Teams spend decades looking for a leadoff man like Mets shortstop José Reyes, who is perhaps the best in baseball — and at 25, only getting better. But because they are the Mets, his team is now toying with replacing him as the leadoff man.
Why are the Mets considering dropping Reyes to third in the order? Strangely, it’s because of second-base albatross Luis Castillo, the tubby free-agent bust who batted .245 last year in the first year of a four-year, $25 million contract. By the end of the season, the Mets couldn’t take it anymore, and gave him his own (quite ample) spot on the bench. They tried to trade him, but in a depressed market full of teams that would actually like to win, they found no takers.
The theory behind giving him Reyes’s spot? If Reyes were batting lower in the order, he would, in the words of manager Jerry Manuel, “feel less pressure” to get on base. That seems like ballplayer psychobabble — getting on base, after all, is kind of the point. Castillo, who has lost seventeen pounds in the off-season and says he’s excited because he feels more “comfortable” in the leadoff spot, inspired this bit of comfort food from Manuel: “He looks real good, he looks light. Not only physically, but kind of mentally and spiritually he looks light.” Is it good to look mentally light?
The move is so potentially dunderheaded that you have to assume it’s either a joke or a psychological experiment Manuel’s trying in order to make everyone feel better about themselves. (“Mentally lighter,” if you will.) If the Mets are seriously considering dumping José Reyes into third place and plopping the washed-up Castillo at the top, they deserve whatever’s coming to them.