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Jason Fry and Greg Prince
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Habit and Castillo

That Argenis Reyes can play a little, huh? When your team is going as well as our team is going now, you really come to appreciate all the swell storylines that go into weaving the greater narrative. The lead headline is METS EXTEND FIRST PLACE LEAD. The sweet sidebar from Friday night — among others — is the second baseman, enjoying his first month in the Majors after more than five years in the minors, hit the first home run of his big league career. In half a season as a Zephyr he hit none. What a heartwarming sight it was, A. Reyes taking B. Thompson deep, the Mets' dugout quickly huddling and perfecting its no big deal straight face for three beats before embracing the kid en masse.

“We had to break him in,” Carlos Delgado grinned afterwards. When your team wins, your team grins.

Yes, save for the nagging inability of Duaner Sanchez to retire a single opposing batter this week, all is peaches and cream to the blue and orange. What keen chemistry! What an amazin' mesh!

What's that Gary Cohen said? That Luis Castillo has been cleared for baseball activities? That he's going to start playing rehab games in St. Lucie? That he could be back with the Mets next weekend?

Oh.

Hmmm…

Y'know, it's not Luis Castillo's fault the Mets felt compelled to enrich him beyond his and our wildest dreams over the winter. He has taken, as far as we know, no oath of self-deprivation, so of course he was going to accept the absurd amount of money ($25 million) and the insane number of years (four) with which the Mets plied him in the offseason. So what if the only party in any of this to find the transaction objectionable was us, the fans? Like you or I wouldn't have accepted $25 million over four years to display limited range and zero power. It's not like his diminishing skill sets were a secret. Luis seems like a nice enough guy. You're never supposed to wish injury on anyone not named Yadier Molina, so on a strictly human level, it's welcome news to know that whatever it was that placed Castillo on the DL a few weeks ago — a hip flexor — is getting better.

But, um, does he really have to come back?

The semi-dark side of loving the currently configured Mets is wanting nothing to do with those who played a role, however benign, in torpedoing the ship before things got good. Don't bother me with your logic that almost all of those responsible for raising us from the depths and keeping us afloat of late were part of that crew, too. I've completely forgotten that I used to find Mike Pelfrey and Carlos Delgado part of the problem before they emerged front and center to comprise the solution.

But Castillo? He's kind of a reminder of not-so-better times. That whole taxi squad of mending Mets who are still technically Mets because of contractual obligations looms and hovers uncomfortably in the subconscious.

The Mets have climbed into first on the backs of contributors like second basemen Damion Easley and Argenis Reyes. Neither is as accomplished in the context of an entire career as Luis Castillo, but both are here now and getting it done. Castillo was here when the Mets collapsed and when the Mets muddled. It's hard to reconcile his abilities (pretty fair hit-and-run type, turns a nifty double play) with the better days that have coincided with his absence.

Ryan Church…sure I want him back. I'm thrilled to hear from Kevin Burkhardt that Church's eyes offer a window, not a wall now, that he doesn't seem dazed and confused post-concussion. As potential Recidivist Met Xavier Nady has been definitively cast into the flaming abyss of unlikability, Ryan's return to right becomes that much more critical, the sooner the better. Still, all of Church's yeoman Met work is from that dark period when the team wallowed in misery. It's illogical, but I see him and I see the Mets of April and May and June and my instinct is to look away.

When it was reported Angel Pagan was done for the year, I was less unhappy than I should have been for a fellow human being to say nothing of a Met. Pagan contributed mightily those first few weeks. But those first few weeks were painful in ways that had nothing to do with Angel Pagan.

When word trickled forth that El Duque was finally getting it together (until he wasn't), I sighed more than exulted. El Duque? El Duque had nothing to do with the lackluster 2008 Mets, but I was actually a little sore when it was threatened that he was rumored on the road to recovery. El Duque has had a way of ducking out on us at the worst times. How dare he think he can waltz back into our lives? No danger of that, it turns out. Duque's right foot won't be waltzing into Flushing or onto any mound for the foreseeable future.

Moises Alou…Brady Clark…Matt Wise…Trot Nixon…they were all 2008 Mets when I could barely tolerate the 2008 Mets. They're all getting paid somewhere in this organization to heal. I've lost track of Nixon. The others, I think, are out for the season — like Jose Valentin, who shouldn't be held accountable for any of the mess that went down after he went down in the middle of '07, but where was he and his veteran leadership when we needed him and it most, the addled side of my fan brain asks. I'm a louse for thinking such thoughts, but I think I don't miss any of these fellows, not even Moises.

The taxi squad could pull up to the players' entrance at Shea and drop off one of its healthier ghost passengers at any time, and that particular spirit of 2008 past — some guy I've developed an allergic reaction to considering part of the spirit of 2008 present — could awaken and be a huge help to the Mets directly. Being a fan, I will embrace that tanned, rested and ready Met I've all but forgotten about and kind of written off. One base hit in a key spot, and Luis Castillo can be the new Argenis Reyes in my affections. It wouldn't be the first time I've turned that easily. But right now, with everyone who's here representing so darn near perfectly and everyone who's not, well, not, it's hard to imagine.

Then again, it was hard to imagine mere weeks ago being so enamored of the 2008 Mets at all.

Get well, Luis. We'll see ya when we see ya.

7 comments to Habit and Castillo

  • Anonymous

    Oh, you can be the nice one.
    Luis Castillo is useless. I miss him like a splinter in the toe. I think he ought to spent the next three years and change in St. Lucie, making sure that hip flexor is 100% ready.

  • Anonymous

    Greg, remember, this isn't Willie. Jerry will put him on the bench if he's not producing. I've always had a hunch that this extended stay in St. Lucie was Luis Castillo having a snit that the fact that he was old no longer bought him a free ticket to play every single night. I will be willing to place a bet that if he comes back and once again sits on the bench most nights, there will be another 'injury' requiring rehab.
    I used to like him a lot but lately not so much.

  • Anonymous

    You seriously believe that?
    If Reyes and Easley continue to produce, then I'm sure Castillo will spend some time on the bench, but if they 'revert to form' Castillo's going to get plenty of playing time. I think Castillo might be one of those players that does help, but not in obvious ways so he draws dislike and distrust.
    If you were going to take odds, I'd say it's more likely Castillo comes back and is productive, than Easley or Reyes produces enough to stick at the job. Although, the Mets have no had great luck at 2B..well in a long time. I just hope this DL stint helped Castillos knees finish healing from surgery and he'll gain back another step and some more range. Maybe Manuel pushing his injury until it basically snapped will be a good thing, rather than him playing completely hobbled all season.

  • Anonymous

    I think I'm a little more nervous that Easley/A. Reyes won't keep it up than that Castillo will simply get the job back, no questions asked. Maybe as a quasi-platoon, neither will be exposed enough to lose their combined effectiveness. Right now they're working like a Boston/Carreon charm. And who saw that coming?
    It's worth two caveats: 1) Easley's been nagged by injuries and is, like many on the taxi squad he's avoided, advanced in age; and 2) how many guys have we heard as being “a few days away” have, in fact, never been heard from again this year? I'll believe Luis is here when Luis is here.
    Though he shouldn't rush his rehab for the team's sake. Making sure the flexor is 100% flexible should be his priority. 100%, I say.

  • Anonymous

    No worries. What's on second(?)

  • Anonymous

    Watching Gamecast from the San Diego airport. (Free Wi-Fi should be an inalienable right.) Go Argenis!

  • Anonymous

    Well crap. And my plane is still nowhere near taking off. Sigh.