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Queens Chronicle

Castillo: an underrated Met

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Posted: Thursday, August 19, 2010 12:00 am

It seems every time a Mets beat writer analyzes what’s wrong with the team, the discussion begins with the costly contracts General Manager Omar Minaya has given players who aren’t producing anywhere near enough to warrant their pay. Immediately pitcher Oliver Perez and second baseman Luis Castillo are cited as Exhibits A and B.

Perez’s three-year, $36 million contract, is indefensible, but Minaya’s heart was in the right place in giving Castillo a four-year, $26 million deal in 2007, though he probably could have gotten him for less money.

Granted, Castillo is not the MVP-type player that his Phillies counterpart, Chase Utley, is, but he is still quite productive for the Mets, though completely underappreciated by too many fans, sportswriters, radio talk show hosts, and yes, soon-to-be-deposed Manager Jerry Manuel.

Castillo can still field his position very well and is not an automatic out at the plate. Mets hitters can learn a lot by watching him bat. Unlike David Wright, who swings too often at the first pitch, Luis knows how to make a pitcher work and earns an inordinate amount of walks. Even his outs can be productive, given his knack for advancing base runners, something that appears to be a lost art in baseball — especially in Flushing.

At age 34, however, Castillo’s best days are clearly behind him. It’s understandable that Mets management would like to groom a younger and less costly replacement. The desired heir apparent at second base is Ruben Tejada, but so far he shown neither an ability to hit nor to field his position at a major league caliber. My advice to Mets management is to pencil in Castillo as a starter in 2011, the last year of his contract, and slowly give more playing time to Tejada so that he is not thrown to the wolves.

To his credit, Luis has kept his spirits up despite the frequent criticism. “I am aware of what people are saying but my job is to give my all for my teammates,” he said. And his contributions have not gone unnoticed in the clubhouse. “He’s an awesome player and someone who has been helpful to me,” Mets catcher Josh Thole told me Sunday night.

LA Lakers forward and South Jamaica native Lamar Odom was at Madison Square Garden last weekend for a Team USA exhibition game against France. “I won’t be able to get back to Queens on this trip but I took my wife [Khloe Kardashian] to Jamaica during this past July 4th weekend,” he said. “She had never been out of Manhattan when in New York City, and I wanted her to experience my old home borough. She was impressed with how diverse it was.”

Odom indicated that he and Khloe will have a reality show on cable’s E! network.

Speaking of reality and television, I find it debatable as to who the bigger celebrity on the Queens police blotter was last week — disgruntled former JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater or Mets ace reliever Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez. They’ve each been a real hit, one might say.

Welcome to the discussion.