Bartolo Colon has officially announced the end of his playing career, which included 21 Major League seasons. Reporter Hector Gomez seemingly broke the news back in June, though Colon’s agents denied that their client was retiring just yet. However, the Mets announced Friday that Colon will retire as a Met on September 17, as part of a tribute day in his honor at Citi Field.
The 50-year-old Colon pitched in the independent Mexican League as recently as the 2021 season, but he hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since 2018. As such, the right-hander will close the book on his memorable career with 565 career MLB games with 11 different teams, a 4.12 ERA over 3461 2/3 innings, four All-Star appearances, the 2005 AL Cy Young Award, and one career home run. Colon won 247 games, the most by any pitcher born in the Dominican Republic.
Colon’s MLB career began in Cleveland in 1997. Though he struggled to a 5.65 ERA in 94 innings as a rookie, he would quickly become the club’s reliable workhorse, pitching to a 3.91 ERA (122 ERA+) with a 4.00 FIP over 819 innings during the 1998-2001 campaigns. He got off to a phenomenal start in 2002, with a 2.55 ERA that was 72% better than league average, before being shipped to Montreal in a deal that saw Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips, and Lee Stevens sent to the Indians. The deal was a blockbuster at the time, and Cleveland went on to benefit from both that trade package and its related trade tree for years afterward.
Colon pitched well with the Expos, posting a 3.31 ERA in 117 innings before the club dealt him to the White Sox. Colon pitched a career-high 242 innings during his 2003 season on the South Side, posting 3.87 ERA (120 ERA+) before departing for free agency the following offseason. He landed a four-year deal with the Angels in free agency, and after struggling to a 5.01 ERA in his first season with the club delivered a phenomenal 2005 season that earned him his second career All-Star appearance and a Cy Young award. During the campaign, Colon racked up a league-leading 21 wins in 33 starts as he posted a strong 3.48 ERA in 222 2/3 innings of work.
Unfortunately, Colon’s final two seasons in Anaheim would be tainted by injury, as he struggled to a 5.90 ERA in just 155 2/3 innings across the two campaigns. After departing Anaheim, Colon would pitch just 101 1/3 innings over the next three years, suiting up for the Red Sox in 2008 and returning to the White Sox in 2009 before missing the entire 2010 season due to shoulder injuries.
His return to a major league mound came in 2011 after he signed a minor league deal with the Yankees. In the Bronx, Colon posted a solid 4.00 ERA in 164 1/3 innings of work with a FIP of 3.71. The 2011 season represented a new beginning for Colon, now 38, as he would go on to pitch more than 150 innings in each of the following five seasons for the A’s and the Mets. Though a 50-game PED suspension in 2012 added a cloud over his career revival, Colon’s 2012-16 stretch included Colon’s third All-Star appearance, which came in Oakland as he posted a phenomenal 2.65 ERA in 190 1/3 innings of work en route to a sixth-place finish in AL Cy Young award voting.
It also included his fourth and final All Star appearance, which came at the age of 43 with the Mets in 2016. After making it to the World Series with the Mets in 2015, Colon posted a 3.43 ERA that was 17% better than league average by measure of ERA+ in 191 2/3 innings of work as the Mets returned to the playoffs, though Colon ultimately did not pitch for the club in the postseason as New York lost the NL Wild Card game to the Giants. Colon pitched in the majors for two more seasons after leaving the Mets, posting a 6.13 ERA in 289 1/3 innings split between the Braves, Twins, and Rangers before making his final MLB appearance at the age of 45.
Beyond the numbers, Colon also became a cult hero around baseball, adopting the nickname “Big Sexy.” Between his fun-loving personality, everyman physique, and the general appeal of an ageless veteran hurler getting by low velocity and excellent control, Colon had a knack for delivering memorable moments, whether on the field or while interacting with teammates and fans.
MLBTR wishes Colon all the best as he officially moves into his post-playing career.