Bartolo Colon: Return of the living dead
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After the World Series has been played and the season is officially over, all teams change their focus toward how to win more games the next season. They look at players to trade for on other teams, who to promote from their minor league teams and, most importantly, who to sign in free agency.
This is especially true with the big spenders like the Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies. But sometimes there aren’t enough top-flight players available and teams are forced to make do with the leftovers.
Such was the case this past off-season when the Yankees lost out to the Phillies on signing pitcher Cliff Lee. The Yankees, who thought they had Lee for sure, then had to scrape along the bottom of the barrel to fill out its pitching staff. One of the players they found down there was Bartolo Colon – a heavyset player who hadn’t played in about two years and who seemed more frightening at an all-you-can-eat buffet than on the pitcher’s mound.
He immediately became a punch line for Yankee haters: “This washed up fatso is the best you can do?” And a source of embarrassment for Yankee fans: “This washed up fatso is the best we can do?”
Hey, I’ve got nothing against fat guys. And baseball is really the only sport where you can be overweight and still perform at (pretty much) the highest levels. Look at the San Francisco Giants last year; they were the champs and the left side of their infield weighed in at just shy of an actual ton. And don’t give me any of this “golf is a sport” crap either. Golf is a recreation. Just because you keep score and use your body doesn’t make something a sport. If those were the only criteria, there’s a lot of other stuff we’d have to call sports – like Scrabble or billiards or sex.
As much as I like to make fun of soccer for being a fake sport (because it is), all that running around and not scoring requires a great deal of athleticism. But in baseball, the skill sets for some of the positions do not require as much athleticism as others, which accounts for players coming in all shapes and sizes.
Back to my point: Bartolo Colon. Regardless of his pitching performance, this guy has one of the most fun names in baseball to say – right there with Coco Crisp and Albert Pujols – though not quite as fun as oldtimers Johnny Dickshot and Rusty Kuntz. And now that I think about it, Bartolo Colon and Albert Pujols should get together and start a movement. (Sorry, I couldn’t resist. What can I say? I like poop jokes.)
My all-time favorite baseball player name is Mike Sweeney. I always smile when I hear that name. I guess you could say that Mike Sweeney makes me smile. For a while, most pitchers were afraid of Mike Sweeney, but later in his career, Mike Sweeney was ineffective. (Sorry, I could literally do this all day. What can I say? I like weenie jokes.)
Back to my point, again: Bartolo Colon was once one of the best pitchers in the game, but the last couple years of his career were mediocre, and his 2008 and 2009 campaigns both ended with injuries. He disappeared from the game in 2010, and we all figured he had just gone gently into that good night and had gone home to roll around on his giant piles of money.
When he signed with the Yankees in the off-season for a little less than a million bucks, I think most people just figured it was for one last paycheck. He made the team during spring training and started the 2011 season as a relief pitcher, and on April 20th he started his first game and won it.
Despite his roundness, Bartolo has been pitching well this season – very well, in fact. And every statistical measure you can find is saying that it’s for real and not just some fluky, random event – like Bartolo ordering a salad. One could even make an argument that he’s been the best pitcher on the team. Bartolo’s teammate Alex Rodriguez recently said, “Bartolo is throwing like a legit starter. A1A stuff.” (Though I assume he didn’t mean A1 Steak Sauce.)
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