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Andy Martino asks: Was Luis Castillo hate a racial thing?

Mar 18, 2011, 12:05 PM EDT


You can’t really win when it comes to talking about race on the record.  Even if there’s something to a charge of racism it’s always denied. Denied so often that, if you take people’s word for it, you’d have to conclude that there are no racists in this country anymore, the last of their kind having died sometime in the 1970s. Indeed, there is way more indignation voiced these days by those who claim they are wrongly accused of racism than by actual targets of racism who, you know, have good damn reason to be indignant.

Of course, this goes both ways.  Race is frequently erroneously brought up when there are multiple better explanations for one’s allegedly shabby treatment.  It’s a dangerous world out there for those people who are inclined to call a jerk a jerk because — if the races of the jerk and the one calling him a jerk don’t match up — there’s always the threat of a bogus accusation. Which then leads back to the dynamic from the previous paragraph.  And it’s always the worst when a genuine racist and a person who has cried wolf before disagree about something. Which is a big reason I don’t watch any cable news.

The point here isn’t to figure out racial politics. It’s to note that, when someone throws out racism as a potential explanation for something, it’s almost 100% certain that we’ll quickly end up talking about something other than the actual incident in question.  It’s something that I’m guessing Andy Martino of the Daily News will soon be quite conversant with following his exploration of why Mets fans seemed to hate Luis Castillo so much:

But what is it, exactly? Why is one of the toughest and most passionate Mets so unpopular among fans? Asked if the issue was about race, Castillo, who is Dominican, shrugged and wondered why the public did not appreciate his willingness to play through intense foot and leg pain … Castillo, reluctant like most players to wander into a subject fraught with controversy and misinterpretation, chose not to discuss race. A friend of his only partially accepted the premise that Castillo’s troubles were related to his skin color and heritage.

For Martino’s part, he never accuses anyone of racism, but notes that nonwhite players tend to be called lazy more often than white ones are, notes the divide between Hispanic and non-Hispanics in the Mets clubhouse in recent years and recalls how much criticism Omar Minaya took for seeming to favor Hispanic players when it came time to fill out the roster.

And Martino isn’t wrong to make those observations. Quite right actually, at least in the abstract.  But just as everyone will acknowledge that the concept of racism exists in general while never admitting to being a racist themselves, no one will ever acknowledge that Luis Castillo was hated because of race even if they admit that there are clear dynamics in sports that cause us to evaluate and talk about players of color in ways we never evaluate or talk about white players. Especially on recent editions of the New York Mets.

In other words: this inquiry will probably get us nowhere. And Martino will probably find himself on the defensive before sundown, with everyone talking around this issue as opposed to about it.

  1. nps6724 - Mar 18, 2011 at 12:33 PM

    Maybe because in 3.5 years as a Met, he’s had only 1.5 good seasons and he’s been injured the majority of the time.

    • toomanycookiejars - Mar 18, 2011 at 12:41 PM

      I would agree with NPS, aswell perhaps if he didn’t drop that pop up to the yankees or hit into a double play every other at bat I’d feel for him. Overpaid by Minaya, come on Castillo, you can bet Ollie will be there with you in a few days

      • jwbiii - Mar 18, 2011 at 3:58 PM

        Castillo “hit into a double play every other at bat”

        At first glance, Davis, Wright, Pagan, Reyes, Thole, Bay, and Francoeur all grounded into more double plays. I thought that your comment might have been a small sample size relic: You were at a few games at ShCiti Field and Castillo bounced into a few memorably inopportune double plays, like that memorably inopportune dropped pop-up.

        If this was the only baseball game I had ever seen, I might have thought that Shawon Dunston had the plate discipline of Rickey Henderson and that Hector Villanueva* was the second coming of Johnny Bench.

        But no, you are correct. GDP/PA with runners at first and less than 2 out:

        .157 Thole
        .133 Castillo
        .112 Davis
        .108 Beltran
        .105 Cora
        .099 Reyes
        .098 Wright
        .092 Mets average
        .085 Pagan
        .085 Bay
        .068 Francoeur
        .067 Barajas

        Good call! And lookie: Something Jeff Francoeur was good at!

