Bartolo Colon pitched for 11 teams over the course of his 21-year big league career. He started his career with six seasons in Cleveland, the longest he played for any one team. He then won a Cy Young with the Los Angeles Angels in 2005, the highlight of his four seasons there.
But despite having longer stints and more individual success at other stops, Colon is remembered most fondly for his three seasons with the Mets, where he formed an indelible connection to the fan base that many athletes never come close to achieving.
So on Sunday, Colon officially retired from the game, not with Cleveland or with Los Angeles, but as a member of the Mets.
“This was the fan base that accepted me the most and supported me the most, so that’s why I felt really comfortable here,” Colon said via a translator on Sunday as he officially retired as a Met at Citi Field.
By the time Colon joined the Mets in 2014, he had already established himself as an outstanding pitcher, having won 189 games with a 3.94 ERA in over 2,500 career innings.
But when he signed in New York, he knew there was a chance to do something special.
“For me, I thought this was a tremendous team. I thought that in 2015 we did have a little bit of luck, but once Terry [Collins] started working with a lot of the young guys and the front office started signing some free agents and supplementing the team, I think that’s what ended up being so good about playing here.”
Collins, who had a first-hand look at just how impactful Colon was inside the Mets clubhouse and on the field, joined Colon at Citi Field on Sunday, discussing how remarkable it was that the right-hander could completely change his style of pitching and still be as effective as ever.
“During my tenure here, we made some good signings, as everybody knows. This guy was one of the best,” said Collins. “I had seen Bartolo when I managed the Angels … the last time I had seen Bartolo pitch live, he beat us in Anaheim. He pitched a two-hit shutout. Nine innings. The last pitch was his 128th pitch of the game. It was 98 miles per hour. The next time I saw Bartolo he was throwing 88 miles per hour, and the ball, he couldn’t straighten it out. Everything sinks.
“I had never seen anybody make the adjustment from being an absolute power guy to a finesse pitcher with great command of all the pitches he threw, the changeup, the slider, the fastball. He could go through a lineup three times with one pitch and have four different pitches, because he sunk it here, he sunk it up there, he sunk it there and he sunk it down there, and nothing was ever in the middle of the plate.
“He meant a lot to our ball club. He won a lot of games, he ate a lot of innings. He was a special guy to have on the team.”
Colon had his share of signature moments in a Mets uniform, from his iconic home run off of James Shields in San Diego to his highlight-reel behind-the-back flip to first base in Miami. And while Colon was seemingly always all smiles on the mound, he certainly didn’t make things fun for opposing managers.
Just ask Buck Showalter.
“It wasn’t funny when he was on the other team,” Showalter said with a wry smile. “There was nothing funny about that. It wasn’t fun facing him. We didn’t have a good time when he pitched. It was not enjoyable. So no, I don’t have funny stories about him.”
Colon ended up making 98 regular season starts for the Mets, pitching to a 3.90 ERA with a 4.83 strikeout to walk ratio. And now, he has officially called it a career, going out with the team where he left an unforgettable impression.