If you ever played tee ball as a kid, you can remember that there was usually one kid on the team who could only be described as the “Meatball.” He’s the husky kid who’s the slowest runner on the team, gets an at bat every once in a while and is beloved by the parents. He may have a small role on the team, but the players and parents love having him around. Now imagine if that tee ball team was made up of fully-grown adults, didn’t use tees, played in a 45,000-seat stadium, and was called the New York Mets. Bartolo Colon is, without a doubt, that meatball, with the exception being that he has had a very intricate role in the team’s success.
Before Bartolo Colon signed with the Mets in the offseason before the 2014 season, he was a journeyman pitcher. The 42-year-old was signed out of the Dominican Republic in 1993 and came up through the Cleveland Indians system, where he was a vital part of the Indians playoff teams in the late 90s. Between 2002 and 2013, he played for the Montreal Expos (he’s the last active player to have done so), Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Boston Red Sox, New York Yankees and the Oakland A’s. Bartolo’s career has had highs and lows. He won a Cy Young in 2005 while with the Angels, winning 21 games and posting a 3.48 ERA. However, while with the A’s, he was suspended for 50 games in 2012 for testing positive for PEDs. He rebounded by making the All-Star game in 2013.
Since penning a two year deal with the Mets on December 11th, 2013, he has posted a 29-26 record, with a 4.13 ERA and a 1.232 WHIP. He filled in well when Harvey was going through rehabilitation for Tommy John surgery, which was the main reason the team signed Colon. He has been a positive influence in the clubhouse as well, using his experience to give advice to the young starting phenoms in the Mets’ rotation. He has been exceptional out of the bullpen this postseason en route to the first World Series appearance of his career. Countless times over the past two years, he has been the man to “stop a losing streak” or go a few more innings to provide a day off for the bullpen. He also has provided many instances of comic relief for the Mets, whether he’s losing his helmet while batting, carrying the bat to first base or doing a behind-the-back flip like he did against the Marlins in early September. He is seen as a novelty among baseball fans, leading people to wonder how a man at the age of 42 can still be so effective.
Bartolo is in the twilight of his career, and he insists he still has some left in the tank. After the World Series, he will hit the free agent market, and will garner interest from some teams looking for a one year number 5 starter. It isn’t completely out of the question for the Mets to resign him. With Zach Wheeler coming back from Tommy John and Steven Matz probably being placed on an innings limit, the Mets could use a guy who can work both as a starter and out of the bullpen if need be. As seen during this postseason, Bartolo is versatile. While he is surprisingly the biggest cap hit for the Mets at this moment, he would probably be willing to take a pay cut in order to play for a young team that wants to get back to the World Series. It’s too early to tell which option the Mets will move forward with, but there is no bad option in letting him walk or resigning him.
Whatever happens to the veteran pitcher this offseason, Colon is currently one of baseball’s gems. He’s not a Hall of Famer, yet he is one of those players who will be referred to in the same context as Bill “The Spaceman” Lee and Doc Ellis, though with less controversy. He is a novelty to baseball today, with his “laissez-faire” attitude and non-disruptive, yet hilarious antics. Baseball fans love him for the “meatball” persona that he takes on. At the end of the day, it’s Bartolo’s world, and we’re just living in it.