Bartolo Colon made news recently when he stated a desire to return to the majors and retire as a Met. When you have a reputation for being a club open to giving chances to guys who were last good three years ago, this is the kind of stuff that happens to you. Rick Ankiel, Jose Bautista, Adrian Gonzalez, Austin Jackson and James Loney jump immediately to mind as examples of trying to catch lightning in a bottle. Fortunately, it doesn’t look like the idea has much traction.
Let’s state for the record that this space saw more anti-Colon mentions than pro-Colon ones during his first go-round with the Mets. Actually, before he was a Met, there was a desire to see him in Queens. Back in February of 2012, there was a column entitled, Using hindsight to redo the Mets’ offseason, where one of the moves endorsed was signing Colon. So, it wasn’t always negative. In the real offseason back then, Colon signed a 1/$2 million deal with the A’s. The proposal was to give him $2.5 million to sign with the Mets. Colon went out in 2012 and put up a 2.6 fWAR in 26 starts. He was a steal for the A’s and would have been one at the higher salary for the Mets, too.
The Mets did eventually sign Colon before the 2014 season. In his final year with the A’s, Colon put up a 4.0 fWAR in 30 starts, his best year since a 4.1 fWAR in 2005 when he won the Cy Young Award with the Angels. Colon was good in his three years with the Mets, putting up a combined 7.7 fWAR over his time in blue and orange and recording a 44-34 record between 2014-16. But he immediately turned into a pumpkin once he left the Mets. In 56 games since 2017, Colon was 14-26 with a 6.13 ERA.
Yet it seems that those who were the strongest backers for Colon were all about moments and mystique, rather than actual production. Without a doubt, he was a great story. He didn’t look like a baseball player and he didn’t pitch like a typical player, either. And on top of that, he seemed like he was having a great time out there. It was like he was putting a big joke over on everyone and the fans were in on the act.
No one who watched it will ever forget the absolute joy in Gary Cohen’s voice when he made the call for Colon’s home run. Easily my favorite memory regarding Colon was when he fielded a ball along the first base line and threw it behind his back to record the out at first base. It was the equivalent of Geena Davis doing a split while catching a pop fly in “A League of Their Own.”
It would have been nice if Colon’s run with the Mets started two years before it did. Other than that, it’s hard to imagine how it could have worked out better for the club. He was solid, earned his contracts, played a role on the team that went to the World Series and entertained the masses along the way, all while being considered a good teammate.
The old conventional wisdom is that it’s better to trade a player a year too early rather than a year too late. While the Mets didn’t trade Colon, they had perfect timing with him. They got his last three good years and didn’t get left holding the bag when it all fell apart. For a player who was all about the story, this one had a Hollywood ending, at least as far as the Mets are concerned. Bringing him back now would shift this story from Hollywood to The Twilight Zone. Some would argue that’s already happened, with what Colon did in 2017 onward. But since it didn’t happen in Queens, Mets fans don’t have their memories sullied.
Baseball-Reference has Colon earning over $117 million in his career, so it’s hard to believe this is about money. It would be understandable if Colon wanted to have a last hurrah and go out better than the way that he did. But signing him now would be the move of an also-ran, not a team with postseason aspirations. You can hear some slimy marketing guy pushing to sign Colon, have him make a few starts at home and goose attendance.
But any analytics guy who advocated for this should be fired on the spot.