Monday, May 9, 2016

Congratulations, Bartolo Colon

Bartolo Colon hit a home run this weekend. And it was amazing.
Colon's home run has already become a baseball card.
It's always notable when a pitcher does something interesting with the bat. Largely that's the rarity value, since most pitchers don't do much in their plate appearances. This was especially true of Colon, who is a career .092 hitter. Since he first pitched in the major leagues in 1997, he's had 228 at-bats, and managed only 26 hits. None had left the yard. He's been so inept at the plate that articles have been written about people laughing at his swings.

There was no laughter on Saturday when Colon took a James Shields pitch over the left field fence in San Diego. OK, maybe some laughter, but it was the happy kind that you use when the impossible has just happened. It's worth listening to all the different announcers call it: the Mets TV crew, their radio crew, and best of all the Spanish-language broadcast. It took 30 seconds for Colon to round the bases, and I don't think he was purposely extending the trot - that may be his top speed for that distance. The Mets cleared the dugout as if a rookie had just hit his first long ball, before coming back up the tunnel to swarm Colon in congratulations.

Further adding to the rarity value of this particular home run is the fact that Colon is just a couple of weeks shy of his 43rd birthday. I pay special attention when older athletes do well, now that I'm on the upper side of 40 years old. Peyton Manning winning the Super Bowl at 40, Tim Duncan in the NBA playoffs at 40, Jaromír Jágr still playing hockey at 44. And Bartolo Colon rounding the bases for the first time at almost-43.

But forget the home run for a moment. Bartolo Colon overcomes the odds every time he takes the mound. There aren't a lot of age 40+ pitchers, and even fewer who are 5'11" and 285 pounds. Those are the official stats, anyway; I suspect they may have lost 15 or 20 pounds on the scale somewhere. Colon throws his fastball 80% of the time, and it's usually around 89 mph, which is average at best in today's major leagues. You'd think MLB hitters would be hitting that stuff like it was batting practice, but Colon manages to get guys out. He won't be winning the Cy Young, but he's managed 10+ wins each of the last 4 seasons and already has 3 this year.

So congratulations to Bartolo Colon. For the home run, certainly, but even more for just being what he is. Describe him as overweight, aged, inept with the bat - just so long as you also call him an MLB pitcher, and a successful one.

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