        *Villanueva had flown in about a dozen family members from Puerto Rico. It was the first time they saw him play in an MLB game and he was the hero. Imagine having your best day the first time your mom and dad and your sisters and your cousins which you reckon up by dozens and your aunts get to see you play in The Show. How cool is that?

      • cur68 - Mar 18, 2011 at 4:34 PM

        jwbiii; Nice. An above par anecdote, a brilliant stat line and a shot at Frenchy all on one post. The trifecta. I am golf clapping.

    • Dan in Katonah - Mar 18, 2011 at 1:35 PM

      His runnig flail bunt attempts on strikes one and two every at bat don’t help either. You perform, you get love. You don’t, and you get booed. That is just the way it is and for the vast majority you can be any color in the rainbow and it won’t make a bit of difference.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Mar 18, 2011 at 1:43 PM

      You could say the same about Jose Reyes on a slightly longer scale. I don’t know what that means, since he is also a dark skinned Dominican though.

  2. lardin - Mar 18, 2011 at 12:49 PM

    I am listening to WFAN in NYC, they are talking about how its not one thing why Met fans have it in for Castillo.
    THe stated reasons.
    1. He played well for the Marlins and has been a waste of money since he came to Queens.
    2. He cost the Mets the opportunity to get Orlando Cabrerra or David Eckstein.
    3. He dropped the pop up against the Yankees
    4. He is seen(with Ollie Perez) as the face of the recent collapses.

    All are valid reasons for Mets fans not to like Casitllo. Except #3, players make mistakes, but some fans dont forget so easilly

  3. Chris Fiorentino - Mar 18, 2011 at 12:51 PM

    Did I miss something…is Carlos Beltran white? Jose Reyes? Don’t the Mutt fans love those two? Look, Castillo sucked for the Mutts and looked downright lazy at times. He was handed a crappy 4 year contract that everyone said was stupid at the time and it lived up to its billing. Anyone looking to race to say that Luis Castillo was unjustly hated is, quite frankly, an idiot.

    • sdelmonte - Mar 18, 2011 at 1:11 PM

      A lot of fans seem to not like Beltran.

      • Dan in Katonah - Mar 18, 2011 at 1:37 PM

        Beltran is more of a case of disappointment due to injury. If he were healthy and producing, no problem. I have even forgiven him for the called third strike to end game 7 of the NCLS. Almost.

    • belichickee - Mar 18, 2011 at 1:14 PM

      Um no, Reyes and Beltran are most definitely not loved by Mets fans. It is hard to say whether race or the fact that these players seem to be the most injured is the root cause of the disdain I see the fans display for these three players, but to rule out race altogether is also quite idiotic.

      • mrhojorisin - Mar 18, 2011 at 4:36 PM

        I think you’re way off base. Most Mets fans I know are Reyes fans, and he’s my favorite Met by far. I fear for the day when he might leave… which could be as early as next winter.

  4. sportsdrenched - Mar 18, 2011 at 12:58 PM

    That’s the interesting this about the Race Card. Half the time I don’t even know the race of someone involved until…someone throws the race card.

    Seems to me we’d go a lot further in race relations if we could just do away with the race card.

  5. cur68 - Mar 18, 2011 at 1:18 PM

    Uh…can I call him scrappy or not? I feel I must, cause I’ve never seen him as graceful or with good instincts.

  6. uyf1950 - Mar 18, 2011 at 1:22 PM

    Playing devil’s advocate. Why is it the race card only works one way. Why isn’t or doesn’t Castillo’s “friend” insinuate that “race” played a hand in his signing by Minaya. There are 2 sides to every coin.

    • Craig Calcaterra - Mar 18, 2011 at 1:28 PM

      Well, for that matter, why don’t people who complain about “the race card” ever acknowledge that there is, in fact, racism still going on in the world?

      By calling suggestions of racism “the race card” one necessarily de-legitimizes any and all claims of racism.

      How about this: we categorize claims of racism as either (a) legitimate; (b) illegitimate; or (c) unknown based on our ignorance of the actual facts on the ground?

