Some players just have a team’s number or take their game to a higher level when playing in some cities. For years, Luis Castillo had the Mets’ number and loved playing at Shea Stadium in Queens. Castillo was a pain to the Mets, slapping base hits in the spacious outfield at Shea and running wild on the base paths against arms of Met catchers Mike Piazza, Vance Wilson and Jason Phillips.
Castillo had a 32-game hitting streak at Shea Stadium, the longest such streak in the 44-year history of the ballpark which began on September 2, 2001 as a member of the Florida Marlins. The streak was snapped on June 18, 2007 while with the Minnesota Twins. Castillo hit .293 (67-229) with five doubles, three triples, one home run and 17 RBIs in 61 career games at Shea Stadium.
However, since his return to Shea in 2007, he still is a pain — this time wearing the number 1 on the back of a Mets jersey.
Castillo came to the Mets from the Twins on July 30, 2007 just before the trade deadline. Castillo was needed after injuries sidelined both Jose Valentin and Damion Easley. Rookie Ruben Gotay proved he could handle major league pitching, but was a little leaguer playing second base.
Castillo hit .296 in 50 games with his new club who went 25-25 with their new second baseman and 28-28 overall down the stretch. With a seven-game lead on September 12, the Mets suffered a historic collapse by losing 12 of their last 17 games.
On the final day of 2007 season the Mets faced the Florida Marlins with hopes of winning the NL East or at least forcing a one-game playoff. Unfortunately, Tom Glavine surrendered 7 runs in the first inning as the Mets fell 8-1. It is regarded as one of the worst collapses in MLB history. The Metropolitans finished in second place with a record of 88-74, missing the playoffs.
In the off season, Mets GM Omar Minaya signed Castillo to a new contract ($24 million for 4 years) after the 2008 season, despite the 32-year old required surgery on both knees.
Luis Castillo appeared in 87 games in an injury-riddled year for the veteran second baseman in the 2008 season. When Castillo went down in late June, the Mets used a rotisserie of replacements which included Damion Easley, Argenis Reyes, Ramon Martinez and Marlon Anderson at second. The Mets went 50-25 with the rotisserie and had their best run of the season going 36-19 in July and August.
When Castillo returned from disabled list in September, the Mets finished 13-12 for the month and 6-9 when Castillo’s name was written on the lineup card. The Amazin’s lost once again on the final day of the season to the Florida Marlins 4-2, at the last game at Shea Stadium.
The Mets finished the 2008 season with 89-73 record missing the playoffs by one game. The Mets record was 40-47 when Castillo stood at the plate slapping at pitches and couldn’t run down grounders in the hole.
Castillo was greeted on sports talk radio, newspapers and fan blog sites with votes of non-confidence during the off season. Mets fans hope that the team cut ties with Castillo in favor of free agent Orlando Hudson. After building a new ballpark and the Madoff scandal, the Mets organization was obviously scrapped for cash. After years of signing players like Mo Vaughn, Roger Cedeno, Kaz Matsui and Pedro Martinez, management refused to eat another bad contract.
On Opening Day at Citi field in 2009, Luis Castillo was jeered by the Flushing Faithful.
In the Subway Series against the New York Yankees on June 12th, Castillo experienced problems catching a pop-up fly ball. The ball, hit by Alex Rodriguez, was dropped by Castillo, which allowed both the tying and winning runs to score, thus giving the Yankees a 9-8 win at the new Yankee Stadium. For the remainder of season, Met fans gave Luis a standing ovation in jest when caught a pop fly at Citi Field.
On August 4, Castillo grounded out leading off the seventh in a game against the St. Louis Cardinals. Castillo sprained left ankle after he slipped and fell in the dugout on his way back to the bench. Castillo had to be carried to the clubhouse by teammates.
Castillo appeared in 142 games for the Mets in 2009 hitting .302. The Mets went 62-80 in those games. Their overall record was 70-92 in a dismal season filled with injuries of their core players.
Cold, Hard Facts
The Mets were the best team in the National league in 2006, just a swing away from going to the World Series. Many experts predicted they would be the team to beat in 2007. In the two plus seasons since Luis Castillo arrival in Flushing, the have had two September collapses and a season that no other team had seen before. At one point during the 2009 season, the Mets had 13 players on the DL for the Mets whose combined salaries were $88,908,821. That would rank 13th in MLB salary rankings ahead of St. Louis at $87,703,409.
The Mets overall record is 187-193 since the Luis Castillo acquisition on July 30, 2007 and 127-152 with him playing second base. Luis Castillo is the jinx, curse and to blame for the collapse of the Mets. Maybe it’s time already to eat another contract.