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In early December, Pedro Martinez officially announced that after 18 years, he was retiring from baseball. Martinez retires with a record of 219-100, an ERA of 2.93, 8 all-star game appearances and 3 CY Young awards, which are, in all likelihood, Hall of Fame credentials.
Because of this news, it is a good time to reflect on Martinez’s legacy in Boston. Though there were some hard feelings over his departure to the Mets, the fact that he didn’t sign with the more hated New York team and because of his incredible success in Boston, most fans no longer harbor hard feelings towards him.
Looking back at his brilliant career in Boston, you have to wonder whether Pedro Martinez deserves to have his number 45 retired.
Pedro Martinez was traded to the Red Sox from the Montreal Expos in November 1997. Fresh off a Cy Young season in Montreal, Martinez finished second in the AL Cy Young voting his first year with the Sox before reeling off consecutive Cy Young awards in 1999 and 2000.
In 2001, Martinez was plagued throughout the season by a rotator cuff injury that limited him to 18 starts. However after this, he had 3 more impressive seasons with the Sox, finishing in the top 4 of the Cy Young voting each year, and helping the Sox win their first World Series in 86 years in 2004.
Unfortunately for Pedro Martinez, Red Sox policy on retiring a player’s number is that they be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and that they have played at least 10 years with the Red Sox.
While Martinez most likely will be elected to the Hall of Fame, barring a miraculous comeback, he will retire after playing only 7 years for the Sox.
But, it can be argued that the impact Martinez had on the Red Sox in 7 years was more than what players who have had their numbers retired have done in 10 or more years. In every full season Martinez played on the Sox, he was voted a top 4 Pitcher in the American League. And twice he was voted the best.
In fact, if you look at Martinez’s ’99 and ’00 seasons, you will see a pitcher so superior to his peers it is shocking. In the American League, these two years represent two of the most successful offensive seasons of baseball. In ’99, the second lowest ERA of the AL was 3.44 by David Cone and in ’00 it was 3.70 by Roger Clemens. In those two years combined, Pedro Martinez had an ERA of 1.90, leading the league each time, a record of 41-10 and 597 strikeouts. Perhaps the only player who has ever been this significantly better than his contemporaries was Babe Ruth in the early 1920’s.
Pedro Martinez finished his Red Sox career with 117 victories against 37 losses, the best winning percentage with one team in MLB history. He is widely considered one of the greatest pitchers of his era and will likely make it into the Hall of Fame, and mostly because of his time with the Red Sox.
While the criteria for retiring a number should be restrictive to unqualified players, it should not eliminate a player like Martinez just because he didn’t play 10 years. In today’s era of free agency where players jump from team to team every couple years, it is becoming less and less likely for a great player to stay on one team for 10 years.
This means that as the years go on retiring Red Sox numbers will become more about longevity and less about the greatness of the player.
I believe this should stop now, and Pedro Martinez should be recognized for what he is: one of the greatest Red Sox of all time.