Why Bartolo Colon Had Nothing To Lose


Bartolo Colon was recently suspended 50 games for using performance enhancing drugs. The big burly right hander was caught using synthetic testosterone only a few days after the Giants Melky Cabrera tested positive for the same substance. While many A’s fans along with baseball fans in general were angered by Colon’s actions, what did he have to lose? Nothing.

Colon was a steady hand in an A’s rotation that is full of young arms and an oft-injured Brandon McCarthy. He went out every fifth day, threw his fastball for about one hundred pitches, then walked off the mound with a smile, win or lose. His attitude was constant. Always just happy to be there. He was your prototypical veteran who loved to win but loved to play the game more. That is why to many A’s fans it was disappointing to hear about the suspension. GM Billy Beane decided at the trade deadline that Colon’s value was better served with the A’s then the return they would get if they had traded him. The steady presence, the veteran voice, the value, and the big smile are now all gone with one failed test. This left me to wonder why. Why would Bartolo Colon use steroids? These questions led me to a revelation on two fronts. The first revelation was I should’ve expected this day to come. And the second revelation was he had nothing to lose by using steroids. To see how I came to the first revelation let’s look at Colon’s numbers over the past few seasons:

2008 with Red Sox: Win/Loss 4-2 in 7 Games Started. 39 Innings pitched, 3.92ERA. He had a %40 groundball rate.

2009 with White Sox: Win/Loss 3-6 in 12 Games Started. 62.1 Innings pitched, 4.19ERA. He had a %44.4 groundball rate.

2010: Not active.

2011 with Yankees: Win/Loss 8-10 in 26 Games Started. 164.1 Innings pitched, 4.00ERA. He had a %44.2 groundball rate.

2012 with A’s: Win/Loss 10-9 in 24 Games Started. 152.1 Innings pitched, 3.43ERA. He had a %45.7 groundball rate.

(Stats found at fangraphs.com)

These numbers told me two things and led me to my final revelation. Colon was going from contract to contract in recent years, and from 2009 to 2011 his numbers improved greatly even with an entire season off. We all thought because of his size he could just put up those numbers. But because the numbers spiked so much we all should have at least kept the idea open that Colon was using steroids. This thinking will lead you to ask the final question why. Why was he using the steroids?

Colon turned 39 this season and was at the end of his run in the major leagues. Many believed he only had a couple seasons, at most, left to pitch. For a pitcher near the end and pitching on one year deals it is important to maximize value. To maximize value is simple: post better numbers. Colon was a fastball pitcher, but slowly losing velocity. To gain some of that velocity back, it seems, he used synthetic testosterone. He put up numbers this season, that if he would not have been caught, would have got him at least another one year deal of the same value or more. He was at the end of his career and saw an opportunity to get a couple extra million dollars for when he retires. He did not put up hall of fame numbers in his career. He was never really a larger than life character in his career (one could argue his weight made him one though). He was Bartolo Colon. A man few would remember twenty years from now.

People argue Colon was using synthetic testosterone last season with the Yankees. A few could argue he’s always used some form of steroids. The fact of the matter is, he was caught. He is now serving a 50 game suspension and probably won’t be in MLB ever again. Some people are disappointed, some are angered, some lost respect for Colon. Regardless of what you think, I think, or anyone else thinks, one thing is clear. Bartolo Colon had nothing to lose.