The case of Pedro Martinez is the case of a player who only spent seven seasons out of his 18-year career with the Red Sox. However, it’s inarguable that what Martinez did in those seven seasons in Boston are the reason why he was eventually enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame after his retirement.
Then-GM Dan Duquette traded to acquire Pedro from the Montreal Expos after the 1997 season and was instantly rewarded. The Red Sox ended up with the man who became one of, if not the most dominating pitcher of the late 1990s and early 2000s which is even more impressive given that it was the height of the league’s steroid era.
From 1998-2000, Pedro put up the following stats:
1998: 19-7 W-L, 2.89 ERA, 251 K, 67 BB, 233.2 IP, 1.091 WHIP (33 starts)
1999: 23-4 W-L, 2.07 ERA, 313 K, 37 BB, 213.1 IP, .923 WHIP (29 starts)
2000: 18-6 W-L, 1.74 ERA, 284 K, 32 BB, 217.0 IP, .737 WHIP (29 starts)
Look at those numbers…they’re absolutely insane and are three of the greatest seasons any pitcher has had in the history of baseball. Pedro’s 1998 season was fantastic, but it was his 1999 and 2000 seasons that cemented his place as one of the most dominant hurlers of his era. He won the American League Cy Young award both seasons but that only tells part of the story.
In 1999 he had an ERA barely over two and he struck out over 300 batters while only walking 37. Again, this was at the height of the steroid era when guys like Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, Rafael Palmeiro, Jason Giambi, Sammy Sosa, and others were juicing and hitting a ridiculously inflated number of home runs.
Pedro’s WHIP in 1999 was a gaudy .923, but in 2000 he was even better, lowering it to an almost unfathomable .737, while again striking out almost 300 batters and only walking 32. He also lowered his ERA to 1.74, the lowest in the American League since 1978. To dominate that much when just about every hitter was on steroids and hitting balls out of the park left and right was truly staggering.
Pedro added to his Red Sox legend in 1999 when he struck out five batters in two innings in the All-Star Game, which was played at Fenway Park. Then, in the ALDS against the Cleveland Indians, Pedro was forced to leave his game one start after only a few innings with a back strain. He came back in the deciding fifth game to throw six no-hit innings in relief, whiffing eight and helping the Red Sox move on.
Pedro continued to be great for the Red Sox and was instrumental in helping them finally win the World Series in 2004, but it was his two seasons in the late 1990s that made him a Boston legend. For those who weren’t around to see Pedro pitch, it was an incredible experience. Every one of his starts was an event and the energy in the crowd was electric.
I was fortunate to see Pedro pitch in person multiple times and there was nothing like it. You never knew what incredible thing you were going to see and the excitement was palpable; it even came across when watching the games on television. There was nothing like being at Fenway Park for one of his starts, though, and those games I went to when he pitched are some of my favorite memories.