Thanks to its association with Jackie Robinson, 42 enjoys a singular status in the baseball world. After the retirement of Mariano Rivera, no player is allowed to wear 42 on his uniform except for Jackie Robinson Day, when every player gets to wear it. No other number in professional sports enjoys that distinction.
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The 42 club is different, but just barely, when it comes to a player’s age. Currently, LaTroy Hawkins of the Colorado Rockies is the only player in that club, but that changes on Sunday when Bartolo Colon joins the club and effectively doubles its membership. Thursday’s start against the St. Louis Cardinals was his last as a 41 year-old, and I’m sure he wishes he had it back.
At 41, Colon is the only active player who played for the Montreal Expos still in the game. If Scott Downs or Endy Chavez can catch on with a team somewhere, or when Maicer Izturis comes back from the 60-day DL, that won’t be the case anymore. But for now, Colon carries the dual banner of representing 40-ish ballplayers and a departed franchise with him to the mound every five days.
And he’s been doing it very well this season, winning six games in the first quarter of the season (I’m not using the term “quarter pole,” because I actually know what the term means as it is used in horse racing). The Mets have been in first place until Wednesday night, and Colon has been a significant part of that success.
But the Cardinals exposed him in a big way (no pun intended) on Wednesday. Not only did Colon surrender his first walk in 48.1 innings — which was good enough for a Mets’ franchise record — but he also gave up six runs in the fourth inning. Needless to say, he didn’t do himself any favors if getting 15 or more wins again this season was a goal of his.
Pitching in the American League for so long has generally spared Colon — who is listed at 285 pounds — from coming to bat and running the bases. None of this was in play on Wednesday, when Colon reached first on an error by Yadier Molina leading off the bottom of the third inning. After making it around to third base before the inning ended, he apparently left his command of the baseball out on the basepaths. Such is life in the National League.
The next time that the Last Expo takes the mound, he won’t have Jackie Robinson’s number on his back, but he will have his number in the age column. And I’m sure he’ll do whatever he can to avoid getting on base from this point forward.