Bartolo Colon has become a larger-than-life, almost cult-like figure in baseball. His roly-poly body, jolly nature and unusually athletic exploits on the mound and at the plate have made him a favorite of GIF makers everywhere.
But Colon is respected throughout baseball for more than the videos featuring him that have gone viral over the years, whether it was his first career home run in 2016, his behind-the-back toss to first base in 2015 or a play this past May in which he stopped a line drive to the mound with his ample belly and recovered to get the out.
The 45-year-old former Mets and Yankees pitcher was in the headlines again this past week when he earned his 246th victory to pass Dennis Martinez and become the winningest Latin American-born pitcher in baseball history.
“He’s a great pitcher,” said CC Sabathia, Colon’s former teammate with the Indians and Yankees.
Is he? No. But Colon’s stats are good enough that he is going to get consideration for the Hall of Fame whenever his long career ends — and that consideration could last until Colon is in his 60s (if he’s actually retired by then).
Colon’s career record is 246-186. His ERA is 4.09. He has thrown 3,445 2⁄3 innings and has 2,526 strikeouts. He won the 2005 AL Cy Young Award by going 21-8 with a 3.48 ERA for the Angels. He is a four-time All-Star, most recently in 2016, when he went 15-8, 3.43 for the Mets.
Colon hasn’t been very effective since that season. He pitched to a 6.48 ERA for two teams in 2017 and is 6-10 with a 5.18 ERA for the Rangers in 2018. Among the 38 AL pitchers who have thrown enough innings to qualify for the 2018 ERA crown, Colon was 35th going into Friday.
The Rangers are at Yankee Stadium for a four-game series, but Colon is not scheduled to pitch. Texas is Colon’s 11th organization. He had two separate stints with the White Sox.
So as his career totals stand now, where does he stand on a prospective Hall of Fame ballot? Better than you might think.
According to baseball.reference.com, the list of the 10 pitchers who statistically are most similar to Colon starts with Andy Pettitte, who will be on the Hall of Fame ballot next season for the first time. Next is David Wells — another portly pitcher who had a rubber arm — and then Sabathia.
Also in the top 10 are Hall of Famers Jack Morris (fourth) and Catfish Hunter (seventh). Martinez, the man Colon passed in wins Tuesday, is 10th.
Morris is an interesting comparison to Colon as far as Hall of Fame chances. Morris, who went 254-186 with a 3.90 ERA in an 18-year career, was not elected to the Hall in 15 years on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot.
But Morris got in this year on the Modern Baseball Era Ballot, which is what the Hall calls a 16-person group of voters who most people still confuse with the old Veterans Committee, which it replaced along with three other committees that consider other eras.
The Modern Baseball Era Committee meets twice a year in a five-year span to consider players who did not make it during their time on the BBWAA ballot plus other non-playing figures. This year, that committee voted in Morris and former Tigers shortstop Alan Trammell.
If Colon wins eight more games, he can catch Morris in wins, which — though a devalued statistic in modern baseball — still carries weight with some voters. (Hunter had only 224 wins but made it on his third BBWAA ballot.)
There’s no telling what the electorates will look like when Colon is eligible, but here’s the simplest argument that can be made: If Morris got in, then Colon should, too.
That argument will get stronger if Pettitte (256 wins) and Sabathia (243 wins through Friday) get in. At this moment, Sabathia looks more likely because Pettitte admitted using performance-enhancing drugs during his career. Some voters draw a red line through anyone who is mixed up in the steroid era.
Pettitte will be a test case for how today’s voters factor in PED use by an otherwise popular player with loads of postseason success. The vote totals for suspected PED users such as Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds have grown over the years, but not enough for those all-time greats to make the Hall.
Colon was suspended for 50 games in 2012 (when he was with Oakland) after testing positive for testosterone. He apologized immediately. It doesn’t seem to have hurt his standing or popularity in the game, which might count for something when it comes to all of the layers of Hall of Fame voting.
Colon is not an all-time great, but he is an all-time character. That might count for something, too, when the time comes.
Of course, he has to retire first.
Colon hasn’t given any indication that he’s planning to retire. As long as a team needs a strike-thrower and the righthander is physically able, it appears as if he’s going to keep pitching, even though he already has made more than $117 million in his career.
“He can pitch as long as he wants,” Sabathia said. “His arm never hurts. He can throw forever. There’s something to the fat pitchers — we can stay around forever.”
Bartolo Colon vs. Hall of Fame batters:
Player AVG AB H HR
*Roberto Alomar .250 12 3 0
Jeff Bagwell .385 13 5 2
Craig Biggio .350 20 7 1
Wade Boggs .000 2 0 0
Ken Griffey Jr. .292 24 7 2
*Vladimir Guerrero .333 18 6 0
Rickey Henderson .143 7 1 0
Chipper Jones .286 7 2 1
Barry Larkin .000 2 0 0
+Paul Molitor .250 8 2 0
Eddie Murray .000 1 0 0
Mike Piazza .400 15 6 1
Tim Raines .200 5 1 0
Cal Ripken Jr. .200 5 1 0
*Jim Thome .000 3 0 0
Ivan Rodriguez .333 30 10 1
*Frank Thomas .483 29 14 2
*Was teammate of Colon’s
+Was manager of Colon’s