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Former Sox ace Pedro Martinez will make his long-awaited return to the major leagues as early as Wednesday with the Phillies, assuming he passes his physical. Pedro privately worked out with the Phillies twice last week, and apparently impressed the team enough to begin negotiations.
Pedro hasn’t thrown a pitch in the major leagues since September 25, 2008 in a start with the Mets. He impressed as a reliever in the World Baseball Classic, however, tossing six shutout innings of relief with six strikeouts and just one hit allowed.
You must be asking yourself…what ever happened to Pedro? If he seemed fine in the World Baseball Classic, what took him so long to be signed? Let’s take a look at the rise and fall of the mighty Pedro Martinez.
I never thought that Pedro Martinez would ever fall from grace.
During Pedro’s seven-year tenure in Boston, fans knew that the Red Sox were probably going to win any game he started. He could be relied upon to continue winning streaks, stop losing streaks, and pitch lights out in the playoffs.
In 1999, Pedro had arguably his best season and probably one of the most dominant seasons for a pitcher in major league history. The Red Sox won the Wild Card that year and finished with 94 wins despite losing Mo Vaughn to free agency and only replacing him with 2B Jose Offerman, and Pedro had a lot to do with the team’s success. He finished the season a remarkable 23-4 with a league-leading 313 strikeouts in only 213.1 IP (13.20 K/9).
In that same year, Pedro started the All-Star Game at Fenway Park, and struck out the first four batters he faced (Barry Larkin, Larry Walker, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire). The fifth batter, Matt Williams, reached base on an error and was erased trying to steal second base. Pedro then struck out Jeff Bagwell to tie an All-Star Game record for strikeouts in the first two innings (5).
He was named the Cy Young and should’ve won the MVP award (which is extremely rare for a pitcher). Pedro finished with more first place votes (8) than winner Ivan Rodriguez (7), but at the time many baseball writers believed no pitcher should ever win the MVP award and subsequently left him off their ballot.
In the 1999 playoffs, Pedro was amazing, pitching 17 innings without allowing one run. He dominated the record-setting 1999 Cleveland Indians offense (they scored 1,009 runs in the regular season) with four shutout innings in Game 1 (then left with injury). He didn’t pitch until Game 5 after the Red Sox stormed back from a 2-0 series deficit, and delivered a magnificent performance in relief.
In that Game 5, Bret Saberhagen started and was terrible (1 IP, 5 ER). Derek Lowe came in for relief and was also bad (2 IP, 3 ER). Pedro came into a tie game at 8-8 in the fourth inning, and proceeded to no-hit the mighty Indians the rest of the way in six amazing innings. After the Sox won 12-8, Pedro’s gutsy ALDS performance gave him only one appearance in the ALCS, in which he dominated the eventual World Series Champion Yankees with seven more shutout innings in a Game 3 win.
Pedro followed the 1999 season with an amazing 2000 season on a decent Red Sox team that didn’t make the playoffs. He won the Cy Young award again, going 18-6 with 284 K’s in 217 IP and a minuscule 1.74 ERA with a 0.737 WHIP. He followed that season with an injury-riddled 2001 (7-3, 2.39 ERA) and two subsequent dominant years after that (2002: 20-4, 2.26 ERA | 2003: 14-4, 2.22 ERA).
In 2004, his final year in Boston, he won that elusive World Series ring, helping the Red Sox to capture their first crown in 86 years. Pedro had a down year (for him), finishing 16-9 with a 3.90 ERA, including a classic press conference when he told reporters that he’d tip his cap “and call the Yankees my daddy.”
He may also be remembered for his hot temper and involvement in many of the roughest brawls of the last decade. One may remember his brawl with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2000 when he hit Gerald Williams leading off the bottom half of the first inning. Williams charged the mound and tackled Pedro, who remained in the game after the fight. He went on to nearly pitch a no-hitter, which was broken up with two outs in the ninth inning.
The Red Sox and Yankees brawled during Game 3 of the 2003 ALCS. Pedro was pitching to Karim Garcia and threw behind him. Garcia was awarded first base after the umpire ruled he was hit. He slid hard into 2nd base at Todd Walker, which caused another bench-clearing incident. The next inning, Roger Clemens threw at Manny Ramirez’s head, and despite Joe Torre’s assertion that there was no intent, Manny barked at Roger and benches cleared for the third time. Away from the action, Yankees bench coach charged at Pedro Martinez head first. Pedro then sideswiped him and threw him to the ground, giving the then-72-year-old a cut on his nose.
Side Note: NO, Pedro’s incident with Zimmer is not even close to Manny Ramirez’s incident when he shoved the Sox traveling secretary. Admit it, you would’ve tossed Zimmer aside too. But, would you have shoved an elderly traveling secretary to the ground because he couldn’t deliver on your ticket demand?
After his historic Red Sox stint (which included that elusive World Series title), Pedro went to the NL and had one good season with the Mets in 2005 (15-8, 2.82 ERA) but has suffered three injury-marred seasons in a row. He still has the desire to play, but one has to question how many pitches he has left in his surgically repaired right shoulder. Perhaps…to prolong his career, the Mets should have considered Martinez in the bullpen. Could he have been as successful as John Smoltz was in the transformation from starter to closer?
Since you’ve been gone Pedro…things just haven’t been the same. You were replaced by Matt Clement (failed experiment) in 2005 and then by Josh Beckett (that’s worked out) in 2006. Beckett has been great, but is nowhere near the pitcher Pedro was in his prime. No one is in today’s game. That goes for Johan Santana, Jake Peavy, and Tim Lincecum, et al.
Despite his hot temper and otherwise erratic behavior, Pedro Martinez will always be remembered for his Hall of Fame career and his unrivaled dominance of the American League during the Steroid Era. No one can ever take that away from him.