Bartolo Colon was a free agent signing by the Indians, and came up as one of their top pitching prospects, but was overshadowed in those early years by another bright young gunner, Jaret Wright. Wright seemed to be the future ace of the staff in 2007, going 8-3, and starting game seven of the World Series in 2007. Colon made his debut that same year, going 4-7, with an ERA near 6.00. Wright stuck around with the club through the 2002 season, struggling with injuries and mechanics problems. Colon also “lasted” until the 2002 season with the Tribe, but became the ace of the staff, as well as one of the best pitchers in baseball.
The All-Aught Indians #3 starter is Bartolo Colon. Colon entered the 2000 season coming off his best season, having gone 18-5 with a 3.95 ERA. Remember, this was the height of the steroid era, and only seven total AL pitchers that year had an ERA under 4.00. Colon finished fourth in the A.L. Cy Young race.
Colon came out of the gates in the new millennium struggling. While his record stood at 6-2 on June 3, he had given up six runs in an outing twice, and he sat on a 4.23 ERA. He had also struggled a bit with injury, spending the latter part of April on the DL with a pulled oblique. After a loss on July 26, Colon had a 4.49 ERA. He didn’t lose another game that year, ending up at 15-8, and he lowered his overall ERA to 3.88. His signature win that season came on September 18th in a start in New York. In his only shutout of the season, Colon threw a one-hit shut out, walking one and striking out a season high 13. Overall that season, he struck out 212 batters, becoming the first Indian since the 70’s (Dennis Eckersley) to strike out over 200 batters.
Colon continued this pattern in 2001. On June 30, Colon was 6-7 with a 4.89 ERA. Colon didn’t lose a game in July, going 4-0, and dropped his ERA to 4.39 in the process. Colon only won one game in August, but continued to impress, dropping his ERA to 4.12. In September, Colon went 3-1, bringing his record to 14-11, and dropped his ERA to below 4 for the first time all season. He’d get lit up in a meaningless game in October against Kansas City, which put his ERA back over 4, but still, it was a typical Colon season, tantalizingly close to great, but back-and-forth enough to make people wonder if he’d ever go from being an almost great, to a Cy Young winner. Then came the playoffs, and we got to see just how big game Colon, in his prime, could be.
The Indians were going up against the Seattle Mariners, who had won 300 games that season, and were heavy favorites to beat the Tribe. Colon promptly shut the Mariners down in game one. He went eight innings, giving up six hits and two walks, while striking out ten. He was dominant, and put the Mariners on their heals. Colon was equally dominating in his game four start. Then came the sixth inning. Colon almost got out of a bases loaded jam with a 1-0 lead, but ended up giving up three runs before leaving the game. Still, his big game performance couldn’t be overlooked. He’d finish the series with a 1-1 record and a 1.84 ERA.
Colon saved his best for last in 2002. It seemed as though Colon finally figured out how to bring out his best from start-to-start. He made sixteen starts for the Tribe that season, and he’d win ten of them, going 10-4, with an impressive 2.55 ERA. He stopped trying to strike out every hitter, and began to pitch. Colon’s best starts of the season were back-to-back complete games at the end of May. He’d give up one unearned run in the first game against Toronto, and shut out Chicago. It turns out that Colon was pitching too well for an Indians team that was struggling, and ready to rebuild. He was traded to the Expos after his last start…ironically enough…in a win against the Expos for his tenth win.
Colon’s 2 1/2 years with the Tribe during the Aughts were enough to put him in this club of Indians elite. Colon was 39-24 with a 3.67 ERA. He struck out 488 batters in 536 2/3 innings pitched, and 80 starts altogether.
Colon’s final piece to this All-Decade team was his return in the trade. The Indians received Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips, Grady Sizemore and Lee Stevens. Two of those players show up on this All-Aught roster. Another (Brandon Phillips) surely would show up on Cincinnati’s. Not a bad haul for one of the best pitchers in the game.