We are only about a week removed from Bartolo Colón being designated for assignment by the Atlanta Braves and it could be the last time we see him in the major leagues. Big Sexy has had a full and eventful career and it has been amazing to watch him rise and fall over the years. It is time to reflect very briefly on the 44-year-old’s tenure in Major League Baseball.
Bartolo Colón was signed as a free agent by the Cleveland Indians all the way back in 1993 and made his big league debut on April 4, 1997 against the Anaheim Angels. He set the modern day record for most pitches in a single at bat against Ricky Gutiérrez of the Houston Astros in just his second season. Take a look at the at-bat and how skinny he was:
Colón became a rising ace and became a part of one of the most lopsided trades in baseball history. The Montreal Expos were within striking distance for a playoff spot and traded for Colón and Tim Drew from the Indians. In exchange, the Expos sent Cleveland Lee Stevens, Brandon Phillips, Grady Sizemore, and Cliff Lee in a deal that would completely transform the Cleveland franchise and decimate the Expos farm system right before they relocated and became the Washington Nationals. Colón was shipped to the White Sox in 2003 before landing with the Anaheim Angels as a free agent in 2004. He became the AL Cy Young Award winner in 2005 with a record of 21-8 with a 3.48 ERA. This, however, is where fate would derail his career.
During the 2005 playoffs, Colón would partially tear his rotator cuff and would spend the bulk of 2006 on the DL. He signed a minor league contract with the Red Sox in 2008 and then went to the White Sox in 2009, but would never get back on track. The pain in his shoulder and elbow proved to be too much. He announced he would not pitch in 2010 and underwent an experimental treatment. He had a transplant of stem cells in his shoulder and elbow to repair his muscles. The surgery was under high scrutiny by both the press and MLB because it often was done using HGH, a performance enhancing substance. No wrongdoing, however, was found.
Colón signed with the Yankees in 2011, but came into camp 30 pounds overweight. He had a resurgence on the mound, going 8-10 with a 4.00 ERA. His career was back on track, for now. In 2012, Colón took his talents to the Bay Area and signed with the Oakland A’s and was performing well in the rotation until August 22, 2012. On that date, he was suspended 50 games for using PEDs and having elevated levels of testosterone. His season was over. His reputation was tarnished.
2013 was the next resurgence for Colón, who was named to the All-Star team at the age of 39. His success would continue as he moved to the National League and pitched for the Mets. He became a fan favorite not only for his ability on the mound, but for his hilarious hitting ability. He finally hit his first home run just last year:
Just this past offseason, he was enticed to move south and join the rebuilding Atlanta Braves. This year did not go as planned and finished his Braves career with a 2-8 record and a 8.14 ERA. This could be the end for the 44-year-old. But, let’s be honest: Bartolo was pitching on borrowed time. He defied the odds. He came back from arm problems. He survived the trial of public opinion when taking performance enhancing drugs and became a beloved fan favorite across the game. He was and is a one of a kind character. If we see him again this season, then great! If not, we as fans should look at this one of a kind career and reflect. He bounced around baseball and was the ultimate journey man. He was never meant to succeed, especially after his injuries. The rise and fall of his career and character shows that perseverance will bring success. If you ask for forgiveness, you will receive it. Thank you, Bartolo. You have given the game so much.