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Nick Castellanos & the Erosion of Myth

The rise & fall of a myth shows how short our attention spans are.

Nick Castellanos has been among the most interesting men in baseball over the last few seasons. Having spent the early part of his career toiling away in baseball purgatory in Detroit, recent stops in Chicago, Cincinnati, and now Philadelphia have allowed him a status he might not otherwise have. This is true to the point where Castellanos has become something of a mythological being. And it doesn’t necessarily have all to do with his play on the field.

Social media hates everything. Except a bit. It doesn’t matter on what platform you find yourself. Any of the mainstream platforms are going to run whatever trendy bit exists 50 feet into the ground. And yet, the Castellanos meme persists (the irony of it being that Castellanos barely maintains a social media presence).

And there’s a deep drive…

It started with Thom Brennaman. The homophobic remarks, the half-hearted apology. The remarks were cruel and horrendous. We know that much. But we can also recite, verbatim, the script of what was said as Brennaman said his farewell and Nick Castellanos hit his home run.

But then Castellanos did it again. And again. It didn’t matter what it was. Eulogies, plane crashes, in-memoriams, volcanic eruptions, the list goes on. Castellanos seized the opportunity during seemingly every unfortunate event to hit the ball over the fence. Heady situations on Twitter are often met with “And there’s a deep drive…” The Castellanos bit persists.

But are we, as a fandom, as a country, as a society, witnessing the end of a remarkable run of a bit?

Not Quite Brotherly Love

Nick Castellanos‘ first run in Philly has been brutal. His wRC+ of 83 is easily the worst of his career. In fact, just about everything that Castellanos has done this year has been the worst output of his career, on his way to a -1.4 fWAR. And it’s not as if there’s some underlying thing that can indicate better days on the horizon, either.

Castellanos sits in the 26th percentile in average exit velocity. He’s 41st percentile in Barrel%. Soft contact while putting the ball on the ground almost 43 percent of the time isn’t exactly a recipe for success. He hasn’t even homered since June. And this is the United States of America, so it’s not as if there have been plenty of opportune moments to homer during awful occurrences.

So it makes sense that even the deep drives from Castellanos have become few and far between on social media. Does the end of Castellanos’ reign as an elite hitter eliminate his status as meme-material, even if he rebounds?

What isn’t working in his favor is a recent dustup with a reporter, in which he refuted a “stupid question.” Certainly something out of character, but a thing bound to happen when you’re struggling to the degree in which Castellanos finds himself. But even in that remark, there was a bit of truth.

Castellanos compared this season to his first in Cincinnati. And while it isn’t a perfect comparison, there is an element of reality there. He wRC+’d exactly 100 that year and struck out almost 30 percent of the time. The difference was that there was still the power element on which to lean. He ISO’d .261 that year. It was also a 60-game sprint at the height of COVID. So while the comparison makes sense, and there’s plenty of truth to the concept of a top-tier free agent struggling his first year in a new city, it’s not a perfect comparison. His paltry .119 this year, the worst figure of his career, doesn’t offer quite the same solace that his time in hitter-friendly Cincy might have, either.

Has the myth faded?

And now Nick Castellanos finds himself here. A long way away from being an immensely interesting person who uses a flip phone and homers at the most inopportune of moments. He’s struggling in a city that offers a larger microscope than most. And he’s struggling for a team that chose to go all-in on offense in 2022. With Castellanos representing a massive piece of that puzzle, it’s not really a situation in which he can afford to find himself.

The larger question for us who lack an emotional stake in the Phillies is whether this is the end of the mythos that swirls around Nick Castellanos and if the bit that social media has clung to on a level that only Crying Jordan can recognize will carry on. As legendary character actor Art LaFleur noted in The Sandlot: “Homers get remembered, but bits never die.”

Photo by Brandon Sloter/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Doug Carlin (@Bdougals on Twitter)

Randy Holt

Randy Holt is a staff writer for Pitcher List & a depth charts analyst for Baseball Prospectus. He's a self-identified Cubs fan who has become more agnostic, instead obsessing about quality defensive baseball wherever he can find it. Randy has a sport management degree from the University of Florida, as well as degrees from Embry-Riddle & Arizona State. A former high school English teacher, Randy now works in the corporate world and resides in Arizona.

  • Joe Mulvey says:

    Randy, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I don’t get what your trying to say. I don’t get the usage of bit. I know I’m supposed to tie the Brenneman thing into Nick’s current performance but it’s not clear what I’m supposed to understand. I understand meme but I don’t know what Nick’seme is supposed to be. You write as if it’s clear to you, so that’s why I was reluctant to ask. I know I’m missing something. Could you, or someone, please explain.

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