Ten Years Gone: Pedro Martinez calls the Yankees his daddy
"“I actually realized that I was somebody important, because I caught the attention of 60,000 people, plus the whole world watching a guy that if you reverse time back 15 years ago, I was sitting under a mango tree without 50 cents to pay for a bus.”– Pedro Martinez"
The 2004 Boston Red Sox hit their stride as the dog days of August rolled into September, rattling off wins in 25 of 30 contests. Trailing the New York Yankees by 10 and ½ games in the division on August 15th, the Sox snipped the lead to 2 and ½ games following the opening matchup of a weekend series in the Bronx on September 17th.
But the Yankees, winners of the division the previous six seasons, served notice to the plucky Bostonians with multiple beat downs over the next week, including two starts by Pedro Martinez that left the Boston ace questioning his place in the world.
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On Saturday, the Bombers rolled up 14 runs, eight of them off Boston starter Derek Lowe, who was mercifully pulled in the second inning after taking an Alex Rodriguez liner off the leg.
Martinez took the mound in the Sunday afternoon finale and the results were equally unpleasant: eight runs over five innings pitched. The Yankees steamrolled the Sox, 11-1, as the usually unflappable virtuoso dropped his second of four consecutive losses to close the campaign. Riding the right arm of Mike Mussina, the Yanks climbed back to a 4 and ½ game lead.
Five days later, on September 24th, Martinez was on the bump again against New York, this time at Fenway Park. Though he went 7 and 1/3 innings (chucking 117 pitches), he took his third consecutive loss, as the Bombers battered the righty for nine hits and five earned runs in a 6-4 victory.
Throughout his Boston tenure, Pedro was known for his refreshingly candid perspectives:
"“Wake up the damn Bambino and have me face him. Maybe I’ll drill him in the ass, pardon me the word.”"
But after this one, he gave a quote that would haunt him for the reast of his career. “What can I say,” Pedro mused. “Just tip my hat and call the Yankees my daddy.”
Martinez indeed got the attention of more than 60,ooo people, as Yankees fans broke out their Sharpies and poster boards and brought a new chant into the stadium lexicon for that year’s ALCS. It persisted through Martinez’s final Major League start, as a member of the Philadelphia Phillies five years later in Game Six of the World Series.
For all the enthusiasm about the hard-charging, high fiving Red Sox over the previous month, Pedro’s unraveling at the hands of the Yankees raised a number of questions about Pedro’s head, and his stuff, headed into the postseason. The erstwhile ace finished 2004 with eight losses and a 3.90 ERA, both career highs to that point.
With Lowe also faltering in the rotation, it left Curt Schilling as the only sure-handed starter, and his status would be jeopardized by an injury in the ALDS. As the Red Sox season moved into October, it looked like it would take a miracle to break through 86 years of futility.