Jose Lima came to the Astros in 1997, as a throw in on the Brad Ausmus for Todd Jones trade (yeah, the Astro also got CJ Nitkowski, Trever Miller – the first time – and Daryl Ward; the Tigers also got Doug Brocail, Brian Hunter and Orlando Miller.)
The Tigers had signed him out of the Dominican Republic in 89, and he had his first cup of coffee in 94, throwing a couple of innings. He started 15 games for them next year, and was awful – 6.11 ERA, 1.4 WHIP. Of course, it’s not like they had anyone better. And of course, he was only 22 and had some maturing to do – probably. So the next year, he relieved in 39 games, same number of innings (72) and was not better – 5.89 ERA, 1.5 WHIP.
When he first came to the Astros in 97 - well, to leave pitching for a minute – he looked like a kid in a candy store. Even the grimly professional Bagwell and Biggio weren’t able to even slightly suppress his happiness at being alive, at being able to play baseball !!!! for a LIVING!!! Of course, I never saw Ernie Banks who always wanted to play two, but I figure that Jose was bout as close as you could get to Ernie. His entrance music should have been – JOYYYYYY to the World!!! To ALLLLLL the boysngrrrrrrrrrls!!! Joy to the fishes in the Deep Blue Sea, Joyyyyyyyy to you n meeeeeeeeeee.
I always expected him to skip to the mound singing (I guess, in Espanol) IIIIIIIII get ta play basssseball, IIIIIIIIIIII get ta play baaaaaaseball!!! And he always looked as if he was sorry he couldn’t let the rest of us down there to play baseball too, because we would have had as much fun as he did.
And he always looked as if he was having fun – the first pitcher I ever remember who would dance on the mound – the Old Guys disapproved, but he was simply irrepressible. And of course, he didn’t do very well as a reliever even in the Dome, posting a 5.38 ERA but lowering his WHIP to 1.27, mostly because he decreased both home runs and walks, while keeping his strikeout rate constant at about 7.5/9 IP.
Darryl Kile left for richer pastures after the 97 season, and Jose was put into the rotation – maybe from desperation? But he did better than could be expected, lowering his ERA 2 full points, although he still gave up 34 homers over 233 IP. But of course, he had some massive run support from the killah BBBBBBBs in their prime and the team won 102 games (and lost to Kevin EFF Brown and Sterling Freaking Hitchcock – even with Randy Johnson pitching 2 games. The Killer BBBBBBBBBs turned into the Killed BBBBBBBs.)
But that was OK because then there was 99. His finest year – he won 21 games, came in 4th, tied with Billy Wags, for the Cy Young (but wasn’t NOBODY gonna beat Randy Johnson and his 364 K over 271 IP in spite of his only winning 13 games – and some of the Old Guy media were screaming about Lincecum last year??? How soon they forget…) Lima Time ROOOOLED.
And then it happened.
The year 2000. Ten Run Field – aka The Box Of DOOOOOOOOOOM.
Unlike the Dome with its massive OF and foul areas, The Box’s field is shaped like a diamond, with a very very short porch in both left and right. And Jose, always a guy who gave up a LOT of homers, just gave em up right n left (so to speak.)
He was most certainly All Shook Up. I remember going to a game with Husband after we were first married and him saying – he looks like he wants the manager to take him out right from the time he goes on the mound. His hits/9, BB/9 and HR/9 ballooned, along with his ERA, which zoomed up to 6.68 and his WHIP, which was unprintable. 2000 was also The Year Of Mitch Melusky, who hit .300 and was universally hated by other hitters and all of the pitchers. Biggio tore his knee and was out for most of the year, and there was a whole lot of shakeup in the roster – only Mo Alou, Hidalgo, Bagwell and Berkman (after Dierker had the sense to put him into the lineup) hit. But it wasn’t just Jose – Miller, Holt, Dotel and Reynolds ALL also had ERAs over 5, and Elarton led the team with his sparkling 4.81 ERA.
In 01, Bradley Awesomeness returned to catch – Roy Oswalt joined the team and said – I don’t give a **** what happened last year and the Dome is history to me, just gimmee the **** ball. Wade Miller and Shane Reynolds settled right down, but poor ol Lima Time was even more of a Lit-Up Time than ever before – both as a starter and a reliever.
And so back he went to the Tigers, where he didn’t fare any better in their huge new stadium. He got himself released, pitched for the Newark Bears in the indys, got signed by the Royals in their only winning year since the mid 80s – somehow, he livened up the clubhouse, he WON, only gave up 9 homers over 14 games, and got himself new life and a new contract with the Dodgers and he pitched like it was (almost) 1999 – he even beat the Astros – not at The Box, of course. I didn’t see any of those games, but I DID see him throw an incredible complete game 5 hit shutout against the 04 Cardinals – the best Cardinals team I have ever seen (and yeah, they SHOULDA won that series instead of rolling ovah…)
It’s too bad he didn’t go out on top, but that wasn’t his style – he came back and pitched horribly for the Royals in 05. But he was irrepressible, just the same. He spent the rest of his life playing baseball in the indys, in the Dominican and playing salsa music with his band.
He brought joy to others, in ever ballpark he visited. I’m sure that the Good Lord can’t wait to welcome him home.