$30,880.63. That’s how much Rusney Castillo would make today (before taxes) if you divide his 2016 salary by 365. It’s tough to feel anything but contempt for someone making that much per day, never mind someone who isn’t even near the top of his field and was removed from the 40-man roster.
A lot has already been written, tweeted, and joked about some of the expensive players that have seen time in Pawtucket this season: Allen Craig ($11M), Joe Kelly ($2.6M) and Rusney Castillo ($11.3M). These players were acquired to help the major league team to a World Series and they can’t even bring a winning record to a AAA team. Castillo’s season has been a disappointment in many ways. Expected to be part of the solution in left field, Castillo made all of 8 plate appearances in big leagues, going 2-8 with 3 strikeouts. In AAA Pawtucket Castillo slashed an underwhelming .263/.309/.354 with 2 HR’s, 34 RBI’s and 9 SB’s in 429 plate appearances. For those not 100% up on their statistics, a .263 BA is about league average, and not terrible. If he could hit for that average in the majors he’d be a solid 3rd/4th outfielder. The .309 OBP is pretty disappointing when you consider he had a career .388 in 5 season in Cuba. But the .354 slugging is by far the most disappointing. Castillo had a total of 29 extra base hits during his time in AAA this year, and one of the main strengths in his scouting reports was his ability to hit for power. Basically Rusney hit a lot of weak singles this year from a guys who was expected to hit at least double digit HR’s in the majors.
Now from the title you may wonder at which point I stop slamming this guy and tell you something you don’t know. Well I had the chance to talk to a teammate of Rusney’s in Pawtucket at the end of this season, and he definitely gave me a much different perspective of what is going on before and after the games. Rusney was described as being an incredibly hard worker. He is taking multiple classes to learn English, as he clearly had no formal education in the language growing up in Cuba. He’s one of the first ones to the field and working hard to better himself as a player. He was also described as very generous, and I was given an example where Rusney, without anyone asking, had provided brand new cleats for one of the bat boys for the team just because he wanted to do something nice for the kid. I then mentioned that most of my interactions with Rusney were very cold, and that he never seemed like he wanted to connect with fans. We as fans like to think of our athletes as humble and happy that they are being paid to play a kid’s game, and anyone who isn’t happy to stop and sign autographs or pose for pictures as inconsiderate and undeserving of their status as a professional ballplayer. But imagine having 10, 20, maybe hundreds of people all shouting things at you, and you have no idea what they are saying. When a kid says to you “you’re my favorite player”, you have no idea if he just paid you a compliment or not. It was explained to me that Rusney does come off cold during his fan interactions, but mostly because he’s not comfortable enough in his English to really interact with fans the way he wants to.
Yes a $72.5 million contract would be a motivation enough for some to just go along, smile, and do whatever fans wanted, but to be fair, he didn’t demand that amount. That’s what was offered to him by an organization that just didn’t do their due diligence on scouting and translating the statistics of a Cuban baseball player. We see the fancy cars, jewelry, and other perks of a contract that large, but we don’t see the struggle of connecting with people who don’t speak your native language. Now I’m not saying you shouldn’t boo Rusney Castillo. I’m not saying you have to root for him just because he’s actually a nice guy. His play on the field is absolutely deserving of a negative response. My only reason for writing this, was because I was not a fan of Rusney due to both his results, and how I perceived his attitude. But after a quick chat and a few examples from a teammate, I am pulling for him to turn around his career and see him succeed in the majors. I still don’t want Rusney in left field right now for the Red Sox, but I hope he is able to succeed on the field, and become a fan favorite off the field.
Maybe I changed your mind, maybe you still want to boo the man. Hopefully I at least helped you gain some perspective on seeing baseball players as more than just what’s perceived. Have you ever met Rusney and had a good or bad interaction? What about other players that were rude or actually really nice? Be sure to comment below!