Sunday, May 23, 2010

R.I.P. Jose Lima, You Crazy Bastard

It's a sad day for fans of highly unstable athletes, which this blog counts itself amongst.

Former MLB pitcher and fantasy baseball idol Jose Lima has died of a massive heart attack in Los Angeles.

He was just 37, but there's no question he lived the hell out of each of those 37 years.

Let's go on a journey, shall we?

*cueing the retrospective music and soft focus camera*

Lima's career began in 1994 in unspectacular fashion, going 8 and 16 in three seasons with the Tigers. The highlight of his time in Motown was this quote, upon being released:

"If I can't pitch on this team--the worst or second-worst team in baseball--where am I going to pitch? If I can't start on this ballclub, I must be the worst pitcher on Earth."
Lima was traded to Houston, where all of a sudden he became not the worst pitcher on Earth. Lima went 16 and 8 in 1998, sporting a ridiculous 5.28 K/BB rate, and then in 1999 it all came together. Lima won 21 games with the Astros that year, earning his only All-Star appearance and marking the official beginning of "Lima time".

And what a time it was...until 2000, when the wheels fell off. Lima went 7 and 16 while surrendering 48 home runs, two short of the single-season record.

Lima bounced around for a while before signing with the Dodgers in 2004, where he experienced a brief renaissance, going 13 and 5 with a 4.07 ERA, his lowest since his career year in '99. Lima pitched a 5-hit shutout against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 4 of the NLDS, the Dodgers' first postseason win since Game 5 of the 1988 World Series.

2004 not only cemented Lima's place in Dodger lore, but also in the Crazy/Awesome Hall of Fame by singing the American national anthem with his smoking hot common-law wife Melissa beside him. In December of that year, Lima was successfully sued by a woman who claimed she had contracted genital herpes from him. What a buzzkill.

Oh, and did I say "brief" renaissance ? I meant "just that one year". Lima again lost 16 games, this time with the Royals in 2005, signalling the beginning of the end. Lima's 6.99 ERA was the highest single-season total in baseball history for a pitcher with 30 or more games started.

After flaming out of the big leagues, Lima's career took him all over the world, from Korea to Mexico to Long Beach to Edmonton.

And that's when the story got even more interesting, if you can believe it. You see, Lima split up with Melissa and neglected to pay child support. This led to a Deadspin-supported wild goose chase for his whereabouts last year, which actually bore fruit. Lima was pitching in the Dominican Winter League for the Águilas Cibaeñas. No word on whether Lima paid up, but like they say, it's about the journey, not the destination.

We'll also never get to witness Lima's seemingly inevitable return to the spotlight as a Dominican bachata singer, which was allegedly what he intended to do after he retired.

The tributes are already popping up all over the majors; David Ortiz wore a cap with "RIP Lima" written on it, and former teammates, managers and owners are paying their respects to an eccentric but kind man who you couldn't help but root for. Except maybe his ex-wife. And whoever he gave the herps to.

So vaya con dios, Jose. You died as you lived: in batshit loco fashion.

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