added 4/29/2001 by Darrell Pittman
Having personally watched Jose Lima's meltdown against the Florida Marlins on Friday night, I am convinced that it is time for the Astros to pull the plug on Lima and put him in the bullpen, and put Kent Bottenfield in the rotation in his place.
After getting Luis Castillo to ground out in the first inning Friday night, Lima gave up two runs on three hits, throwing one wild pitch, plunking Preston Wilson, and walking Charles Johnson along the way. In the second, he gave up a lead-off single to the opposing pitcher Brad Penny, then gave up three more singles and three runs, before Nelson Cruz was called in to stanch the bleeding with two gone in the second. At that point, it was 5-0 Marlins. The Astros bats went to work in subsequent innings, gaining an 8-5 advantage, but Wayne Franklin, Jay Powell, and Mike Jackson combined to allow the Marlins to tie it up at 8-8 by the end of the ninth inning. Billy Wagner came out in the tenth, and inexplicably gave up the go-ahead homer to Eric Owens, which cost the good guys the game.
There are those who say that Lima, being the head case that he is, would have his confidence totally shot by being sent to the bullpen. While that's possibly true, I counter that by asking how that could possibly be worse than trotting Lima out every fifth day, just to let him get shelled, tagged with yet another loss, and given the hook in the early innings? What does that do for his confidence?
Jose Lima is one of the most personable of the Astros. He cares about the fans, and spends lots of time signing autographs and being with them. I think he honestly likes the people of Houston and wants to play here. However, I think most Astros fans would gladly trade a few Lima autographs for more Astros wins.
I was listening to the "10th Inning" call-in show on KTRH after Friday night's game. It was really sad, and yet poignant, to hear Lima's wife calling in to defend him, saying he should be allowed to keep starting, that he should just be left alone, that he was working through family problems.
Most working people who were experiencing family problems and whose job performance was suffering (which it would be kind to say that Lima's is) would either be fired outright, or asked to change their role (take vacation, work part-time, etc.). That's all I'm suggesting be done with Lima.
As an aside, I also wonder whether Billy Wagner is hurt again. He was on fire in his past several outings, then seemed to lose his stuff Friday night, giving up a homer to Owens, just as he was suddenly, inexplicably ineffective last year. Remember? We were all puzzled until he admitted that he was injured and trying to hide it.