Bartolo Colon: Past and Future?
There's something strangely fitting that former Tribe starter Bartolo Colon is rumored to be a potential free-agent target for the Indians during the 2010-2011 hot stove season.
No, I'm not talking about Colon now "fitting" into his old Tribe jersey now that he's allegedly lost 50 pounds, I'm talking about how he could fit on this team as a relevant starter. Seriously, I know you all are chuckling.
I know most of you think that Colon is long past his prime. I know that you think this rapid weight loss is bogus, or some sort of Oprah-Winfrey like rubber-band diet. I know that you all think he's really a grandpa. I know you think he's past his prime. But c'mon, you've got to open up your mind a bit here.
I'm going to assume that the five of you that read my sad excuse for a blog are seated in front of your computer while viewing this exquisite and well thought out piece, and while you are likely dedicating the next ten minutes of your life into a wonderful retort about how insane I am (you'd be correct), please try and remain calm for a few more moments.
Give me some time here people, so please take this moment to relax, get nice and comfortable, close your eyes, and think back to the good ole' days of 1998. Don't worry, if you can't remember back that far, I'll help you along a bit.
Ah, yes, 12 years ago when the Indians were one of the upper echelon. Back then, Mr. Colon was a 23-year-old ace-in-waiting. He had helped the Tribe along to their second World Series appearance in three years back in 2007, and had really emerged as a plus pitcher in '08. He would win 14 games that year, and would then go on to win 10 or more games in his next four seasons with the Tribe.
He was good...really good. So good, in fact, that the Indians dealt him away for a net return of Lee Stevens, Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore and Brandon Phillips. While Stevens turned into an afterthought, Lee and Sizemore became extremely valuable pieces to the Tribe cause, and Phillips did the same, just not for the Tribe (you're welcome Cincinnati).
Colon continued to pitch well for a variety of teams before winning the Cy Young with the Angels in 2005. It was his last relevant season.
Okay, now open up your eyes. I wanted to be fair to the former ace before we took a look at the reality of the "fit." Yeah, I know, you thought I was being serious. You thought I really thought that Colon was a perfect fit. Please let me rephrase a bit. I don't think he's a good fit, but the Tribe brass does. No, I'm not kidding.
For once, I'd like to believe Paul Hoynes, who stated on his twitter account a few days ago that the "Indians have no interest in re-signing Bartolo Colon, who quit on his last two teams." Tonight, during Bart's start with his Dominican team, sitting in the stands was one Manny Acta. Of course, he could just be taking in a game...right?
Colon is nothing if not interesting. "Manny being Manny" is a popular phrase, but there was also Bart being Bart. Remember when I said that he was 23 years old back in 1998? It turns out that a birth certificate showed up in 2002 with a birth date of 1973, instead of 1975. So, as it turns out, Colon wasn't as promising a prospect as he was.
Granted, a 25-year-old winning 14 games is still fairly outstanding, but it's just not the same as a 23-year-old. Like many players from the Dominican, questions to this day remain about Colon's age. Is he really 37? Is he 40? Is he 50? Is he still alive? It's hard to tell.
There's also the issue of Colon's weight. With the Tribe, Colon consistently struggled with his weight. While he was never a svelte starter, Colon did manage some eating restraint. Over the years, however, Colon's food demons had seemingly caught up with him. Of course, once they did, Bart actually ate them too.
I remember seeing some listings of Colon's weight back in 2006 and 2007 as somewhere around 185 pounds. Now, I could believe that he was 185 pounds back then, perhaps if he was filled with helium, and not the better part of the Golden Corral buffet.
Colon hasn't pitched for the Tribe since June of 2002, and hasn't pitched for any major league team since 2009. In 2008, the Red Sox signed Colon, and he pitched fairly well. Still, Colon wasn't considered a starter with the Sox, and after making seven solid starts, Boston manager Terry Francona planned to meet with Colon about moving him to the pen. Colon allegedly never showed up to the meeting...twice.
Then, Colon headed off to the Dominican for "personal matters." While I can't speak to what those matters were, it's generally believed that Colon was ticked off about relieving, and spot starting. Apparently it's better to not pitch at all, or in this case, pitch in the Dominican.
Colon then signed with the White Sox. After his initial signing, it took the White Sox three days to locate Colon to talk to him. He'd again pitch fairly well. He'd go 3-6, but he had a respectable 4.19 ERA before going on the DL on June 9.
Colon would rehab in Arizona, but in late June, he disappeared again. Manager Ozzie Guillen speculated that Colon was "depressed a little bit" because of his affinity for Michael Jackson. He would turn up, but injuries derailed his season.
Is there anything that's fitting about this potential signing that isn't some two-cent joke about his weight? There is a certain amount of nostalgia, but it's not like the masses of Cleveland are clamoring for a reunion with the former enigmatic starter. He was good, bordering on great, but wasn't nearly as beloved as some of the other members of those great teams.
There is the Cliff Lee factor. Lee was the young pitching prospect in that deal I mentioned before that sent Colon to Montreal. Unless you live under a rock. Lee just signed a five-year, $120 million deal with the Phillies, managed by Charlie Manuel, Colon's last Tribe manager. The Phillies, a relevant, big-market team are signing relevant, marquee baseball players.
In this case, Cliff Lee, the pitcher the Indians hoped to help take Colon's place, which he did, and then some. Perhaps signing Colon to a minor-league, sub-million dollar contract is some sort of karmic balance to Lee's massive deal. While Lee fits himself in a staff of aces, Colon could himself in a staff of players half his age.
In a bit more serious tone, Colon is a low-cost option to come onto this club and potentially fill a hole as a veteran starter. Of course, there's that thing about him quitting on his last two teams. There's also a bit of an injury issue. There's also that bit about not having pitched in an important game in over a year. There's also his weight problems. Of course, there is all that nostalgia!
Maybe the plan is to sign Manny as well, and create some sort of quirky Cleveland sitcom. I'm sure we could get Betty White involved, and maybe Cerrano as well. I'm sure we could work some sort of Allstate tie-in. Wait a second, what are we talking about again?
My guess is that there are better options that bringing back Bartolo. Of course, if he does sign, and it pans out for the Tribe, I could always change the name of my blog...
For those wondering at home, Colon got lit up a bit tonight, giving up six runs, three earned. The three unearned came on a throwing error by Colon on a bunt. Overall, Colon is a respectable 3-1 with a 1.54 ERA in six starts, and 35 innings pitched. He's struck out 29 and walked only 3.