On Bartolo Colon's 43rd birthday, here are 43 reasons to love MLB's oldest player
On May 24, 1973, the world was given a great gift: Bartolo Colon was born. On Tuesday, Colon celebrates his 43rd birthday -- 43 years spent pitching, laughing, hitting dingers and bringing joy to us all. The right-hander got the party going early during his start against the Nats on Monday, giving up just five hits and one run over seven innings in the Mets' 7-1 victory. In order to truly celebrate the 19-year vet, we've compiled 43 reasons why he is the best. Check 'em out below.
1. He is undisputed master of the strike zone
How has the guy built like that one really enthusiastic member of your softball team managed to remain a quality big league starter well into his 40s? By controlling every inch of the strike zone. And lest you think that's hyperbole, consider: During his start against the Nationals last Wednesday, Colon walked consecutive batters ... for the first time since 2007. The last time Bartolo Colon walked two batters in a row was one day before the series premiere of "Mad Men." There was a lot of this in the meantime:
2. He once threw 38 consecutive strikes
Speaking of undisputed mastery of the strike zone, this seems like a good time to remind you that Bartolo once threw 38 (!) consecutive strikes during a start against the Angels back in 2012. Recording of pitch-by-pitch data is pretty spotty before the 1990s, but as far as we know, it's a Major League record.
3. That's not the only record he's set
There are many ways to express Bartolo's longevity. Arguably our favorite: Colon pitched 7 2/3 innings of one-run ball in a 3-2 Mets win over the Orioles back in May 2015, becoming the first pitcher to beat a team while pitching for seven different clubs.
4. He is a profound embodiment of the human condition
For the past 20 years, there have been only three certainties in this life: touching Adrian Beltre's head being a bad idea, the passage of time, and Bartolo Colon. Much as all of us have changed over the past two decades, so too has Bartolo -- in one GIF, watch as he goes from wide-eyed rookie to seasoned veteran:
5. He's a fitness inspiration to us all
Ever looked outside and thought, "I'm sorry, but my bed is just far comfier than the gym"? We have but one thing to say: If Bartolo can spend his offseason slamming some giant ropes and crushing some resistance jumping jacks none of us have any excuse.
6. But he knows that it's important to be comfortable in your own skin
Exercise is important and all, but if we've learned one thing from watching Bartolo over the years, it's that we're all beautiful no matter what:
7. He (almost) has Billy Hamilton speed
You probably wouldn't think of Bartolo Colon -- all 5-foot-10, 285 pounds of him -- as a speedster. But when it comes to making a play for his team, there's no challenge too daunting -- not even trying to chase down Billy Hamilton.
8. He is an excellent manager of the #brand
Bartolo is more than just a pitcher; he's a businessman, a visionary entrepreneur interested in more than just baseball. So when the nickname "Big Sexy" began to float around, he didn't just embrace it -- he applied for a trademark on it.
9. He is now a nationwide icon
Upsetting as the thought may be, eventually we'll have to face the reality of a Bartolo-less MLB. But who will keep his legacy alive? How will we tell future generations of his greatness? Simple: We'll just pull out his home run Topps card.
10. He's willing to help his team in any way necessary
Sure, Bartolo has a lifetime slash line of .091/.098/.113. But that's not important -- the only thing that matters is the team. And if the team needs him as a potential pinch-hitter, then a potential pinch-hitter he shall be.
11. He reached the very pinnacle of his profession
But don't let all the endearing shenanigans fool you: Bartolo has put together a heck of a career. Before he was the Met you know and love today, he was an up-and-coming ace with the Indians -- and as a member of the Angels in 2005, he won the AL Cy Young Award after putting up a 3.48 ERA over 222 2/3 innings.
12. He's keeping the memory of the Expos alive
It's been 12 years now since the Expos moved to the nation's capital -- and in that time, the number of active players who called Montreal home has dwindled. Endy Chavez opted out of his Minor League contract last spring. Bruce Chen retired less than two months later. Maicer Izturis called it a career this past March. And then, finally, there was one: Bartolo Colon, who started just 17 total games for Montreal after being acquired by the team at the 2002 non-waiver Trade Deadline, is now the Last Expo Standing.
Vlad. The Hawk. Youppi. It all rests on the shoulders of Big Sexy -- and we think their memory is in safe hands.
13. He began one of the greatest ripple effects in MLB history
That Expos trade we just mentioned? As it turns out, that deal is one of the most fascinating in recent memory. On June 27, 2002, the Indians traded Bartolo to Montreal in exchange for first baseman Lee Stevens and some prospects you may have heard of: Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips and Grady Sizemore.
Colon pitched well for the Expos, but signed with the White Sox as a free agent that offseason. As for Cleveland? Phillips would go on to stardom (and swagdom) in Cincinnati, but the Tribe ended up doing all right with Lee and Sizemore:
14. He once outdueled Roger Clemens with a one-hitter at Yankee Stadium
As you might have gathered, Bartolo has put together a lot of great moments. One day in the Bronx, however, stands above the rest: On Sept. 18, 2000, Colon and the Indians visited the first-place Yankees. The Indians needed to start stringing together wins if they were going to catch the White Sox in the AL Central, but they were up against Roger Clemens, who would finish sixth in AL Cy Young Award voting that season.
