitted greatly from the extra playing time. He has been able to sharpen up his defensive skills and concentrate on moving runners over. Since coming over to the Mets, right fielder Jeff Francoeur has gone 17-for-52 (.327 BA) with three home runs and fifteen RBIs. If you add the steady hands (no pun intended!) of shortstop Alex Cora and left fielder Cory Sullivan, it makes for a very cohesive lineup.

Not only is the Mets latest four game winning streak refreshing but the current approach of their manager can also be looked at as promising. There has been no bigger advocate than me in finally seeing some consistency in the Mets starting lineup. Jerry, I know you’re just itching to mix-and-match your everyday players for the remaining two games of this series but for the love of all things Wilpon, don’t you even think it.

A Dignified Manuel Emerges from a Crushing Defeat

June 13, 2009

Mets manager Jerry Manuel could have easily been caught off-guard last night when he was called upon to address the New York media and explain the unexpected turn of events that transpired on the last play of the game. In case you haven’t heard, Mets second baseman Luis Castillo botched a routine pop-up in the bottom of the ninth inning with runners on first and second and two outs. At the height of the play, the Mets were up by one run and had the game firmly in hand. When the dust finally settled, two Yankees had crossed the plate, Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez was horrified, and the Mets were looking at a three game losing streak. Since then, Castillo has accepted his misadventure and has humbly apologized for instigating what is being tagged in some social circles as “the drop heard ‘round the five boroughs.”

Castillo’s impromptu press conference prior to today’s game may have ultimately cleansed the emotional second baseman of his improbable feat. The inspiration for it may have stemmed from his skipper’s inspiring words. As usual, Manuel handled himself gracefully after the game and seized the moment with his mellow constitution. Likening his post-game reaction to that of a sermon on the mount, the Mets manager presented himself again as the great pacifier.

“It will definitely be a battle again for him [Castillo],” said Manuel with confidence in his breath, “Not only for him but for us.”

As Mets fans were reduced to utter tears, Manuel’s surefooted demeanor became the support system that he had hoped would hold them over.

“We win together, we lose together,” he added. “We’ll have to fight through this. We have enough time to overcome it.”

Walk-off Win Allows Castillo to Be King for a Day

April 18, 2009

At times, the most dangerous player on the field might very well be the player with the biggest chip on his shoulder. For a Mets ballclub that has experienced two consecutive seasons in which both have ended in heartbreaking defeat, you might expect there to be plenty of players left with something to prove. One of those players happens to be second baseman Luis Castillo who this season could be seen as having a slight advantage in that department.

At the completion of the 2008 season, Mets fans and the majority of the media decided unanimously that GM Omar Minaya should just cut his losses and send the injury-riddled second baseman on his way, the sooner the better. Even if it meant releasing him and assuring the fans that he never set foot in the Big Apple ever again, something needed to be done. Fortunately Castillo is a man who possesses a thicker skin than most and has shown that he is intelligent enough not to interpret his critic’s discontent as anything but self-motivation.

So Minaya, being the good diplomat that he is, decided to give Luis one more shot at making it in the Big City. Castillo gave his trusting general manager his word that this upcoming season things would be different. This time around, he would prove to his teammates as well as to the fans that he had the stomach to make it in this town. Since the start of this year’s spring training, Minaya has been Castillo’s biggest supporter. He has defended his everyday second baseman by citing his positive attitude and good work ethic and has allowed him to begin anew seventeen pounds lighter. Castillo then vowed that he had put all the disappointments and fat cells behind him. It was obvious that he had one goal in mind; help his team get to the World Series.

As New Yorkers, we all took what he said with a grain of salt and accepted his previous flaws with the hope that he was destined to improve this season. However, during the Mets first five games, Castillo started in just four of them. He began right where he left off by going 1 for 10 with 3 strikeouts. You could almost hear the boo-birds settling into their new home, Citi Field, preparing for his arrival. Then, out of nowhere, something clicked inside the new and improved Castillo. Perhaps it was the proximity to his native homeland or maybe it was the warm sunny skies of South Florida, but whatever it was, it allowed for a perfect 4-for-4 performance. No matter what he accomplished the next day, it would be more than enough for his detractors to warrant another look. With that offensive outburst alone he was now entitled to hang his hat within the squeaking-clean confines of his team’s new ballpark.

Which brings us to last night’s 5-4 win in walk-off fashion, the first of its kind at Citi Field, by none other than, you guessed it, Luis Castillo.

“He wanted to be in that situation, tonight,” Mets manager Jerry Manuel said.

For further reading, you can check out a previous post entitled, Luis Castillo, A Fall From Grace Or Just a Bump in the Road.

