Sunday, May 23, 2010

Jose Lima, 1972-2010, R.I.P.

Former major league pitcher Jose Lima has died of massive heart attack. He was 37.

Lima compiled an 89-102 record with a 5.26 ERA in 13 big league seasons.

On the surface that wouldn't appear very impressive. Indeed, for much of his career one could make the case Lima didn't have much business on the pitcher's mound.

But at other times Lima could be spectacular. And when he was spectacular it was Lima Time.

After beginning his big league career with the Detroit Tigers in 1994, Lima was traded to the Houston Astros prior to the 1997 season. Lima had his two best seasons in the bigs with the Astros in 1998 and 1999 compiling a 16-8 record with a 3.70 ERA and a 21-10 record with 3.58 ERA, respectively. Lima would finished 4th in NL Cy Young balloting in 1999 and would be named to the NL All-Star Team.

Lima's colorful personality had two sides. A carefree one but also one with a volatile temper. The latter would show itself in 2000. After the Astros moved from the Astrodome to Minute Maid Park (then known as Enron Field) Lima couldn't adapt to the hitter friendly facility. He fell to 7-16 with an astronomical 6.65 ERA. He surrendered 48 home runs and gave up a league leading 145 earned runs. I recall a skirmish he had in the dugout with teammate Moises Alou when Alou failed to catch a fly ball in one game.

Lima would be traded back to the Tigers in the middle of the 2001 season but would be released at the end of the following season. At the time of his release he declared, "I must be the worst pitcher on Earth." He signed with the Kansas City Royals as a free agent prior to the 2003 season but success did not accompany him.

However, Lima would enjoy a renaissance season with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2004 going 13-5 with a 4.07 ERA en route to an NL West Division title. He would pitch a complete game five-hit shutout against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 3 of the 2004 NLDS. It was the Dodgers only win against the Cardinals in that playoff.

But when Lima returned to the Royals in 2005 his pitching woes returned with a 5-16 record and a 6.99 ERA - the highest in MLB history by a pitcher who made more than 30 starts. He also led the AL in surrendering 131 earned runs.

Lima finished his big league career the following year with the New York Mets compiling an 0-4 record with 9.87 ERA before being released. He continued to play pro ball in South Korea as well as with several independent minor league teams.

What hits me here is that Lima and I are the same age. In fact, he was born exactly two weeks after me. It gives one pause for thought.

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