May 25, 2010
It's still somewhat hard to believe that between 1989 and 2004, Jose Lima was the only pitcher to win a playoff game for the Dodgers. Perhaps, it's even harder still to believe, that Lima passed away over the weekend at the age of 37.
I was in St. Louis with the Angels when the news first broke. Players and coaches on both sides weren't just surprised. They were stunned and saddened.
The fiery right-hander was never the best pitcher in the game during his 13 MLB seasons. He would tell you that. But he was also far from the worst. He won 21 games for the Astros in 1999 when he was a National League All-Star and finished fourth in Cy Young Award balloting.
What Lima may have been, however, was the game's best character during his playing days. You would be hard-pressed to find another player of his generation who brought more personality to every game, every start, and every pitch than Lima.
He didn't wear his emotions on his sleeves. His emotions wore him.
Lima could be jovial, incensed, and distraught. And that was just during one at-bat.
"Playing with him, you come to realize that the energy you see on the mound isn't a false persona, that's Jose Lima," said Brad Ausmus. "There's nothing fake about him in that sense."
It seems as though just about all of Lima's former teammates loved playing with him, probably because it was so obvious how much he loved just playing.
Fans loved him too, especially Dodgers fans, despite Lima having played only one season in LA.
After making the team as a non-roster invitee out of spring training in 2004, Lima went on to post a 13-5 record, helping the Dodgers win their first NL West crown since 1995. But it was what he did in that proceeding postseason that made Lima a Dodger favorite.
In the National League Division Series, Lima pitched a complete game, 5-hit shutout in Game 3 at Dodger Stadium, giving the team its first post-season victory since winning the 1988 World Series.
No one's passing ever truly comes at a good time, but Lima's sudden death was even more disheartening to his friends, family and the Dodgers because he had just recently joined the Dodger Alumni Association and was preparing to open a youth baseball academy in Los Angeles this summer. He was also interesting in singing at a Viva Los Dodgers event again this season.
As someone once said, "The good ones die young."
In this case, far too young.
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