Castillo Wants Second Chance

Through Joel Sherman’s column at the New York Post today, it has been learned that Luis Castillo wants a second chance to earn his keep and win over the fans of Flushing. (Hat tip to Isuzudude!) From the article:

His agents were so concerned that he had become unviable in New York that Seth Levinson, Sam Levinson, Keith Miller and Peter Pedalino called him into an October meeting in their Brooklyn Heights office to begin plotting an exit strategy. Except during the four-hour meeting, the agents were shocked to learn their client did not want a fresh start elsewhere.

Further, Castillo met personally with Omar Minaya to request that the team keep him through the winter.

“He wanted to let the front office know that he was disappointed in how the year went, and promise to do everything he could to get in shape and be the kind of player he had been for 10 years,” Minaya said.

Now, we know that every offseason breeds plenty of aging ballplayers who talk about getting in shape and making a comeback, returning strong, etc. (Bret Boone, anyone?). But usually, it is a free agent on the market who is spouting off through their agent in an attempt to create some demand for his services. We’ve heard the story before, right?

But in this case, we have a player who has no financial motive to redeem himself — Luis Castillo is getting his $18M no matter what. Further, we have a man who is doing the unthinkable — he’s ASKING for an opportunity to win over New York fans who would prefer to see him underneath the Shea Stadium rubble. Rational, sensitive, intelligent people do not plead for this scenario — they flee from it. It’s not a secret that the Mets are trying to move the veteran second baseman out of New York, in part because the fans want him gone.

“As New Yorkers, we all know that when the fans latch on to a scapegoat, they don’t let go until their prey is dead,” Seth Levinson (Castillo’s agent) said. “Louie absolutely understands that the climb to the top of the second-chance mountain will be long and difficult.”

The fact that Luis is manning up to his awful 2008, and begging for the impossible challenge of turning legions of boo-birds into supporters, is either remarkably stupid or incredibly brave. Maybe it’s both.

Already, Castillo has shed some of the extra pounds he was carrying since last spring, and is taking advantage of the resources available to him to get in shape.

The Mets’ head trainer, Ray Ramirez, has been overseeing Castillo’s offseason regimen.

“[So far] his weight, body fat and in all things you would want to see, Mr. Castillo is doing well,” Minaya said.

In addition, Castillo plans to play winter ball for the first time in years, as a means of re-finding his hitting stroke and formerly Gold-Glove defense.

Whether this new attitude and commitment to excellence results in an All-Star campaign is anyone’s guess. Regardless of how driven Castillo is, he can’t reverse the aging process (not legally, anyway) and his knees will never be the same. And there’s still a very good chance that he won’t have his “comeback year” in the orange and blue — certainly the Mets will try to trade him, after they address the more glaring needs on the pitching staff. But it is commendable to hear that Luis Castillo is determined to the opposite of what would seem to be the best plan, and prove to both himself and the New York fans that he can still play baseball at the highest level, and do it well.

Good luck, Luis. It sure would be nice to have one less question mark in 2009.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. isuzudude November 21, 2008 at 4:34 pm
    For all we know this could be nothing more than a PR stunt to try to gain more interest in Castillo on the trade front. Castillo very well could be gunning for a comeback season in 2009, but his gimpy knees and fragile body will seemingly always impede whatever progress he tries to make. And when the paychecks from his $18-mil contract keep rolling in, I can’t imagine Castillo’s motivation will remain as optimistic as it is now. The biggest problem is finding a team willing to inherit an $18-mil, slap-hitting, constantly injured second baseman for the next 3 years. This may be a dilemma Omar has no escape plan for, and can only hope Castillo is serious about rededicating himself to the game – because it’s looking more and more like he’s going to be a Met until the 2011 season is over.
  2. joe November 21, 2008 at 4:44 pm
    It could be a PR stunt — it makes a lot of sense. We’ll know for sure when the Caribbean league gets going. If Castillo is playing, and he’s looking svelte and nimble, then he may be serious.

    As someone who is quickly nearing forty, I wonder if Luis just didn’t understand how much harder one has to work as one gets older. When you’re 25, 26, things come a lot easier, weight goes away more quickly, injuries are mere annoyances. After 30, everything gets harder — but you don’t realize it until you experience it.

    I may be hoping against hope, but I’m hoping like heck Castillo is sincere. He doesn’t have to be an All-Star, but just get on base around 35-36% of the time and play passable defense. If he loses 15 pounds and truly works on his quickness, some of his range will return and the injuries won’t be as common. That’s all the Mets need from second base.

    I’m wondering how Julio Lugo will affect Castillo. Meaning, if the Bosox dump him for D-Train, as has been rumored, does that mean there’s even less of a market for Luis?

  3. isuzudude November 21, 2008 at 4:50 pm
    What if the Mets trade Castillo to Detroit for Willis and convert Dontrelle into an OF? I’d be willing to bet Dontrelle hits more homers in a single season than Castillo will hit over the duration of his 4-year contract. Too bad the Tigers have no need for a 2B…
  4. joe November 21, 2008 at 4:53 pm
    Better yet, how about we move Luis Castillo to the bullpen?
  5. isuzudude November 21, 2008 at 5:49 pm
    Can he switch-pitch?