One moment defined the New York Mets careers of Luis Castillo and Mike Baxter. Those moments were complete opposites.
Luis Castillo and Mike Baxter are two names every New York Mets fan probably knows for one particular moment. Their major league careers couldn’t be more different. The same goes for their defining Mets moment.
I grew up watching Castillo steal bases, hit .300 or better, and play the perfect version of small-ball in a time when everyone else around him seemed focused on hitting home runs. This was, of course, before he joined the Mets in 2007.
Castillo’s best days happened as a member of the Florida Marlins. He led the league in stolen bases twice and amassed a .293 batting average in parts of ten seasons.
Things weren’t as bad as many recall when he joined the Mets. Castillo hit .296 in his 231 plate appearances in 2007 and batted .302 in 2009 when he played his lone full season with the team. Injuries and poor performance dragged his overall Mets numbers down to a .274 batting average and only 55 stolen bases in 365 games played.
The other part of this story, Baxter, involves a much less prominent MLB career. The 2012 season is Baxter’s lone year with over 200 trips to the plate. He made the most of those opportunities, batting .263/.365/.413. Like so many others, injuries played a factor in how his career ultimately turned out.
As far as Mets fans are concerned, Castillo’s contributions don’t go beyond what happened on June 12, 2009. In a game against the New York Yankees, the Mets were one out away from victory.
A routine pop up off the bat of Alex Rodriguez looked like it was about to end things. Castillo moved back onto the outfield dirt to make the catch when the ball popped right out of his glove. Two runs crossed the plate and the Mets took the loss.
A little less than three years later, it was Baxter’s turn to become known for one play. Fortunately for him, things ended a lot more positively—at least for the game’s sake.
In the top of the seventh, starting pitcher Johan Santana was cruising along as best as possible. He had a no-hitter going against the St. Louis Cardinals. Famed Mets-killer Yadier Molina ripped one to deep left. The left fielder, Baxter, danced backward as far as he could go, put out his glove, and snagged the ball. He finished the play by crashing into the wall.
The no-hitter remained intact, but Baxter would get sidelined with an injury for several weeks. He never did seem to rebound statistically. This one famous catch likely played a role.
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Castillo and Baxter couldn’t be much more different in the eyes of Mets fans. It all came down to one single play where one triumphed and the other looked like a fool.