Pesky Marlins Expose Mets Old Flaws

April 11, 2009

Mets Carlos Beltran, who was batting left-handed, was caught by surprise as home plate umpire Mark Carlson punched him out on a pitch that came across the plate a tad bit inside and, in my opinion, should have been called a ball. Beltran then turned to Carlson and gave him a piece of his mind as he made sure his discontent was heard loud and clear on his way back to the Mets dugout.

At this point in last night’s 5-4 defeat in the hands of the Florida Marlins, the Mets were losing by a score of 2-0. Florida was able to tack on those two runs by doing what comes natural to them: hitting homeruns. Hanley Ramirez and Dan Uggla each connected on solo shots, both landing inside a section of the stands that is beyond the left field wall and incidentally, devoid of any spectators. With that in mind, a Mets hitter could probably have sent a blast hurtling towards the same spot, without fear that a disgruntled fan might toss the ball back out onto the field.

Beltran must’ve been aware of this because in the top of the sixth while batting right-handed, he took matters into his own hands and produced a solo shot that gave the Mets their first run of the game. Sweet revenge for the last time he was up. The Mets center fielder ended up going 3 for 5, finishing the night with 2 RBI and 2 runs scored. Starting pitcher John Maine also gave the Mets a solid performance by completing five efficient innings in which he surrendered two earned runs and struck out five batters. However, some might say that that amount of strikeouts could be considered a given against a free-swinging Marlins ball club.

In only their fourth game of the season, certain similarities that took place in 2008 have begun to rear their ugly heads. First, there is the obvious one: that dreaded four letter word, RISP. Last night, the team as a whole went 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position. Granted, that lonely hit came at a very opportune time when pinch hitter Jeremy Reed delivered an RBI single that tied up the score at four. Ultimately, the Mets would go on to lose the game in the bottom half of the ninth inning.

Secondly, Marlins reliever Dan Meyer was having problems locating the strike zone as he had just walked pinch hitter Gary Sheffield on four pitches. So what does Jose Reyes do with a runner who is now at second base and a 1-0 count? He swings at the second pitch and produces a soft fly ball to right, ending the inning. Hojo, could you please develop a drill specifically for Reyes that teaches him that it’s okay to take a couple of pitches especially when the pitcher is unable to find the plate??

Lastly, how many more at-bats by Luis Castillo must we endure in which he is caught looking at a perfect pitch right down the middle?

Luis Castillo, A Fall From Grace or Just a Bump in the Road?

February 9, 2009

castillo

In July of 2007, the New York Mets acquired switch-hitting second baseman Luis Castillo from the Minnesota Twins in a trade for two minor league players. At the time, the Mets had just lost their everyday second baseman, Jose Valentin, to injury. This setback prompted Mets GM Omar Minaya to take action.

“With Valentin going down, this is a move we needed to do,” Minaya said. “For me, it’s important to have a guy to the right of first base to cover ground.”

When speaking about Castillo’s fielding capabilities, there is no argument that he is a talented infielder who may still possess above-average range. From 1999-2006, seven seasons with the Florida Marlins and one with the Twins, his average fielding percentage was a solid .983. During those eight seasons, Castillo averaged 139 games at second base producing an average of 34 stolen bases, 164 hits, and 86 runs per season. In that time, he also kept his batting average per season hovering around .300. In 2000, most notably his best offensive output, he batted .334 with 180 hits and 101 runs scored. Castillo also led the National League that year in stolen bases with 62.

In 2003, at the peak of his career, he amassed a 35-game hitting streak and helped the Marlins beat the Yankees to win his second World Series ring with the club. His also has three All-Star Game appearances to go along with his three Gold Gloves.

Going on 34 and starting the second year of his contract as a Met, Castillo is very much a different player. Plagued by nagging injuries, he is unmistakably slower and at times, looks hobbled when attempting to field his position. The burning question when the Mets acquired him then and even now is whether or not he is still healthy.

“We feel that he should be fine going forward,” Minaya said at the time of the signing. “He was one of the guys that we definitely considered.”

But to Mets fans, Castillo is probably the most unpopular player on the ball club. His short time with the organization has been viewed as an overall failure, leading critics to call for a buyout of the rest of his contract.

Castillo in the meantime has re-dedicated himself to off-season training to ensure that he is in top condition for the 2009 season. Minaya reinforced his second baseman’s commitments by saying, “[So far] his weight, body fat and in all things you would want to see, are doing well.”

With the start of this season just around the corner, the veteran Castillo will be one of the players most scrutinized right from the get-go. If he performs out of the box poorly, the front office may not be as patient as they have been in the past. Even with a formidable resume, the perennial contact hitter may find himself searching for another employer if the team does not receive the desired results.

Castillo is all too aware of what’s at stake. “You know how it is here, we know how the fans are when you don’t do well,” he said one day last season after being given the day off.