Friday, March 18, 2011

Mets to Blame for Hatred of Luis Castillo

The main component of most Met fans' dislike for Luis Castillo was not his contract, his incompetence, the dropped popup against the Yankees, and certainly not racism, as one sportswriter suggests. It was the fact that the Mets refused to release him until now.

The Mets have had many lousy performances and lousy decisions over the last couple of years. On Opening Day a year ago, Mike Jacobs and Gary Matthews Jr. were both in the starting lineup. Jacobs even batted cleanup. Jacobs started six of the first 12 games before getting released. Matthews also started six of the first 12.

Imagine if the Mets had decided to keep Jacobs and Matthews around, especially if it meant that Ike Davis would remain in the minors and Angel Pagan would be sent to the bench, which was the case in some games in early April last year. Jacobs and Matthews would be blamed for standing in the way of better players, of preventing the Mets from building toward a better future. They would be getting the same vilification that Castillo and Perez have received. Instead, they are largely forgotten, because the Mets got rid of before they could become symbols of front-office ineptitude.

As it was, the Mets kept Frank Catalanotto around until May and Matthews until June, even when it was clear that they were just taking up roster space. Jacobs, Matthews and Catalanotto have not played in the majors since being cut by the Mets. Catalanotto recently retired.

Keeping players who are unable to find jobs with other teams on your roster tells the fans that you are unconcerned about fielding the best possible team. Except for Davis, it's not as if replacements such as Jesus Feliciano or Chris Carter substantially improved the Mets. But they gave the team and the fans hope, if only briefly, that at least someone was trying to make things better.

Worst of all is when these players are kept around because of a lack of understanding of the concept of sunk costs. The Angels were willing to eat $21 million of Matthews' salary, a good move as it turned out since he now isn't worth anything. Yet Omar Minaya was willing to take on Matthews in the misguided belief that he still had value, just as Minaya signed Gary Sheffield the year before after the Tigers ate $14 million of Sheffield's salary.

Finally, the Mets are the kind of team that gets rid of these players rather than take them on. At least they are today. Let's hope they continue to be that kind of team when it's time to deal with Oliver Perez.

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