      I’m guessing 90% of all instances would fit in category (c), and we’d have far less talk about “the race card.”

      • belichickee - Mar 18, 2011 at 1:30 PM

        Spot on, Craig!

      • uyf1950 - Mar 18, 2011 at 2:00 PM

        Craig – I’m guessing the percentage for “c” would even be higher then 90%.

      • nps6724 - Mar 18, 2011 at 2:04 PM

        The problem is seemingly every time a minority is criticized or fired/released/cut, someone inevitably asks “Was it a racist decision??” Color the guy white and the same criticisms are suddenly valid. IMO it’s nothing more than a hack writer’s way of easily finding a story for the day instead of doing any real work.

        I wonder how it would go over if a GM came out and said he was going to construct a heavily white roster. I imagine not nearly as well as Minaya’s.

      • Chris Fiorentino - Mar 18, 2011 at 2:26 PM

        Craig, there is PLENTY of racism going on in the world. However, when an idiot like Andy Martino blames race on the fact that Luis Castillo was not well liked by Mutts fans, he does a disservice to whatever true racism exists. Did some people not like Castillo because of his race? Absolutely. Just as some people don’t like Obama. And some people didn’t like Bush. And some people don’t like YOU. They are just inherent racists!! White or black, they don’t like people who aren’t their own race. Happens EVERYWHERE in EVERY country on the planet. They are 0.01% of the world’s population. If you want to blame them for everything that happens in the world, then you are being very short-sighted.

        I’m all for beating up on racists. I’m all for firing people like Imus when they say stupid things. But to denigrate a whole population of people, even though they are Mutt fans, pisses me off not only for them, but for those people who truly are discriminated against.

      • stuckonwords - Mar 18, 2011 at 4:46 PM

        You’re right, Craig. But in saying this, aren’t you de-legitimizing uyf1950’s point? He’s suggesting that it’s just as fair to say that Castillo may have gotten his contract from Minaya at least partly do to racial favoritism, as well. While what you’re saying undoubtedly holds some truth, uyf1950’s point deserves just as much presence in the conversation.

  7. paperlions - Mar 18, 2011 at 1:39 PM

    Wasn’t a segment of the fans and NY media blaming David Wright for many of the Mets woes as recently as last year, suggesting that it was time to trade him?

    • davebrownspiral - Mar 18, 2011 at 1:51 PM

      It was either Castillo’s race or overall crappyness that caused Mets fans to turn on him. I’m going with the latter. The “race card” is always thrown out there by people with agendas and/or as an excuse for failure for groups of people or individuals who don’t want to accept responsibility for their actions and behavior. The race card is tiresome and weak. The leader of the free world is African American. Enough with the racist crap. Somebody is always going to hate individuals or people because of something albeit you’re Irish, black, hispanic, white, from the south, you’re a liberal, you’re a conservative, the way you style your hair, etc. Some people just hate; stop crying about it. Castillo was overpaid and he sucked, (which is the defining theme of the Mets team), that’s why he was despised. I don’t know of one Mets fan that likes any player on the team. Jason Bay was booed and the target of ridicule from Mets fans last year last year? Was that racist? No, he just sucked, just like Mr. Castillo.

  8. sdelmonte - Mar 18, 2011 at 1:50 PM

    It’s a complicated question. On the one hand, a lot of the trouble spots in Flushing came from players who happen to be Latino. The disdain for K-Rod, Minaya, and Perez was deserved. That disdain would surely be there if their names were Jones, McCoy and Van Slyke.

    On the other hand, a lot of fans seemed to resent the Mets’ (IMO intelligent) efforts to draw a bigger Latino audience, and some of those fans no doubt believed that if Minaya had not pursued a “Latinos first” policy, things would be better.

    There is of course no way to be sure what Castillo’s detractors (aside from the openly racist) think. But Jason Bay could be a good test case if he continues to underproduce. If the same vitriol comes his way, the fans are just angry at yet another waste of money and space. If not, it might indicate something we don’t want to admit.

