Over his 19-year Major League career, Bartolo Colon has made just 269 plate appearances—partly due to his spending much of it in the American League (where, no, he did not predate the designated hitter rule) and partly due to being a starting pitcher. Hilarity has generally ensued. In those 269 at-bats, he’s struck out 134 times, hit three doubles, and homered exactly once. That home run came at San Diego’s Petco Park back in May, the site of tonight’s All-Star game. His slugging percentage at Petco? A robust .800, all the way up from his career .118. There hasn’t been a return like this since MacArthur’s.
As long as the NFL insists on holding a Pro Bowl, the MLB All-Star Game will not be the worst all-star game in professional sports. It’s held in the middle of the season, and with World Series home-field advantage on the line, it actually means something. But interleague play has greatly lessened the novelty of American League batters facing National League pitching (and vice-versa) while the silly insistence on having every team represented manages to create needlessly bloated rosters and bypass deserving players at the same damn time. When then-commissioner Bud Selig allowed the 2002 All-Star Game to end in a freaking tie, maybe they should have just done away with it entirely.
Colon, then a 29-year-old Montreal Expo, did not appear in the 2002 All-Star Game. He’d been an All-Star exactly once, in 1998, as a 25-year-old fireballer then in his second Major League season with the Cleveland Indians. Colon was actually the winning pitcher, despite giving up three runs in his one inning, all on a three-run shot by Barry Bonds. Colon made it again in 2005 as an Angel, and did better, giving up just one hit in his one inning of work. He was named to the team again in 2013, but was unable to pitch.
If Colon can’t get an at-bat in Petco, home to his greatest offensive achievement, why even have an All-Star game to begin with?
Yet against all odds, as the oldest player in the majors, this year he gets another chance. And with Yoenis Cespedes withdrawing due to injury and 23-year-old Noah Syndergaard being held out for precautionary reasons, it will be up to the 43-year-old Colon (along with closer Jeurys Familia) to represent the Mets. Let him represent them right.
Baseball can be a maddening sport, what with all its unwritten rules and antiquated traditions. Despite all the excitement—Syndergaard’s mitt-popping fastballs, Giancarlo Stanton’s moonshot homers, Ichiro Suzuki’s elegant pursuit of 3,000 hits—it always finds a way to trip over itself. Bryce Harper’s youthful exuberance should be celebrated, not stifled. Yasiel Puig and Jose Bautista’s batflips should be accepted as a part of their heritage and their individual style—if the pitchers don’t like it, maybe they should try getting them out. Madison Bumgarner should have been in the damn home run derby.
I do not believe I am alone in wanting to see Colon do more than just get his designated allotment of three outs tonight and then sit back down. If Colon can’t get an at-bat in Petco, home to his greatest offensive achievement, why even have an All-Star game to begin with? Pitchers haven’t been allowed to hit in All-Star games since 2010 (THANKS OBAMA), so it will take some creative management by Terry Collins to get Bart a PA, but it’s not impossible. Send him out there to face Kansas City flamethrower Wade Davis or, even better, Boston knuckleballer Steven Wright. Let him get some cuts. Let Bartolo rake.
And by all means, get him at least an inning of work, too. Let him face Carlos Beltran, who, at 39, has the same 19 years of experience as Colon. Let him face Mike Trout, who was all of six years old when Colon made his first All-Star appearance in ‘98. Let him face David Ortiz, who has only managed four hits—and one homer—in 36 career at-bats against Colon. No pitcher who’s faced Ortiz 20 or more times has done better.
Most of all, let’s just enjoy Big Sexy in what may turn out to be his final All-Star appearance. He intends to pitch one more season, but it’s hard to imagine him getting this chance again. Assuming he stays with the Mets, their rotation should be set. Then again, when it comes to Bartolo Colon, it seems foolish to rule anything out. Even a home run.