He Only Played 3 Seasons, but the NY Mets Should Retire His Number
Every so often, a player comes through our favorite sports organization on a short-term deal and we fall in love with them. Whether it's their hustle, grittiness, or just their quirky personality, the player quickly becomes a fan favorite, even if their tenure with the organization is brief.
The New York Mets have had a number of players like this who come to mind: Robin Ventura, R.A. Dickey, Lance Johnson, and John Olerud to name a few. But there's only one player -- in this author's humble opinion -- who made SUCH an impact in his brief tenure, that he deserves to have his number immortalized.
But before I reveal that player... what does it mean to have your number "retired," anyway?
METS RETIRED NUMBERS
Retiring a number is an honor bestowed by a team to a player who's made significant contributions while playing there. After the number is retired, no other players can wear that number on their backs.
As of February, 2023, the Mets have retired eight players' numbers: Jackie Robinson (#42, retired throughout baseball), Jerry Koosman (#36), Mike Piazza (#31), Keith Hernandez (#17), Tom Seaver (#41), Gil Hodges (#14), Casey Stengel (#37) and Willie Mays (#24).
Let's talk about Willie Mays for a second. Of course Willie Mays was a legendary player, probably among the Top 3 Greatest of All Time. But virtually all of those Hall of Fame stats were put up as a member of the Giants organization. He spent his last two seasons with the New York Mets, but by then he was old, broken down and wasn't productive, batting just .238 with 14 home runs. The Giants rightfully retired his number, but why would the Mets do that?
I bring this up because retiring players' numbers despite short stints is not without precedent. Besides the Mets and Mays, the Tampa Bay Rays retired Wade Boggs (2 seasons), the Montreal Expos retired Rusty Staub (3.5 seasons) and the San Diego Padres retired Steve Garvey (5 seasons).
But who do I think the Mets should retire, despite playing just 3 seasons there?
BARTOLO COLON (#40)
On paper, Bartolo Colon was way past his prime when he played for the Mets... he played the 2014, 2015 and 2016 seasons in Flushing when he was already over 40 years old.
But there was something about Bartolo the fans loved... firstly, the fact that he was still out there doing it, post-40, was impressive. Also, the fact that he didn't really look like an athlete was endearing. He looked like a guy who might drive a cab, or tile your bathroom.
Colon's numbers with the Mets were respectable. He had 44 wins against 34 losses and posted a 3.90 ERA over 588.2 innings. But beyond the numbers, Colon had a series of extremely memorable moments that Mets fans will never forget.
HIS FIRST AND ONLY HOME RUN
Bartolo Colon was an bad hitter, even by a pitcher's standards. He was extremely awkward and out of place at the plate, and yet, you couldn't look away. Sometimes his helmet would fall off his head after flailing at a ball outside the strike zone, like something out of the Three Stooges.
But one day... he did connect. And it produced one of the all time great moments in Mets history:
HIS BEHIND-THE-BACK PLAY
Check out this smooth-as-silk, behind-the-back flip to first after a squibbler down the line. Priceless.
COLON HITS AN INFIELD SINGLE
You ever see a slow-as-molasses, 285-pound man beat out an infield single? Here you go:
During those 3 seasons, Bartolo was the gift that kept on giving.
BUT WILL THE METS EVER DO IT?
...probably not. But fans remember you, Bart. We remember.