Bartolo Colon was a perfect fit in New York with the Mets but they simply ran out of room for the 43-year old righthander. Obvious it was a wise move in the off season to not re-sign the fan favorite with the depth manager Terry Collins had in the rotation.
Colon was not making the Mets younger. He was the fan favorite, gave the Mets innings, threw strikes and that is what any manager wants from a starter. But it is economics this game of baseball and Wednesday night at Citi Field, Bartolo Colon was still the fan favorite and prior to the game there was a brief video tribute that earned him another standing ovation.
This time he greeted the security personnel that were all favorites of Colon. He had a resounding ovation during Atlanta Braves player introductions Monday afternoon on Opening Day. When he took the mound for his first start of the season, threw his first pitch against former teammate Jose Reyes, the fans stood and cheered.
They were the same cheers that gave Colon the distinction of being an all-time Mets favorite.
His first plate appearance in the third inning, facing Jacob deGrom, well this time the bat stayed in his hand and the fastball got him looking. Those fans cheered again and again as Colon tipped his hat to the crowd and pointed to the sky.
Because he was “Bartolo The Great” for thee years at Citi Field and to many known as “Big Sexy” it was a nice welcome back.
He was the most popular Met and most reliable on their staff last year with 15 wins. Terry Collins will get to miss that reliability, and now with the Mets sustaining some early injuries to Seth Lugo and Steven Matz, that depth on the mound for the moment is not there.
And if these arm issues with Lugo and Matz are prolonged, well there may be mixed reactions as to why GM Sandy Alderson did not extend that welcomed stay for “Big Sexy.” Alderson did not shake his head in the off season and he cut short any talk that Colon was not welcomed back.
It was strictly a baseball decision. The Mets are younger and Colon was not a part of this future mound core that is expected to lead the Mets to the promised land in the years to come and, he had a guarantee to start for the Braves when he signed a one-year deal.
“He is what he is,” said Collins who watched Colon from the dugout command his Mets, and he said, “It was vintage Bartolo.” Colon would work 6.0 innings and allowed one run, earned, on two hits in a no-decision.
Jay Bruce connected off Colon in the fifth inning, his first home run of the season that cleared the right field fence.
“When the lights come on, it’s a totally different thing,” Colon said through an interpreter. “”To be honest, I do feel at home here. We had a great relationship. I definitely wanted to show my appreciation.”
And that appreciation was giving Mets fans a good outing that also saw him strike out six. So they stood for “Bartolo The Great” and recalled that in 98- games as a Met. But, he was now the Atlanta Braves pitcher and in New York there is that identity and attachment with the fans and player.
Colon was that player that got attached and there is that business decision every player, even at his age, has to make. The decision was continue and help the Braves in their rebuilding process, and that was no different as one of Collins’ starters with a young core ready to blossom on the mound.
“How can you not like that guy?” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. He could have kept Colon in the game after 80 pitches, and two games into this new season why risk the arm of a veteran who did not debate a decision to give the game to the Atlanta bullpen.
Colon smiled, as he always does. The video tribute was brief and said“Welcome Back Bart.” And it was like he never left because to Mets fans Bartolo was always great. Will his void haunt the Mets if the injury bug continues? Again a business decision can always come back to haunt a team.
The Braves are content, even if they don’t win many games this year. Mets fans can also smile because the future is going to be with that young core of arms.
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