ESPN.com and The Associated Press reported that Pedro Martinez will be wearing a Boston Red Sox hat on his plaque in the National Baseball Hall of Fame, in Cooperstown, New York.
Martinez stated, “I am extremely proud to represent Boston and all of New England with my Hall of Fame career. I’m grateful to all of the teams for which I played, and especially fans, for making this amazing honor come true” (ESPN.com).
Over the last few months, Pedro’s history with the Red Sox reentered the public consciousness, and the question was whether his time in Boston was what meant the most to his career. The 43-year-old Dominican native must have agreed, as he will be immortalized with the famous Boston logo. In seven seasons, Martinez pitched over 1 383 innings, with a 2.72 ERA, 1 683 strikeouts to 309 walks, 22 complete games, and eight shutouts. His 117 wins to only 37 losses mark his most dominant time in Major League Baseball, including a World Series Championship in 2004. His most-used pitch, the four-seam fastball, smoked by opposing batters around 90 mph, while his changeup, slider, and filthy curveball kept them guessing at the next pitch.
And guessing is right, even for Red Sox Nation. It is a telling sign that Pedro had no fear of opponents, because, as dominant as he was on the mound, he hit 77 batters with Boston. If you had a strikeout-to-walks ratio of 5.45, you did not hit a batter because you were off your game. We will leave the famous issue with former New York Yankees’ catcher Jorge Posada alone, and just reflect on how Martinez did not like anyone crowding his strikezone.
Which leads us to who was on the other end of that tandem: Jason Varitek. For Pedro’s biggest years with the Red Sox, Varitek was the man behind the plate. In 2012, the Boston Globe’s Tony Massarotti spoke with Martinez, who had nothing but good things to say about Varitek and how important he was to the pitcher’s success:
"“Whatever I say will fall short of how I feel about Jason and his career and how he goes about his business” – Pedro Martinez"
Even though he wore the captain’s ‘C’ on his chest, Varitek’s numbers would hardly get mentioned in any Hall-of-Fame talk. In the Michigan-native’s 15-year career, all with Boston, Varitek hit .256, with a respectable .341 on-base percentage, to cash in 757 RBIs and 193 home runs. Some of those years were thin on big run totals, but that never phased Pedro or his teammates. They loved him for making big hits in big games, whether to cash a run or keep an inning alive. “Where Varitek especially excelled, Martinez remembered, was in game preparation and ‘pitch sequencing,’ the former of which has been expressed by many who have worked with the catcher, the latter of which Martinez was a stickler for. For all of the physical gifts Martinez possessed on the mound, his mental gifts were routinely evident” (Massarotti).
Pedro’s decision to wear the Red Sox logo in Cooperstown has much to do with his success in Boston, but that success came with admitted help from Varitek. The duo made for an imposing battery, which helped Varitek earn his first of three All-Star Game appearances and being nominated on the American League’s most valuable player list in 2003 and 2004. Red Sox Nation is proud of Martinez’s accomplishments, but they should also remember the man who caught him into baseball stardom.
** Pitching statistics are from fangraphs.com and baseball-reference.com
*** For more information on Massarotti’s article, go to: