“Let’s go Fausto!”
“Let’s go Fausto!”
For nine innings I sat in the nosebleeds along the third base line of what was then Jacobs Field screaming those words over, and over, and over until I had all but lost my voice. It was Game 2 of the 2007 ALDS against the New York Yankees, the game that would eventually become known as “The Bug Game” and go down in Cleveland Indians lore as one of the greatest playoff games ever played. To this day, it remains one of the greatest sporting events I have witnessed in person.
Carmona dominated, plain and simple. For nine innings he held the vaunted Yankees lineup—full of star hitters in their prime—at bay. Except for a third-inning home run by Melky Cabrera, the Yankees had no answer for Carmona. His stuff was wicked that night and he displayed superhero-like mental fortitude to combat the barrage of midges that infested the stadium in the later innings.
The 2007 season was a breakout year for Carmona. He cruised his way to a 19-8 regular season record with 3.06 ERA, 1.21 WHIP and a fourth-place finish in the American League Cy Young Award voting. Although the season ended in bitter disappointment at the hands of the Boston Red Sox, the Indians looked primed to have another memorable season in 2008 with the 1-2 punch of C.C. Sabathia and Carmona leading the way.
It was never meant to be.
The Indians struggled out the gate in 2008 and never quite recovered. The offense was unable to repeat its strong performance from the year before. By midseason Sabathia was on his way to Milwaukee. Even worse, Carmona regressed horribly, finishing the year 8-7 with a 5.44 ERA and 1.62 WHIP, leaving many to wonder if he really was the ace of the future like we had all thought.
Was 2007 a fluke? Up until that point Carmona had been highly regarded as a quality pitching prospect and the Indians believed in his potential. However, given the path he took to get to that point it still came as a surprise to almost everyone in baseball or who followed the Indians that Carmona could have such a poor season. Given how he had originally struggled while trying to find his place on the big league club, it was amazing that Carmona wasn’t broken beyond repair.
In 2006, Carmona was juggled from starter, to reliever, and then to closer, a move that lasted only seven days and will go down as one of the biggest blunders of the Eric Wedge era. Carmona finished 2006 1-10 with a 5.42 ERA, 1.59 WHIP and three blown saves—in three straight appearances. He also gave up four runs in an inning pitched in relief of Cliff Lee that didn’t technically qualify as a blown save, but in all honesty, really was. His total stat line for those games: 11 runs (all earned) on eight hitters with two home runs (both walk-offs), and one shattered ego.
Would anyone have blamed Carmona had his career ended there? Would anyone have been surprised had Carmona gone back to Triple-A, gotten a few call-ups and spot starts on the big league club, and then never amounted to much of anything? I don’t think so. In all likelihood, Carmona would have been nothing more than a footnote in the history of the Cleveland Indians.
But Carmona’s story didn’t end there. That one week and those three blown saves didn’t define his career. Carmona did what great athletes do: He took that experience and that adversity and channeled it to become one of the most dominant pitchers in all of baseball (at least, for a year). That night against the Yankees, as the midges invaded and Joba Chamberlain wilted, Carmona bloomed. For nine innings he painted a proverbial masterpiece.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t a movie and this moment in time wasn’t where the story ended. Looking back now it almost seems as if that moment in time wasn’t the start of something special, but rather, the crescendo in the tragic story that has been the career of Fausto Carmona.
Nothing has been the same for Carmona since 2007. Rather than embracing the role of ace of the staff, Carmona has once again regressed. In the four seasons that have followed we’ve seen Carmona battle issues with confidence, control, his delivery, and of course injuries. Yes, we’ve seen glimpses of the pitcher that once was every now and then, but as a whole, Carmona has been one massive disappointment.
Now comes news that Fausto Carmona isn’t actually Fausto Carmona. Carmona, or Roberto Hernandez Heredia, was arrested by Dominican authorities on January 20 for attempting to obtain a U.S. visa with a false identity. Adding to the drama,“Carmona” is 31 years old, not 28, and will probably miss spring training and a decent chunk of the season as he sorts out his legal troubles. There is also a legitimate chance that his career as a member of the Cleveland Indians is over.
If Carmona’s days as an Indian are truly numbered, we certainly can’t say they were uneventful. Yes, he could be frustrating at times, but he could also be downright filthy. It’s that dichotomy that will define how we remember him however this turns out.
Then again, maybe this is the beginning of a new chapter in the story of Fausto Carmona. Maybe he bounces back from this. Maybe the unveiling of this secret lifts a weight off of his shoulders. Maybe Carmona comes back, finds his form, and helps all of us relive the magic that was 2007.
That’s a lot of maybes.
Regardless, I still think Carmona has something left in the tank. With the right people around him and the right set of circumstances it’s possible he can be saved once again. More importantly, he’ll need the support of everyone in the stands. So despite everything that’s happened and may still yet unfold I know I’ll still cheer on the pitcher formally known as Fausto Carmona as long as he’s an Indian.
Let’s go Fausto!