Every team needs a whipping boy. Here are the origins of the term according to Wikipedia:
Hmm. That last part is odd, and certainly not something I would write, but it kind of fits. Tomko used to be a whipping boy for the Giants faithful. He was never the worst pitcher on the team, but there was just something about him. A certain je ne sais suck, if you will.
It would appear that this year’s whipping boy is Jose Castillo. He’s already earned the gamethread nickname of "Rally Killer", as his prowess for hitting into double plays is well established. But I can’t get on board with this one. We’ve all known third base was going to be a deep, dark hole since, oh, October. There were a ton of different scenarios out there:
a. Trade for a tough-luck former prospect like Andy Marte
b. Trade valuable trade chips (i.e. Jonathan Sanchez) for a young, controllable hitter like Edwin Encarnacion or Mark Teahen
c. Re-sign Pedro Feliz
d. Sign Mike Lowell to a five year, sesquillion dollar contract
e. Play a minor-league veteran like Justin Leone
f. Sign a low-risk, high-reward free agent like Dallas McPherson or Jorge Cantu
g. Just stick Rich Aurilia at the position and poke him with a stick between innings to wake him up
Those were the options. I was partial to "b.", hoping the Giants would trade Jonathan Sanchez for Edwin Encarnacion. I was a moron. The correct answer was "f." Jorge Cantu is doing well for the Marlins, and Dallas McPherson is raking for the Marlins’ AAA club.
I would include Jose Castillo in the same subcategory, though. Cantu had more of a big league track record, and McPherson had a better minor league track record, but Castillo had a few things going for him. His relative youth and his versatility were in his favor. The Pirates rushed him past AAA, so it wasn’t inconceivable that there was still some development left in him. He has a little pop, he’s only 27, and his defense was usually acceptable. Pedro Feliz without the defense, but free of charge.
So the Giants’ starting third baseman is under 30, cheap, and has flashed a little bit of extra-base ability. He isn’t perfect, but he isn’t Andy Marte (.152/.188/.174 in 2008) or Edwin Encarnacion (almost the same player as Castillo this year, except we would have paid through the nose in a trade). He isn’t an overpaid Mike Lowell, and he isn’t a futureless 30-something minor leaguer.
He is who we thought he was. If you want to crown…you get the idea. This team has roster problems going forward, but Castillo isn’t the biggest. If you told anyone on this site in November that the Giants would have a 27-year-old third baseman hitting .260/.314/.438 in June, they might have popped a bottle of champagne. We knew the position was going to be a gaping hole. The Giants filled it with a player who gives them something like a 5% chance of continued success. That might have been the best-case scenario from this offseason. I’m not pleased that the front office put the Giants in this position in the first place, but that doesn’t qualify Castillo for whipping-boy status.
My conclusion: A picture is worth 1,000 words. Leave Castillo alone. Pick on someone else, you jackals.
Note: I reserve the right to pretend I never wrote this if Castillo hits .005/.005/.010 for June.