Mets move on to post-Perez/Castillo era

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- So what do the New York Mets do now with all that pent-up anger and nowhere left to direct it?

With favorite targets Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez dumped within a three-day span and $18 million eaten by the organization, clearly spring cleaning has been performed by general manager Sandy Alderson and crew. The lingering reminder of Omar Minaya's failed regime now is considerably diminished.

"I don't know if it's a relief," manager Terry Collins said when asked whether a hurdle had been cleared with the Perez and Castillo decisions. "I'm not glad. It's time to move on. It's time to turn the page. And now let's talk about who is going to be here and what this club is going to be about right now. I think I'm probably excited about that."

It raised modest eyebrows that Alderson acknowledged, at least in the case of Castillo, taking fan loathing into account in deciding to eat the contract. (Alderson said he did not take unpopularity among fans into account with Perez because the performance was too poor to consider other factors.)

Still, the bottom line is neither move would have been made if the players did not merit release based on their abilities to contribute.

Even in the Mets' clubhouse, players are skeptical Perez will appear in the majors again this season, if at all. An 85-86 mph fastball and no control just won't cut it.

Castillo now is a slap hitter with unacceptable range. He is on a tryout in Phillies camp to serve as Chase Utley's injury replacement, although right-hander Mike Pelfrey quipped, alluding to Citizens Bank Park's cozy dimensions: "He might hit 30 homers in that place."

Said Collins: "I said it about Louie, and I'll say it about Ollie Perez: These guys are major league veteran players. They're very, very, very talented. They got here because they were blessed with ability and they worked hard to perfect their skills. When you start to see, in our opinion, the deterioration, it's sad, because they want to keep playing. It's a great game. They want to keep playing.

"This is our opinion, and our opinion only. When we don't see what we need to have done at the level we want it at, it's hard. It's tough for those guys. When you tell them that, they certainly have the right to disagree with you. But we've got to make the decisions we think are best for us."

As for the post-Castillo/Perez era being a feel-good time for the Mets, there still is considerable potential for the team to struggle this season and generate fan distaste.

And it's not as if minefields don't exist. If Carlos Beltran is in and out of the lineup because knee woes flare up throughout the year, he figures to receive his share of jeers, although it's hard to envision anything close to what Castillo and Perez endured. There's also the issue of whether the Mets will or won't trade Jose Reyes. Plus, there's the question of whether the Mets will allow Francisco Rodriguez to have his contract vest for 2012 at $17.5 million by finishing 55 games.

Oh, and there's the little matter of a $1 billion-plus lawsuit against the team's owners, too.