Baseball's a little less fun
Jose Lima — one of the most beloved journeymen pitchers in Major League Baseball history — is dead from an apparent massive heart attack. The 37-year-old Lima was in his Los Angeles home when paramedics were called this morning.
Lima, who never met a clubhouse he couldn't make more fun, enjoyed the most successful seasons of his meandering career with the Houston Astros. Lima went 21-10 with 3.58 ERA and made the All-Star Game in 1999 in Houston. That was the year that "Lima Time" — the phrase Lima came up with himself (he was more colorful than any sports writer) to describe his starts, which almost always included a mix of dancing, fist pumping, screaming and singing — really started to take off.
National sports talk show host Jim Rome became so enamored with "LIma Time" and the unconventional Lima's way of pitching with every possible emotion on his sleeve that the phenomenon came up frequently even after Lima had retired from the majors.
Not that anyone in Houston needed the reminders. Lima finished 13 games under .500 (89-102) with a 5.26 ERA in his 13-year major league career, but he went 46-42 in his five seasons with Houston. And numbers don't do justice to Lima's impact. For many, he made baseball fun again.
Even when Lima pitched horribly, he was one of the most interesting players in the game. When Lima was released by the near historically-bad 2002 Detroit Tigers he declared, "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 also arguably the most loved mediocre pitcher ever. You couldn't help but be drawn in by his zest for the game.
That's why some of the biggest stars today, particularly fellow Dominican Republic players like Red Sox slugger David Ortiz wrote "RIP Lima" in big letters on the sides of their hats in this afternoon's games. Lima had just attended a Dodgers game Friday night, where he received a long ovation from the crowd.
"He could dance, he could sing, but his best gift of all was that he was an extremely happy person," Astros owner Drayton McLane said in a statement. "He just lit up our clubhouse with his personality, which was his greatest asset. Jose was not shortchanged in life in any way. He lived life to the fullest every day."