Big Sexy’s Big Milestone (And a Look at How He Got There)

On Tuesday, 45-year-old Bartolo Colon came away from his 21st start of the season with a win. It was only his 6th win of the season, compared to 10 losses, but it was a historic win. Tuesday’s win was Colon’s 246th, giving him the most wins of all-time by a Latin American-born pitcher.

lead_720_405.jpg
Courtesy of The Atlantic

Colon, a native of the Dominican Republic, went 7 innings against Seattle to earn the milestone victory, surrendering 4 earned runs on 8 hits, including early home runs to Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager. The Rangers’ offense came to life after trailing early, scoring 11 runs on 10 hits to power Colon to the W. After finding his mojo, Colon was able to set down 9 of the final 10 batters that he faced.

“Big Sexy,” as he is affectionately known around the league, is in his 21st season in the big leagues; Texas is his 11th club. He surpassed Nicaraguan Dennis Martinez’s 245 wins to reach this mark.

How did he get here? Let’s take a look at Big Sexy’s long career. Statistics, as usual, come from baseball-reference.com.

Bartolo Colon was born on May 24, 1973 in Altamira, Dominican Republic. He debuted with the Indians on April 4th, 1997. (I was just over two years old.) His first season in the bigs was nothing special: he went 4-7 with a 5.65 ERA in 17 starts. However, he started to find his groove in his second season and went on to win at least 14 games in his next four full seasons with the Indians:

  • 1998: 14-9, 3.71 ERA
  • 1999: 18-5, 3.95 ERA (finished 4th in AL Cy Young voting)
  • 2000: 15-8, 3.88 ERA
  • 2001: 14-12, 4.89 ERA

In 2002, Colon was traded mid-season from Cleveland to the Montreal Expos. He went 10-4 with both teams, finishing the year 20-8 with a 2.93 ERA. That year, he finished 6th in AL Cy Young voting.

Colon spent the 2003 season with the White Sox, finishing 15-13 with a 3.87 ERA. He would record a league-leading 9 complete games that year.

He then went to the Anaheim Angels in 2004, who would re-brand themselves as the Los Angeles Angels in ’05. He went 18-12 in 2004 with a 5.01 ERA, but in 2005, he would finish 21-8- the most wins in the league- with a 3.48 ERA, earning him the AL Cy Young award.

Over the next few seasons, Colon would hit major regression. He spent much of the 2006 season on the DL with shoulder inflammation. In 2007, his last year with the Angels, Colon went 6-8 with a dismal 6.34 ERA.

After 4 seasons with the Angels, Bartolo would spend his 11th season of pro ball, in 2008, with the Red Sox. He started in the minors, but was quickly called up after throwing a one-hitter for Boston’s Triple A team. He’d only appear in 7 games for Boston, going 4-2, before leaving the team to attend to personal matters in the Dominican Republic and deciding to remain there.

In 2009, Colon would change the color of his Sox from Red to White, returning to Chicago for another stint on the South Side. That season was another injury-riddled one for Colon, who had undergone off-season surgery to remove bone chips in his elbow. He would get 12 starts, going 3-6, before suffering another injury that would end his 2009 season and would keep him sidelined for the entirety of 2010.

In 2011, his 14th season, Colon would take his talents to the Bronx. He signed a minor league deal with the Yankees and was invited to Spring Training, where he would be named to the Yanks’ Opening Day roster as a reliever. He was moved back into the rotation in late April to replace an injured Phil Hughes. On May 30th, he threw a 4-hit complete game shutout against Oakland. He would start 26 games in 2011, the most since 2005, going 8-10 with a 4.00 ERA. The big righty suffered a hamstring injury in June, and would hit the disabled list again. When the Yankees made the playoffs, Colon was sent back to the bullpen.

2NB5B4YXSTVR2WN6A2AH4FU64E
Courtesy of New York Daily News

Colon would spend the next two seasons in Oakland. In August of 2012, he was suspended for 50 games by MLB for testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. He would re-sign with the Athletics for 2013 and would have his best season in since his Cy Young-winning season of 2005: he posted an 18-6 record with a 2.65 ERA, and was elected to the All-Star Game for the first time since ’05.

By 2014, Big Sexy had spent 15 full seasons in the American League, his only NL experience coming from his short time in Montreal. But before the 2014 season began, he signed a 2-year, $20 million deal with the Mets. On August 8th he would win his 200th game, the third Dominican-born player to do so. In 31 starts in 2014, Colon went 15-13 with a 4.09 ERA. In his second season with the Mets, Colon was named the Opening Day starter. Colon would later become the first ever pitcher to record a win against a single team (the Orioles) for 7 different clubs. On October 21st, 2015, Colon would pitch 1.1 relief innings and earn the win in game 4 of the NLCS against the Cubs. Six days later, he would pitch 2.1 innings out of the bullpen and be tagged for the loss, becoming the oldest pitcher to ever lose a World Series game.

Colon would re-sign with the Mets for 2016, entering the season as the oldest active player in the Major Leagues. He became the last remaining player to have played for the Montreal Expos, who moved to Washington, D.C. and become the Nationals in 2005. On May 7, 2016, at age 42 and in his 19th season, Bartolo Colon hit his first career home run. Later that season, he would make his 500th career start. He finished 2016 with an impressive 15-8 record and a 3.43 ERA.

mlbf_669896583_th_45
Bartolo Colon’s first career home run, at age 42. Courtesy of mlb.com.

Bartolo started the 2017 season- his 20th- with the Braves, but was released in early July after posting a 2-8 record with an awful 8.14 ERA over 13 starts. Three days after being released, he signed a minor league deal with the Twins, and would be called back to the big leagues in July. On August 4th, 44-year-old Colon became the oldest American League pitcher to pitch a complete game since 45-year-old Nolan Ryan did it in 1992. Later in August he became the 18th pitcher in history to get a win against all 30 MLB teams.

In February of this year, Bartolo signed a minor league contract with the Texas Rangers. He was called up right away on April 2nd. On April 15th, the baseball world watched as 44-year-old Colon took a perfect game into the 7th inning before walking Carlos Correa and eventually giving up a hit. On April 28th, Colon got his first W of the season against Toronto, giving him at least one win for all 11 teams he has played for. And just this Tuesday, Bartolo Colon picked up the win in an 11-4 victory over the Mariners, giving him career win number 246, the most wins ever by any Latin American-born Major League player.

581659638_750x422.jpg
Courtesy of WFAA Channel 8- Dallas, TX.

21 seasons. 11 teams. 246 wins.

There is no doubt that despite all of the bad, injury-filled (and yes, the one suspension-filled) seasons, Bartolo Colon is a lovable fan-favorite. As of right now, his total record stands at 246-186, with a career 4.09 ERA. At age 45, he is old enough to be the father of many of today’s young players. And he’s not showing any signs of retiring anytime soon. If he wants to become the oldest MLB pitcher to play the game, he will have to pass Jamie Moyer, who retired in 2012 at the age of 49. But even if he doesn’t last 4 more years in the Majors, Big Sexy can retire with the satisfaction of a long, rewarding career for which he will surely be remembered for generations to come.