Hi, my name is Joe Cohen and I’m going to be contributing baseball pieces, primarily about the Mets, to NYSOS. Luckily, my time here begins on a high note, following yesterday’s main bit of news from Mets camp:

Taking a step forward yesterday, the Mets cut Luis Castillo from their roster and ate the remaining $6 million left on his contract. While it’s not necessarily going to win them a division title or maybe even third place this upcoming year, it keeps the ball rolling in the right direction.

What gave Mets fans hope when new GM Sandy Alderson arrived was that he would right the ship in a no-nonsense manner. He certainly has the credentials, previously working as the CEO of the Padres (winning 2 division titles during his tenure) as well as for the commissioner’s office. If anyone would be implementing the no-BS culture in the clubhouse that was sorely lacking with Minaya and Manuel, wouldn’t it be a former Marine?

But Mets fans needed to see action being taken. The reputation and intangibles were nice and offered hope, but they had to see the principles actually being executed and players being held accountable.

Such as with a certain player who had a history of reporting to camp out of shape, had lost significant defensive range with age, and was the prime culprit in one of the Mets’ worst regular season losses in recent memory (more on this a little later).

I thought this report from John Harper on March 10th about Castillo was telling:

Furthermore, Castillo, the incumbent of sorts, has annoyed Terry Collins by moping around in apparent protest of being forced to compete for the job, to the point where the manager called him into his office a couple of days ago to tell him he better start working harder if he wanted any shot at all.

It’s exactly this sort of entitlement that Minaya and Manuel had allowed that decayed the culture of the franchise over the past few years. Apparently hitting .235 with as many home runs as the bat boy last year meant he automatically deserved a spot on the roster, simply because, in his words, “I’ve done a lot of things in baseball.”

And this is why Alderson and Collins are looking like the right men to steer the ship at the moment. They don’t seem to put too much stock in what skills the player used to have, or how much money he’s owed. What seems to matter above all else is, does he play the right way and give the 2011 Mets the best chance to win?

Of course another major reason why Castillo needed to go had to do with certain events that took place on a summer night in the Bronx, back in 2009. There was no redeeming his image with Mets fans after dropping the final out in what would have been a signature win for them that season. If it had happened against the Pirates, Diamondbacks or maybe even the Braves? Probably forgivable — you obviously don’t want to suffer any losses in that fashion, but had they come back and won the next few games, it likely would have been shrugged off over time. Remember, it was the season right after the collapses of 2007 and 2008, so the Mets and their fans already had ample practice with recovering from crippling losses.

Costing them that game against their crosstown rivals, though, was unforgivable. And since he wasn’t the most popular Met going into that game either, it was the final straw for Mets fans looking for a lightning rod to target with their frustrations regarding the plight of their team. He became a walking reminder of the team’s failures of the past few years.

Cutting the sunk costs from the Minaya era goes a long way in winning Mets fans back, and Alderson & Co. have taken a nice step in the right direction. Now that Castillo’s out the door, let’s see his #1 jersey go back to its rightful owner — first base coach Mookie Wilson.