Saturday, May 23, 2020

Jose Lima and the Final Destination of the 2006 Mets' Starting Pitchers

Here's to you, Mr. Lima.  Hope you're able to pitch past the fifth inning in Heaven.  (Victor Baldizon/Getty Images)

Ten years ago today, the baseball world lost one of its true characters in Jose Lima.  The former Met, who had heart issues before his untimely death on May 23, 2010, finished his career with an 89-102 record and 5.26 ERA in 235 starts, which is the highest lifetime earned run average in major league history for a pitcher who made that many starts. 

Lima was the second pitcher who started at least one game for the 2006 Mets to pass away, following the death of Geremi Gonzalez (who was then known by his hip-hop nom de plume, Jeremi Gonzalez) in 2008.  Gonzalez was tragically killed at the age of 33 after being struck by lightning in Venezuela.

Back in 2009, Studious Metsimus jokingly reported that after the Mets released Jose Lima in 2006, he put a hex on the franchise, lovingly referred to as "The Curse of Lima Time".  The whammy was supposedly the reason for the Mets' failure to reach the World Series in 2006, as well as their late-season collapses in 2007 and 2008.

But is the curse real?  Has it expanded beyond a Studious Metsimus story?  A look at the thirteen starting pitchers who took the mound for the Mets in 2006 seems to suggest that it might have escaped the confines of this blog and gone searching for the Unlucky Thirteen.


Tom Glavine (32 starts) - Failed to get more than one out for the Mets in the 2007 season finale.  Later went back to Atlanta where he picked up two wins and was released by the team in 2009.  By co-inky-dink, he ended his career the way he began it, by going 2-4 with a 5.54 ERA for the Braves in 2008.  He also went 2-4 with a 5.54 ERA for the Braves in his first season with the team back in 1987.

Steve Trachsel (30 starts) - After leading the 2006 Mets with 16 wins, the Human Rain Delay II (with apologies to the original Human Rain Delay, Mike Hargrove) signed a free agent contract with the Baltimore Orioles in 2007.  He was traded in August 2007 to the Chicago Cubs, then re-signed by the Orioles the following off-season, before being released by Baltimore in June 2008.  His post-Mets stats for the 2007 and 2008 seasons featured an abysmal 9-16 won-loss record and a 5.60 ERA.

(David Zalubowski/AP)
Pedro Martinez (23 starts) - Started off brilliantly in 2006, earning wins in each of his first five starts.  Then he was placed on the disabled list after pitching horribly in his return to Fenway Park on June 28.  After coming back from his injury exactly one month later, Martinez pitched poorly in the potential division clincher at PNC Park and was caught weeping in the dugout.  In July 2009, Pedro signed a one-year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, but his affiliation with the Bloods (see photo, right) helped bring about his downfall.  Facing the Yankees in the that year's Fall Classic also helped, as Pedro lost the two starts he made, including the game that gave the Yankees their sole championship of the last 19 seasons.  Following his defeat in Game Six, the 37-year-old Martinez never pitched again in the major leagues.

Orlando Hernandez (20 starts) - It looked as if the Curse of Lima Time was going to escape Orlando "The Dookie" Hernandez.  After all, he was surprisingly effective for the Mets after being acquired in a trade from the Arizona Diamondbacks.  The Dookie went 9-7 for the Mets and struck out nearly a batter per inning (112 Ks in 116.2 innings).  However, The Dookie met The Curse right after he was named the starting pitcher for Game One of the 2006 NLDS.  While running sprints in the outfield, the then-57 year old (give or take a few decades) tore a calf muscle and had to be removed from the postseason roster.  Despite his AARP membership and injury history, the Mets signed Mr. Dookie to a two-year, $12 million contract that off-season.  They were rewarded by getting 24 starts from His Dookness in 2007 and no starts in 2008.  He then signed a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers in 2009, only to be released a month later.  No longer in baseball, The Dookerino has apparently been offered three lucrative deals to be the spokesperson for Geritol, Metamucil and Depends undergarments.

John Maine (15 starts) - Maine was originally the throw-in when the Mets unloaded Kris and Anna Benson to the Baltimore Orioles for Jorge Julio (who was then traded to Arizona for The Dookie).  Maine impressed so much as a rookie for the Mets in 2006 that he earned a spot on the postseason roster.  His victory in Game Six of the NLCS helped the Mets reach the do-or-die Game Seven against the Cardinals.  Although Maine won 15 games in 2007, his ERA increased annually through 2010, when he won one game and posted a 6.13 ERA in nine starts.  Maine never won a game in the majors after his 29th birthday and appeared in just four games as a thirty-something, all of them coming for the lowly Marlins in 2013.  The scowl that once helped Maine get hitters out is now solely seen whenever someone utters Jerry Manuel's name.