... except, well, Colon didn't really care. He pitched the game of his career: nine innings, one hit, one walk, no runs, 13 K's and a game score of 97.
15. He will punish you for your fielding insolence
The Marlins entered their May 31, 2015, matchup with the Mets pretty unconcerned with Bartolo at the plate -- whenever Colon stepped to the plate, Miami moved its outfielders way, way in, in order to make sure nothing fell in front of them. Bartolo's response? He made sure he didn't hit it in front of them:
16. Bartolo Colon Gets on his Horse, Part 1
A Bartolo at rest tends to stay at rest, but don't be fooled -- he's got an extra gear, and it is among the most wonderful things you'll see on a baseball field. Like last May against the Cardinals, when he legged out a Baltimore chop:
17. Bartolo Colon Gets on his Horse, Part 2
Or just a couple of days later, when he tagged up and took third:
18. Bartolo Colon Gets on his Horse, Part 3
And finally, the coup de grace: last April against the Braves, when our intrepid hero caught A.J. Pierzynski leaning off first base ... and then proceeded to skillfully chase him down:
19. His joy cannot be contained by his batting helmet
To watch Bartolo hit is to know two things: 1) You can now die happy, and 2) his sheer exuberance with the bat is simply too much for any one batting helmet to contain.
20. He's a master negotiator
Colon is allegedly represented by Mitch Frankel, but we're assuming that has to simply be a pseudonym, because only the big man himself could manage to insert a clause into his current contract giving him a $50,000 bonus -- for winning the 2016 Silver Slugger Award.
21. ... did we mention he hit a home run?
From this point forward, all of recorded human history will be divided into the BBD and ABD periods -- before and after Bartolo's dinger. Mets broadcaster Gary Cohen dubbed it one of the best moments in baseball history, and that really didn't feel like hyperbole.
22. He's earned the respect of his teammates
Of course, he teammates honored such a momentous occasion in the only way they could -- by giving him the silent treatment.
23. He's living proof that it's never too late to improve yourself
After a decade of great work as a starter, Bartolo hit a speed bump. He posted ERAs of 5.11 and 6.34 with the Angels in 2007-08, and at age 34, it appeared Colon's career might be on the downslope. But Bartolo wants us all to know that in life, as in baseball, you're never too old to learn some new tricks: After stops with the Red Sox, White Sox and Yankees, Bartolo put up two great years with the A's: a 3.43 ERA in 2012 and then a 2.65 mark and a sixth-place finish in AL Cy Young Award voting the following year.
24. He remains poised at all times
Game 3 of the 2015 NLDS. The Mets have jumped on top early against the Dodgers, looking to take a 2-1 lead in the series. Looking to preserve the lead, there's only one man for the job: Bartolo Colon.
How did Colon prepare himself? Did he put in some extra arm stretches? Did he find some space to be alone with his thoughts? No, he walked next to the L.A. bullpen and said what's up to old friend Joel Peralta:
25. He's a complete baseball player
Lest you get the impression that all Colon can do is pitch and hit dingers, make no mistake: His defensive skills are just as sharp.
26. He's a pioneer who has reinvented defense and also the laws of physics
I'm sorry, did we say "complete player"? What we actually meant was "demigod sent to Earth to redefine what is possible on a baseball field."
27. Most importantly, he knows when to take a breather
All that sprinting, catching, diving, pitching and dinger-ing can be exhausting after a while. Thankfully, Bartolo is also here to teach us a very valuable lesson about the merits of conserving one's energy.
28. He helps out his friends
He might put "baseball player" on his business card, but in reality Bartolo is so much more than that: pure distillation of joy; the people's champion; international man of mystery. So it should come as no surprise that Colon would show up in every possible corner of the sporting world -- like, for example, an episode of ESPN's "College GameDay" last year.
28. He is a generous soul
Sometimes things can get pretty dire in a Major League dugout -- you're out there for at least a couple of hours, with no food, restrooms or sunflower seed protection devices available. Bartolo understands this. And so, during a Braves game in September of last year, he did something about it: He went around handing out candy to his teammates.
29. He sets goals and achieves them
Everyone's heard the aphorisms telling us that anything is possible, any goal attainable, if we simply set our minds to it. Before you scoff, consider that Bartolo Colon is a living testament to its truth: Before the 2015 season, he was challenged by then-Mets hitting coach Kevin Long to increase his hit total from 2014 by 50 percent -- from two to three. It didn't even take him two full months to pull it off.
30. He gives back
Bartolo grew up in the Dominican Republic, and he's never forgotten where he came from -- allow us to introduce you to Bartolo Colon's baseball academy, which trains and develops young Dominican players.
