Mets release Luis Castillo still owing him $6 million

David Brown
Big League Stew

One moment, Luis Castillo could find his name written into the lineup for the New York Mets' Grapefruit League game set for Friday afternoon.

The next moment, the club announced it was releasing Castillo, who had $6 million guaranteed remaining on his contract.

They essentially are paying him to scram. writes that Brad Emaus, Daniel Murphy, Luis Hernandez and Justin Turner are the remaining competitors for the second base job.

Castillo, 35, spent three-plus seasons with the Mets, and most of the time seemed to be unhappy ones. They were marked by extensive injuries and below-average performances offensively and defensively. Performances that also were well-below standards Castillo, a three-time Gold Glove winner, had set.

Even worse, the Mets' overall performance has declined since Castillo's arrival during the 2007 season. He has been viewed as a $25 million symbol — and sometimes a symptom — of the club's problems.

Anthony DiComo writes that Mets general manager Sandy Alderson, using a form of legalese, admitted that Castillo being unpopular among fans factored into the decision to cut him:

"I don't think there's any question that there was some linkage between his situation and a perception of the Mets that has existed to this point," Alderson said. "That's something that was taken into account. At some point, you have to make an organizational decision, and it goes beyond just an ability to play or not play. Those things are relevant."

Andy Martino of the New York Daily News asks if something beyond Castillo's performance, along with his inability to get or stay healthy and a perceived bad attitude, fed into fans' apparent dislike for him.

Does Castillo being black and from the Dominican Republic have anything to do with the amount of hate? {YSP:MORE}

Martino credits Castillo for being "one of the toughest and most passionate Mets," yet says fans, like the ones who booed him opening day at Citi Field, saw something else.

Castillo wouldn't bite on race after he was asked, but Martino quoted a friend of his:

"Yeah, sometimes that is tough," the friend, a fellow Hispanic in baseball, said about Castillo's experience. "But it's harder to say that's the main issue with Castillo, because he hasn't performed. If you had that same mistreatment of a guy that was performing really well, then it would be more obvious."

Jose Reyes and Angel Pagan have played well as Mets, and have not faced the same anger. People who root for a team value production, above all other qualities, and have unleashed negativity on many white players in the past. But are nonwhite players more vulnerable to being labeled lazy malcontents, and less likely to be called "gamers?" Must they work harder to receive credit for positive contributions to the team?

Martino asks a fascinating question, one that is sure to be disliked about as much as Castillo was in New York.

Castillo hit .235/.337/.267 (a .267 slugging percentage!)  in 2010. He was hitting .286 in 28 spring at-bats, but reportedly had played poorly in the field and was even called into new manager Terry Collins' office and reprimanded for "sullen behavior," whatever that means.

All of that alone gives fans enough to get upset about. Of course, if you ask fans who thoroughly disliked Castillo how much race and ethnicity had to do with it, hardly anyone would admit to being racist.

So, does Martino's question do anything other than stir the pot? Probably not.

But try to get your head around this anyway: If the Mets admit that the fans' perception of Castillo had something to do with the team releasing him, and if you buy that some of the perception is racist in nature, does that make the Mets' action racist?

Follow Dave throughout spring training on Twitter — @AnswerDave — and check out the Stew on Facebook for more coverage.

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