Thursday, December 8, 2011

Where In The World Is Octavio Dotel?

When Octavio Dotel broke into the major leagues in 1999 as a member of the New York Mets, no one expected him to do much.  He had already pitched four seasons in the Mets' minor league system and was halfway through his fifth when he got the call to join the big club in late June.

Dotel ended up being a pleasant surprise for the Mets, going 8-3 as a spot starter and making the postseason roster as a reliever.  He was the winning pitcher in the "Grand Slam Single" playoff game and was supposed to be a future star for the Mets.

Then Mike Hampton became available.

Considering that Al Leiter, at age 33, was the youngest starting pitcher in the Mets' regular rotation in 1999, the possibility of adding a 22-game winner who was just 27 years old made Dotel expendable.  Hampton became a Met.  Dotel became an Astro.  It would not be the first time Dotel would switch teams.  In fact, with yesterday's news that Dotel signed a one-year deal with the Detroit Tigers, he has now become the player with the most changes of address in major league history.

When Octavio Dotel takes the field for the first time as a Tiger in 2012, it will be his 13th team in the major leagues.  That will break the record set by Mike Morgan in 2000 and tied by Ron Villone in 2009 and Matt Stairs in 2010.

What makes Dotel's accomplishment more amazing is that at age 38, he'll be playing for his 13th team at an age younger than Morgan, Villone and Stairs were when they made their first appearances for their 12th team.  Morgan was 40 when he pitched for Arizona in 2000, while Villone was 39 when he first took the mound for Washington in 2009.  Stairs was the elder statesman of the trio, making his first appearance for his 12th team (San Diego) at age 42.

Dotel wasn't as peripatetic when he was in his 20s.  After his trade from the Mets to the Astros following the 1999 season, he remained in Houston until 2004, when he was dealt to the A's at the trade deadline.  At the time, Dotel was 30 years old and had only played for two major league teams.  Since then, he's suited up for (take a deep breath) the A's, Yankees, Royals, Braves, White Sox, Pirates, Dodgers, Rockies, Blue Jays and Cardinals, finally winning a World Series ring for the first time in St. Louis this past season.

Is Octavio Dotel participating in the Cardinals' victory parade or is he just sitting on his moving van?

With his move to Detroit, Dotel will now be playing for his third American League Central team, following his short stay in Kansas City in 2007 and his two-year stint in Chicago (the only team for which he's played more than one season since leaving Oakland following the 2005 campaign).  The Tigers will also be his 12th team over the past nine seasons and sixth team since the beginning of 2010.

Dotel has played for at least two teams in every division in the majors except the American League West (Oakland is the only AL West city he's called home).  However, that might be due to the fact that the AL West is the only division in baseball that has fewer than five teams.  Don't worry.  Give him time.  He'll be in Texas, Anaheim (I refuse to call it Los Angeles) or Seattle soon enough.

Most players celebrate winning their first World Series by going to Disneyworld.  Octavio Dotel is celebrating his first title by going to his 13th team in Detroit.  Something tells me he shouldn't unpack his belongings upon arriving there.

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