  9. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Mar 18, 2011 at 1:51 PM

    Mets fans don’t seem to like anyone on the team, regardless of race. Castillo can be lumped in with Reyes, Beltran, Santana and Bay as guys who are hurt too much. Wright has the audacity to not hit 40HR every year. Pagan and Davis are not disliked, but regarded with a great deal of skepticism. Mets fans also hated on Delgado, Glavine, Kaz, LoDuca and others.

    So you see, Mets fans hate for their players is completely independent of race, ability or rationale.

    • cur68 - Mar 18, 2011 at 2:01 PM

      So what you’re saying is that Mets fans are even handed with the hate? I like it. I now view them as a collective Clint Eastwood with a shot gun from Grand Torino; “Alla you ballplayers; get offa my lawn!”

  10. nygf - Mar 18, 2011 at 2:14 PM

    Alright, I have to weigh in here. First, the offending author, Martino, is an insufferable prick who doesn’t like the Mets and it shows in his NYDaily pieces. He replaced the far superior Adam Rubin, who now works for ESPN and left after he was called out by Minaya for no reason other than a blatant display of ass covering in the midst of yet another embarassing scandal. The quality of NY sports journalism has declined in recent years with the growing popularity of online editions and getting “hits”. Whether or not Martino actually believes all the jurors in To Kill a Mockingbird were wearing Mets hats I’m not sure. But a lot of people sure read his article today with that headline

    Second, Mets fans who blog the Daily News site where the article first came out are up in arms about this and are calling the last straw for Martino. A broad, sweeping accusation/generalization is a root cause for racism to begin with, no? .

    Third, the issue at hand: the sentiments towards Castillo. I am one of the Mets fans who don’t like him. Aside from the obvious reasons, some of them have been listed above, I’ll provide some less obvious ones. Yes, he hit .302 in 2009, a lost year (the VAST amjority of his hits were singles, he had about a dozen doubles), but couldn’t hit water falling out of a boat the year before, 2008, a year we missed the playoffs by a game. The biggest thing, though, stems from the general frustration with the ownership. They tell profound bold face lies and act like they really think their fans are dumb enough to believe them (case in point: Oliver Perez is still in camp, theyre trying to pass it off like he still has something left to contibute when everyone knows theyre too proud [for whatever reason] to admit they were dead wrong and eat the rest of the money). Castillo had another albatross contract that had one year left. Since we are basically conceding this year before it begins, why not see what some of the younger guys have rather than waste more time on a guy who isn’t in the long term plans and will be able to provide in a BEST CASE scenario a line of .280-1-45-15?

    Hope that helps.

  11. atlsp - Mar 18, 2011 at 2:38 PM

    Racephooey. Mets fans hate on Castillo because of his contract. Minaya gave him that outrageous 4yr/$25m deal that only inflated the already overreaching expectations of Mets fans. If David Murphy had been putting up those same numbers and making those same plays at 2B do you think he’d receive the vileness that Castillo has? No. And it wouldn’t be because Murphy is white and Castillo is Hispanic, it would be because Castillo makes $6m/yr while Murphy makes $400k/yr.

    But as a Braves fan I thoroughly enjoyed the Luis Castillo era in Flushing…

    • ralphdibny - Mar 18, 2011 at 3:23 PM

      I’ve always felt a little bad for Castillo and Juan Pierre. It’s not their fault that so many people overvalued them after they kicked the Yankees asses in the 2003 WS. That brief moment in the sun got both of them reputations that they didn’t deserve. Castillo was slightly better than average with the bat at his peak, and then he got old.

      Mets fans should save their anger for a front office that would sign a 30 year old former Marlins second baseman to a four year contract. (What’s that you say? The Braves just signed a 30 year old Marlins second baseman to a five year contract? Well, I’m sure that will work out completely differently.)

  12. jstrizzle - Mar 18, 2011 at 3:25 PM

    As a baseball fan I am not color blind. In fact, I hate both Colors and Whites. It all really depends on what color the opposing team is wearing that day. Overall, I have always liked players on my team. Minus Nick Punto and AJ Pierzynski

  13. aronmantoo - Mar 18, 2011 at 4:02 PM

    Give me a break, Racial thing? I think it was more of a “stick a fork in him he’s done thing”

  14. jamie54 - Mar 18, 2011 at 4:36 PM

    Got old, got hurt, got paid over $50 million in his career. Don’t care.

