For Jose Lima, it was time. And to those who knew and played along side him, it came way too soon.
Lima, the former Astros pitcher who became a fan favorite almost overnight for his flamboyant personality and fledgling musical career as much as his meteoric rise – and equally fast fall – on the mound, died Sunday of an apparent heart attack at his home in Los Angeles. He was 37.
Known affectionately as “Lima Time,” the veteran of 13 major league seasons and six teams joined the Astros in 1997 in a multiplayer trade from Detroit to begin a 4½ -season stint with the team.
His best year came in 1999, when he went 21-10 with a 3.58 ERA in a career-high 35 starts en route to earning All-Star honors and helping the Astros to a third consecutive National League Central title.
News of the righthander’s death reached the Astros as they prepared to take on the Tampa Bay Rays in Sunday's series finale at Minute Maid Park.
Without question one of the brightest talents -- and personalities -- to grace the locals.
At his best, Lima won a combined 37 games in 1998-1999 and looked primed to become one of the most successful pitchers in franchise history.
But Lima could never replicate the effort once the team moved from the cavernous Astrodome to then-Enron Field, where the field dimensions played mind games on the pitcher.
He went 7-16 in 2000 and 1-2 in 2001 before being traded back to Detroit. He finished 46-42 as an Astro with a 4.77 ERA. For his career, he went 89-102 with a 5.26 ERA.
Lima’s last major league stint came in 2006 with New York Mets, with whom he lasted just four starts. He also had a stint in the Korean league in 2008 and the independent Golden Baseball League last year.
He had recently rejoined the Los Angeles Dodgers, for whom he pitched in 2004, as a member of the Dodgers Alumni Association.
He used to own a home on a golf course south of Houston where I played occasionally and sometimes that meringue music was blasting so loud you could have heard it inside the Dome.
He lived a full life in a short time. RIP.