The look of a man who just heard Jerry Manuel say "gangsta" for the umpteenth time. (AP Photo)

Alay Soler (8 starts) - Pitched a complete-game shutout against the Arizona Diamondbacks in his fourth major league start.  Three starts later, he gave up eight runs to the Boston Red Sox.  After that game, he was told to watch tapes of his outing against the Diamondbacks to prepare for his next start against the Yankees.  The Curse of Lima Time struck again, as the tapes were misplaced and instead Soler watched the tapes from his Boston Massacre.  He learned well, as he gave up another eight runs to the Yankees.  So long, Soler.  That marked the end of his short-lived major league career.

Oliver Perez (7 starts) - When the Mets needed a reliever to replace Dominican food aficionado Duaner Sanchez, they traded Xavier Nady to the Pittsburgh Pirates for 41-year-old Roberto Hernandez and Oliver Perez.  Perez did not pitch well for the Mets after his trade, going 1-3 with a 6.38 ERA.  He did pitch in Game Seven of the NLCS and then went 25-17 over the next two seasons, fooling the Mets into giving him a three-year, $36 million contract after the 2008 campaign.  Perez "rewarded" the Mets with three victories over the length of the contract.  However, sales of antacids did increase exponentially in Flushing during his time with the team, which was good news if your name was Duane or Reade.

Brian Bannister (6 starts) - The son of former major league pitcher Floyd Bannister was a respectable 2-0 with a 2.89 ERA for the 2006 Mets before the Curse of Lima Time found him on the bases at the ballpark formerly known as Pac Bell, SBC and AT&T Park.  While trying to score a run, Bannister left his hamstring in San Francisco and missed the next four months of the season.  Bannister was not himself after his return, going 0-1 with an 8.10 ERA.  He was traded that off-season to the Kansas City Royals for future felon Ambiorix Burgos, proving that the Curse of Lima Time was contagious.

Victor Zambrano (5 starts) - I won't waste your time.  You already know his story.  He was cursed before Lima could get to him.

Dave Williams (5 starts) - Williams was never meant to make that many starts for the Mets, but the team's membership with the Injury of The Week Club forced him into action five times.  Williams went 3-1 for the Mets in 2006, but the good record was due to excellent run support, as his ERA was a high 5.59.  Williams was not as lucky in 2007, appearing in only two games for the Mets.  Perhaps his 22.85 ERA had something to do with the lack of appearances.  Although he was only 28 at the time, Williams never pitched in the major leagues again.

Mike Pelfrey (4 starts) - Appeared to have been born with the antidote to the Curse of Lima Time in his blood.  After his breakout 2008 season, Big Pelf struggled a bit in 2009, but was been the Mets' most dependable starting pitcher in 2010, going 15-9 with a 3.66 ERA while surpassing the 200-inning mark for the first time in his career.  Pelfrey's success was short-lived, as he followed up his 2010 campaign by becoming one of the game's worst pitchers from 2011 until his final game in 2017.  Over those seven seasons, Pelfrey went 25-62 with a 4.99 ERA and 1.56 WHIP pitching for the Mets, Twins, Tigers and White Sox.  By age 33, the former ninth overall pick was out of the game.

The reason my wife drinks.  (Reuters)
Jose Lima (4 starts) - Just like Lou Gehrig wasn't immune to the disease named after him, Jose Lima fell to the Curse that took his name. Lima never pitched again in the majors after his brief tour of duty with the Mets, a tour that included an 0-4 record, a 9.87 ERA and a grand slam allowed to opposing pitcher Dontrelle Willis (which my future wife didn't remember even though she was at the game because Lima's appearance on the mound caused her to become best friends with her section's beer vendor).  Lima did, however, reach one milestone while in New York.  On May 12, 2006, Lima was credited with his 100th career loss, earning the landmark defeat by allowing five runs in 4⅔ innings against the Milwaukee Brewers.

Geremi Gonzalez (3 starts) - Gonzalez started against Randy Johnson in the first game of the 2006 Subway Series at Shea Stadium and gave up four runs in the first inning.  The Mets eventually won that game on David Wright's walk-off hit off Mariano Rivera in the bottom of the ninth inning, making Gonzalez the answer to the trivia question, "Who sucked so badly in Game One of the 2006 Subway Series that the Mets needed a walk-off hit by David Wright to win the game?"  Unfortunately for Gonzalez, he made a better lightning rod than starting pitcher, as he was killed during a thunderstorm in his native Venezuela.


The starting pitchers for the 2006 Mets, otherwise known as the Unlucky Thirteen, have suffered professionally and personally since that 2006 campaign. The so-called Curse of Lima Time has claimed careers and lives, including the man for whom it was named.

Although this blog was written as a humor piece, we do not mean to poke fun at the expense of Jose Lima, who passed away ten years ago today at the age of 37.  Lima was a fun-loving man who had a respectable major league career, if you don't look at his ERA or X-Rays of my wife's liver.  Lima was also a positive presence in the clubhouse and was loved by his teammates.

Jose Lima will always be missed in the major league community and of course, in the blogging community.  May he continue to rest in peace.

This is how most Mets fans remember Jose Lima.  (Howard Earl Simmons/NY Daily News)