Juan Castro: World's Best Person

Juan Castro of the Philiadelphia Phillies loses control of the ball after pulling it out of his glove during the game against the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Are we completely sure that when Ozzie Guillen said how much he admired Castro's ability to survive for decades, he wasn't referring to Juan Castro?

He must be, right?

Tuesday, I caught the news that Cincinnati's Miguel Cairo was hitting the Disabled List. My immediate reaction was, "Miguel Cairo's still in the majors?"

Looked him up. Yup. Almost 38, Cairo's in his third season with the Reds despite a 78 career OPS+ and no demonstrated ability to play shortstop in a non-emergency situation. In fairness to Cairo, he's actually been a pretty good hitter in each of the last two seasons. Who knows, maybe he's just a late bloomer.

Anyway, I mentioned Cairo to my Baseball Nation colleagues, and one of those smart-alecks (/jeff) wrote back

check out juan castro when you have a moment

Wow.

There are some things about Miguel Cairo and Juan Castro that make them seem alike. Cairo debuted in the majors in 1996, Castro a year earlier. Cairo's almost 39; Castro's almost 40. Cairo's been a utility infielder for most of his long career; Castro's been a utility infielder for his whole long career.

Castro first reached the majors in 1995, with the Dodgers. He played in parts of five seasons -- well, parts of four seasons and all of another (1998) -- and posted this line in 482 plate appearances:

.188 batting average
.244 on-base average
.255 slugging average

The Dodgers traded him to the Reds for someone named Lutz (no, not this guy).

Castro spent five seasons with the Reds, two with the Twins, two more with the Reds, a season with the Orioles, then the Dodgers, then the Phillies, and now he's a Dodger once more.

And through it all, Juan Castro hasn't batted, fielded, or run like a major-league baseball player.

  • Castro's career batting line is .229/.268/.327, with a 55 career OPS+. Among players with at least 2,500 plate appearances since World War II, only infielders Rafael Belliard and Hal Lanier have been worse.
  • Playing mostly shortstop, Castro has been worse than replacement level by one measure, and merely worse than average by another.
  • In 1,103 games in the majors, Castro has stolen four bases ... and been caught stealing five times.

That last is probably my favorite Juan Castro True Fact. Four steals in 17 years. I feel like I should find all of them and make fun of the catchers who couldn't throw out Juan Castro, but that would be sort of mean, wouldn't it.

So, just to review ... Juan Castro has generally hit like a minor leaguer, fielded like a minor leaguer, run like a rusty fire hydrant ... and he's now playing in his 17th major-league season.

Which is why I will argue that he must be the Best Person in the World. Or if not the world, at least in Baseball. Because there really isn't any other explanation. And it's heartening to know that Baseball has room for persons like Juan Castro. Gives the rest of us hope, doesn't it?

Postscript: A bit after the above was published, I heard from Fred Claire, who was General Manager of the Dodgers when Castro first reached the majors. Claire:

A one-word summary of Juan Castro as a player comes very easy: Professional.

Juan was a professional in every way. He was very prepared but very calm as he approached the game.

In knowing Juan, I believe he realized that to have a successful Major League career he was going to have to be totally dedicated and to get the most of his natural ability.

In approaching the game in the manner he did, Juan became a shining example for other players and it was clear he had the respect of his teammates.

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