The Bartolo Colon school of hitting is real. Veteran pitcher has a baseball academy for teens in the DR. Players wear BC40 t-shirts & hats.- Jesse Sanchez (@JesseSanchezMLB) July 27, 2015
And in case you were wondering, yes, there is a glorious Bartolo statue outside:
31. He never takes himself too seriously
Clearly, Bartolo puts in the work. But he also never loses sight of the fact that he gets to play a game for a living. And at all times, he plays like he's getting away with something -- whether hitting a screaming liner into right field ...
... or even just running through some Spring Training drills. Look at that smile!
32. He's inspired some of the great works of Western art
For all of our warnings about his offensive prowess, some just refused to believe. Like Mets fan Matt Sassi, who was so positive Bartolo would never hit a home run, he made a bet at the beginning of the season: If by some chance Bartolo went deep in 2016, he would get a Bartolo Colon tattoo. Welp:
There are few things in the world less important than a mans word. In this case, a statement was made at the beginning of the season, and it came true. Matt Sassi said to his buddy, Anthony Triola: "If Bartolo Colon hits a home run this year, I'll get a commemorative tattoo". Before the game on Saturday I met them in McFadden's and they told me about this bet. You'd think, ok... that's not happening. Right? WRONG! Coolest part of the bet was that they were both there to witness the feat in person. Matt is a Middletown, NY native that moved to San Diego. What were the odds that Bart would be on the hill the day of our invasion? What are the odds he'd go yard? Slim to damn near impossible. Matt could have chickened out and not gotten it at all, or gotten something small that could easily have been hidden. Instead he went balls to the freakin' wall with pretty much a half sleeve. Tossed THE 7 LINE ARMY on there for good measure and added the date of Bart's now famous swing. You manned up, Matt. Bravo.
33. He turns baseball orthodoxy on its head
As the quality of batted ball data improves, more and more MLB teams lean heavily on defensive shifting -- putting fielders in the best position to help out their pitcher. Sadly, this seemingly airtight strategy had one fatal flaw: It failed to account for the superior bat control of one Bartolo Colon.
34. He inspires his teammates
In the face of such awe-inspiring greatness, it's only natural that Bartolo's teammates would want to follow in his footsteps. Luckily, Bartolo's a willing teacher -- even going so far as to show the Mets all of his behind-the-back defensive secrets:
35. ... he really, really inspires them
Of course, Colon's guidance extends beyond the field as well. Like, for example, to the world of fashion, where he's made a lasting impact on Noah Syndergaard and his family.
36. He takes one heck of a photograph
It's been said that the face of Bartolo Colon is the artist's greatest canvas, and while we may have just made that up, that doesn't make it any less true. Behold the many and varying splendors of Bartolo, stretching across the entire emotional spectrum. Serenity:
37. He knows how to keep things light
With the Mets appearing in their first NLCS in a decade, it's understandable for the team to get a little tight on such a big state. Thankfully, Bartolo was there to provide some slapstick in the Citi Field tunnel after Game 2 that really lightened the mood:
38. He nearly broke Statcast
Statcast has given us a glimpse under the hood of the great plays we watch on the field every day -- from the route efficiency that let Juan Lagares do his latest Juan Lagares thing to Giancarlo's jaw-dropping exit velocity. But a few weeks ago, it was faced with its greatest challenge: Attempting to quantify the power behind a Bartolo Colon line drive.
39. He's blessed us with some of broadcasting's finest moments
If you think quantifying Bartolo's greatness is difficult, imagine being the person tasked with putting his feats into words. Luckliy for us all, the Mets' Spanish radio team was up to the challenge when Colon hit his dinger heard 'round the world. (Warning, the following Vine may lead to bouts of uncontrollable grinning).
40. We all see a little of ourselves in him
Once upon a time, we were all kids in the backyard, imagining hitting a walk-off grand slam or throwing strike three to win the World Series. Alas, we grow up, realize that we aren't blessed with the ability to hit 95-mph fastballs with a wooden stick, and let go of our dreams.
And then Bartolo comes along with the swing of a slow-pitch softball champion and a smile of pure joy, and he makes us wonder: If he can hit a big league home run and pitch successfully at 43, why can't we?
41. He knows how to have a good time
As you might expect from the man who seems to constantly be Dancing Like No One Is Watching, Colon knows how to celebrate life's special moments:
Happy birthday to Bartolo Colon, who is 42 today. He celebrated by smacking a foam roller on a clubhouse table, freaking out half the room.- Anthony DiComo (@AnthonyDiComo) May 24, 2015
42. He's clutch in the postseason
Colon has made October appearances for four different teams over the span of 18 years. But they've all had one thing in common: Bartolo has been awesome. In his first postseason start, he threw 5 2/3 innings of one-run ball against the Red Sox in the 1998 ALDS, and followed that up with a complete game win against the Yankees in the ALCS. Overall, his postseason ERA sits at 3.49, with 52 K's over 67 innings.
43. He shows no signs of slowing down
He's a year older today, but Bartolo has no plans to hang 'em up any time soon: When asked by the New York Post back in March if he hoped to keep playing beyond 2016, he gave a simple answer: "As long as I stay healthy, yes." Here's to another 43 years.