Luis Castillo released by New York Mets on Friday was just the beginning. General Manager Sandy Alderson on Monday made the inevitable announcement and pitcher Oliver Perez followed Castillo out the door.
And with the exception of that championship run in 2006, Perez with the huge three-year $36 million contract, granted from then GM Omar Minaya, was a huge bust. The control was gone, velocity of the fastball did not exist and Perez became an albatross to an organization obviously in the revamping process.
Simply put “Ollie”, as he was known worked his way out the door. That last game of the season at Citi Field in early October should have been the determining factor. Perez came out of the bullpen in an extra inning and meaningless game. No control then that gave the Washington Nationals a win for the winter.
Except Perez remained as the transition to a new GM and manager started, and for whatever reason, possibly because Perez had that contract, Alderson gave him a chance in spring games. Then down in Port St. Lucie Saturday he gave up back-to back home runs to two Washington National career minor leaguers.
Said Alderson, different from what was said when Castillo was released, “As I said during the winter our plan was to bring Oliver to spring training and give him a chance. After trying him as a starter and out of the bullpen, we felt that we needed to move in a different direction.”
The right direction because, no different from the Castillo situation, Perez would have heard a resounding amount of boos when the team comes home for their home opener at Citi Field against the Nationals on Friday afternoon April 9th.
Ownership, similar to the Castillo situation approved the decision even as they struggle with financial issues and owe Perez the remaining $12 million of a three-year contract that Perez signed in 2009. Last season Perez went 0-5 with a 6.80 ERA after going 3-4 with a 6.82 ERA the year before. Perez commented before he left the Mets spring training complex, “They have me the opportunity. They were fair to me.” He said the team gave him the opportunity, “and I didn’t do anything great.”
Well at least Perez admits he was not great. The contract was not deserved and Minaya may have made him one of his reclamation projects as Perez showed he had something in 2006. And Minaya could not get the big guys that were available for free agency including CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett who went cross-town to the Yankees.
Perez had tow stints on the disabled list and made things worse by refusing to take a minor league assignment in attempts to get back to form. “Ollie made every effort,” commented Alderson. Yeah but not enough to earn him at least a role out of the bullpen and those in the know have said that Perez believed he was a starter and not one to come out of the pen.
So for now, the Mets have relieved themselves of two headaches with Castillo and Perez gone. In the end payroll flexibility can still be an issue with the financial issues of ownership as the team continues this revamping process.
Acquired by the Mets from the Minnesota Twins on July 30, 2007, for two minor leaguers, Castillo was to then GM Omar Minaya a perfect fit for a team that had playoff aspirations. A perfect fit at second base, a position now in baseball that has become known more for a good glove rather than production at the plate.
Though Castillo had the ability to get on base and drive in runs. That is, until he came to New York during the Minaya regime. He arrived in New York at a time when the Mets did not spend their money correctly and Castillo became an abomination, a cancer in the clubhouse and on the field.
So now the Mets eat the remaining $6 million of his salary, another loss of money not wisely spent during the Minaya regime. Castillo is also saved from hearing boos of fans at Citi Field, though that never seemed to bother him. There was a time last season when Castillo was asked if the fans got to him?
“I just play the game,” he would say in the Mets clubhouse at Citi Field. And he had little to say about the blunder that never disappeared, a ninth inning dropped ball at second in 2009 at Yankee Stadium. Alex Rodriguez hit a pop up allowing Mark Teixeira to score the winning run, and the cross-town Yankees stole a win from the Mets. Closer Francisco Rodriguez showed his frustration on the mound.
That play will always be the legacy of Castillo in a Mets uniform. Outside Yankee Stadium that Friday evening, even Yankee fans would sympathize with a Mets fan. But the Mets fan would never forgive Castillo and Alderson, the new sheriff in town, had to take the fans into consideration when making the decision.
The GM commented, “Don’t think there’s any question that there’s some linkage between the situation and a perception of the Mets that has existed at this point.” He added, “It is something taken into account.”
And if it were not for the contract, four-years and $25 million, perhaps the release would have come sooner. The 35-year old Castillo batted .235, with no homers and 17 RBI in 247 at bats last season. Limited playing time for a lack of production, and his work ethic at times may have been questioned.
Castillo said Friday he was not given a chance to compete for the second base job this spring. The Mets were obviously going in another direction and last season used a combination of players at the position while Castillo and his salary sat on the bench.
It was an acquisition that came to late for the New York Mets. But Minaya made those mistakes and at times was questioned, which ultimately cost his job along with other failures. At one time Castillo was that quality player with a .299 career average over 13 major league seasons, 194 doubles, 59 triples, 28 home runs, 443 RBI, and 370 stolen bases.
It just did not work for him in New York, perhaps extending his stay. And Castillo had his chance. It was his job at second, and he blew it by slacking at times and not giving that proper explanation to Mets fans after that disastrous dropped ball against the Yankees.
“Its baseball,” he would say in the visitor’s clubhouse that night at Yankee Stadium. Yeah, but this is New York and fans expect more from a $25 million dollar player. They expected a better and more valid explanation. They never got it.
Two less player decisions now for Alderson and new manager Terry Collins as the Mets put the finishing touches on this spring and get ready for 2011. Second base is still up for grabs with Luis Hernandez as the leading candidate to take over. But count on this, Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo won’t be there.
e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted under Albatross, Bullpen, Fastball, Friday Afternoon, Home Opener, Home Runs, Last Game, Luis Castillo, Meaningless Game, National Career, New York Mets, Oliver Perez, Ollie, Omar Minaya, Rich Mancuso, Sandy Alderson, Spring Games, Spring Training, Top Story, Washington Nationals
This post was written by Rich Mancuso on March 23, 2011