This writer was in Cooperstown the day Carl Yaztrzemski was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame on July 23, 1989. Pedro Martinez might not be quite the legend that Yaz was in Boston, if only because of spending just one-third of the time (seven seasons) that Yaz (23 seasons) did in a Red Sox uniform. There were certainly years that Yaz was not dominant, but Pedro was dominant for his entire seven years in Boston.
The Red Sox acquired Pedro from the Montreal Expos (now Washington Nationals) for minor league pitchers Carl Pavano and Tony Armas, Jr.. In his career, Armas Jr. went 53-65 with a 4.65 ERA over ten major league seasons. Pavano provided further enjoyment to Red Sox fans during his injury-plagued time in the Bronx, in which he received $38 million in salary to make 26 starts over four seasons, earning the nickname “American Idle” according to baseball-reference.com.
Pedro’s aforementioned dominance in Boston was demonstrated best during his 2000 season in Boston which was one of the most outstanding pitching seasons in history. He went 18-6 with a 1.74 ERA, allowing just 128 hits in 217 innings pitched, leading the league with 284 strikeouts. His ERA was almost three times as good as the league average, reflected in an ERA+ of 291, the best since 1900. This was the last Cy Young Martinez would win, the second in a row, and his third in four seasons. What jumps out at you is his WHIP (walks plus hits divided by innings pitched) of 0.7373 which is the lowest total in baseball history. The next four best seasons date from 1913 and earlier. Greg Maddux‘ incredible 1995 season (19-2, 1.63) is sixth on the list at 0.8108.
Pedro’s 5.3088 hits per nine innings allowed was the fourth best in history. As a baseball geek, what jumps out on this list is that Nolan Ryan had two of the three seasons above Pedro on that list and the second one happened when Ryan was 44 years old. Maybe there was a precedent for Roger Clemens‘ late-career dominance.
This writer was lucky enough to see Pedro pitch one of his 17 career shutouts on July 23, 2000 at Fenway Park. Sitting on the first base line for this game the atmosphere was electric, as it was at any Pedro game. The Red Sox were only able to eke out a single run on five hits to send Pedro to the mound with a 1-0 lead in the ninth. When Pedro notched his 15th and last strikeout (the last three outs with a runner at second) on pitch 131 of his day, it would be the third and last complete game 1-0 shutout victory of his career.
The game revisited today was but a microcosm that Petey’s dominance over the course of seven seasons in Boston. Today we celebrate Pedro Martinez enshrinement in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. Red Sox fans who can remember 2004’s championship and what it meant to the franchise and the city to break the team’s 86 year World Series drought, thank him for all he did to bring a winning culture to Boston. We aren’t likely to see his equal again at Fenway.
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