By Mike Steffanos
... won't be today.
I guess this will be cause for celebration for those fans who somehow became convinced that the veteran second baseman is the Antichrist. As for me, I actually believe a Castillo who is reasonably healthy would benefit this team.
Don't get me wrong. I'm a big fan of Damian Easley -- in a part-time role. I also very much respect the energy and intangibles that Argenis Reyes brings to the table. But look at the numbers:
Easley doesn't even have much of an advantage in slugging %, which is the one offensive area I would expect him to be an upgrade over Castillo. Moreover, while Castillo's defensive range is down considerably from his heyday, Easley doesn't cover much ground either.
Reyes is by far the best defensive 2B of this group, but his offensive numbers are a throwback to what we expected from starting infielders in the seventies and eighties. That just doesn't cut it in the offensive game of today.
He doesn't get on base enough for a table setter, and he doesn't hit for any power at all. He's been a nice story, but to my mind the jury is still decidedly out on his viability as even a backup player in the majors -- particularly since he doesn't appear to play shortstop. A limited offensive infielder with only one real position is a tough guy to fit onto a 25-man roster.
I find the chemistry argument compelling to a point, but I think the run of success is much more to do with starting pitching than any contribution from Easley or Reyes. And again, Easley makes the bench better while Reyes, if demoted, will be back September 1. Moreover, his fellow players liked Castillo.
Some, such as the New York Post's Larry Brooks, try to make an illogical point that because the Mets' record was worse when Castillo was playing that this somehow Castillo's fault. It reminds me of when Tim Marchman used the Pythagorean Win-Loss metric to make a case against Willie Randolph when a closer look revealed it be actually make a case in favor of the departed skipper.
Castillo's numbers in September 2007 were very good. If everyone else on the roster performed that well the season would have continued into October. As for this year, I suspect Delgado's hitting woes impacted the Mets more earlier this year than Castillo's.
If Luis was truly the clubhouse cancer and malcontent that some fans, bloggers and media types have allowed themselves to be convinced that he is, I doubt very much a true winner like Johan Santana would have thought as much of him as he does. Unfortunately for Castillo, when he does return there are going to be a lot of folks looking to jump on every personal or team failure as "proof" that the team is better off without him. I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
If he comes back and is obviously not physically ready to play and the Mets continue to roll him out there I will criticize them for that. If, on the other hand, he comes back and performs to his capabilities the Mets will be a better team and I, for one, will be very happy.