  15. uuddlrlrbastart - Mar 18, 2011 at 6:46 PM

    I don’t think Met fans really hate Castillo at all. Yes, some of the boos were directed specifically at him, especially in the wake of the dropped ball. But for the most part, every time a Met fan complained about him or booed him, they were booing Minaya and they were booing the contract. The current options at second probably aren’t significantly better, but they’re all younger, they all have much more potential (well, not Luis Hernandez, he should follow Castillo out the door), and whoever wins it is probably at least going to be on the team in 2012.

    Now if we can just get rid of Perez…

  16. goforthanddie - Mar 18, 2011 at 6:52 PM

    Of course, any time something bad happens to a non-white person, it’s racial.
    And that is why racism will never die-a guy isn’t worth his position, gets paid 6mil to walk away, and someone has to bring up the race card.

  17. luckywi - Mar 18, 2011 at 7:13 PM

    Hey, another battle worn player sent to the Met’s from the Twins. Unfortunately, the Twins are sticking it to the wrong NY team….

  18. mrznyc - Mar 18, 2011 at 7:15 PM

    I seem to recall Minaya initially going after Delgado with a racial pitch and Delgado being totally offended and signing with Florida. Castillo hasn’t been all that good but this is really about a wrong headed decision by Minaya to make the team about Spanish speaking ball players instead of the best ball players available. Rightly or wrongly, Castillo is now taking the heat intended for Minaya.

  19. macjacmccoy - Mar 18, 2011 at 8:09 PM

    I just find it funny when racism is brought up its only about what white people are doing wrong. Like you said when it comes to people of color getting labeled as lazy and how that never happens to white players. You dont ever hear complaints about white people being considered slow or cant jump or how in football if your white your going to be a tight end or fullback instead of a wr or rb. There are just as many stereotypes about white people and racism towards white people then there are of people of color. And white players do get put in boxes and negatively labeled bc of the color of there skin just like everyone else. Especially when it comes to being labeled a racist. I never here a latino or African American labeled as a racist just white people. I personally think the people that bring up racism are ones people should be looking at as the racists bc a nnormal persons 1st thoughts when something happens isnt does race have something to do with this. Only people that think in racial terms jump to that conclusion. I dunno Im just tired of hearing racism brought up every time something happens to a person of color. Like racism is onyl something that happens in white communities. And even though its a totally different subject the same thing with slavery. Every race has been a slave to another at 1 time its not just something that happened to African Americans. The French and British were slaves to the Romans for hundreds of years. Same goes for the eyptians and arabs. Not to mention Jewish people who have a longer history of being inslaved then any other ethnic group.

    • stevenewatson - Mar 19, 2011 at 8:24 AM

      Obvious point, but I guess it needs to be made. Racism = prejudice + power. White people (sometimes including Jews, sometimes not, as could be said of other ethnicities who are “white”) have generally speaking always had the most power in this particular country and in recent world history, internationally as well.

  20. Jonny 5 - Mar 18, 2011 at 10:12 PM

    Fans and teams usually love players who Excel, or at least earn their pay. When players underperform they get trashed.
    I think asking the question “Is this racism” in a public forum is a weak attempt at getting attention. Not trashing the guy, I just think it’s lame.

  21. mikelifts - Mar 19, 2011 at 10:20 AM

    I am not really sure what race Andy Martino is so if I think he is a hack writer and a tool does that qualify as being racist?

  22. rossesmithii - Mar 19, 2011 at 12:30 PM

    It’s time to become a giants fan again!

  23. fatelvis77 - Mar 19, 2011 at 8:46 PM

    If Luis Pujols played for the Metsies he’d be adored as a demigod. Unless, of course, for his $30M he hit .272 with 17 hrs and 76 rbis. In that case he’d be booed far more viciously than Castillo ever was. Castillo stunk. So did Kaz Matsui, Jeff Francoeur and Mike Cameron. Have I missed any races?

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