October 4, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Bartolo Colon (40) delivers a pitch against the Detroit Tigers during the first inning in game one of the American League divisional series playoff baseball game at O.co Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
So Bartolo Colon is now a Met. How are we to feel about this?
On the one hand, Colon is the man who (almost) single-handedly saved the A’s 2013 season in June and July, pitching to an 8 and 1 record, and time and again, emerging as the team’s stopper and ace before Jarrod Parker managed to get his head and arm straight.
So he deserved another year, right? Sure. At the age of 40, he deserved another year. One year. But Colon wanted two, not one. And he wanted at least $10 million a year. That wasn’t going to happen. Not in Oakland.
Does anyone, even in Seattle, believe that Robinson Cano will be worth $24 million a year five years from now?
Curt Schilling doesn’t think so. As he told USA Today, “Five years from now, they’ll be looking to move an enormous contract and eat a bunch of it.”
And that’s the crux of it. What did Seattle buy? A three to four year window, in which, they must win a World Series. Because, come 2017, they’re going to be stuck with Cano’s salary. And Cano, absent some breakthrough in clear gels, just won’t be the player he is today in 2017.
So what does this have to do with Bartolo Colon?
Simple and comparable math. Between 2006 and 2011, Bartolo Colon went 22 and 31. In only one of them, 2011, did he pitch more than 100 innings. He was out of baseball in 2010. In 2011 and 2012, his comeback years, which we now know were at least partly fueled by steroids, he went 18 and 19. Not bad. But not Hall of Fame numbers either.
Now, of course, there’s last year. A wonderful year, to be sure. But is anyone else wondering if there wasn’t more to the story of Game 5? You remember, when the A’s ran out Sonny Gray instead of good ole, steady Bartolo Colon?
Did anybody else wonder why you wouldn’t run Bartolo out there for even a few innings and then bring the kid in to pitch a decisive Game 5? And did anyone else find Bob Melvin’s nonsense about Bartolo’s preparation regimen to be, uh, I don’t know, nonsense? (All praise to Sonny Gray. Kid pitched his guts out.)
Or is it, just maybe, that management just didn’t trust a 40 year old pitcher, at the end of the season, who throws little more than fastballs, to close out that murderous Detroit lineup?
Is it just possible that the miracle of 2013 was coming to an end?
Of course we don’t know, and won’t, until Billy Beane writes his book. But I find it hard to argue with the logic of letting go of Colon now, instead of a year late.
There’s only so much you can control in a run for a ring. Chaos happens. Lightning in a bottle right? Were the Giants the most talented team of 2012? Of 2010?
You gather the best players you can reasonably afford. You let them play. You can try to force the magic. You can try to spend your way to a championship. How’s that working for the Yankees? For the Rangers?
Or, you can do it this way. Pay the guys who perform. Who are multi-dimensional, and perhaps undervalued. Don’t overspend on pitching, those mystical, fragile beasts. Pack the cupboard with prospects. Groom the ones you like. Trade those you don’t. Keep your roster flexible. Keep some money loose to make a big grab if you need it. Remember that you still have to play baseball next year. Keep in mind how very much luck and accident will play in your quest for a ring. Don’t bet the farm on three of a kind when the guy across from you is holding four queens.
That’s the As’ way. It might drive us nuts, but it’s produced quality, and generally winning baseball in the Bay for a decade. With a little bit of luck, it might just produce a ring or two.
So how does signing a 40 year old fastballer to two years at $20 million fit in with the A’s’ Way? It doesn’t.