We have a lot of Cooperstown Dreams Park teams staying with us. This is the second of four profiles of this year’s winners for our younger readers, parents,coaches, loved ones, and onlookers.
Pedro Martinez’s Game
Brought No Pasarán! to MLB
(They Shall Not Pass.)
There aren’t many MLB pitchers who play 18 seasons, mainly as a starter, and peg the sheer number of statistical kudos as did Pedro Martinez. Consider his achieving the rarest goal for any live-ball era starting pitcher: the lowest WHIP. A low score is desired, because WHIP measures the Walks Plus Hits Per Inning Pitched.
Think about it.
This Dominican Republic native quietly telegraphed “No pasarán!.”
Meanwhile his pitching style was spookily inscrutable. Whether fastball, cutter, curveball, or circle changeup–all were well above average “out”-getters. He could also throw an occasional slider. Batters said Martinez’ pitches, hailing from a low three-quarters (practically sidearm) position, were difficult to assess until too late.
According to Joe Posnanski of Sports Illustrated: “There has never been a pitcher in baseball history–not Walter Johnson, not Lefty Grove, not Sandy Koufax, not Tom Seaver, not Roger Clemens–who was more overwhelming than the young Pedro.”
Some statistics and awards to consider include:
*2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, and 1999 Lowest (ERA) American League;
*Three-time Cy Young Award Winner (2000, 1999–Red Sox, 1997–Expos);
*Career: Third Highest MLB Strikeout Rate;
*Career: Third Highest MLB Strikeout-to-walk ratio;
*Career: Adjusted ERA the best of any starting pitcher in MLB history;
*Career National League ERA 3.32, Career American League ERA 2.52
*Career: Highest Winning Percentage in modern baseball history;
*1999 Triple Crown Pitching (Wins, strikeouts, and Earned Run Average (ERA)
*1999 2nd Place MVP (despite receiving the most votes)
*1999 300 a 2nd 300-strikeout season (8th modern pitcher to do so)
*1999 Pitcher of the month for April, June and September–unprecedented.
*1999 All Star Game MVP award, and
*August 1999- April 2000, 10 consecutive starts with 10 or more strikeouts.
It takes a special pitcher to dominate the mound during the so-called Steroid Era of MLB but that is just what Martinez did. Today’s ‘Power Pitchers’ are also usually much larger than his officially listed 5 foot 11, 170 pounds. Some say he’s actually smaller than that.
Born the 5th of 6 siblings, Martinez grew up in a palm wood house with dirt floors and a tin roof in the Dominican Republic. After practicing on oranges–because baseballs were too expensive, his 78-80 mph pitch was discovered at his older brother’s baseball camp. Pedro had carried Ramon’s bags to the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Dominican Republic farm system.
Martinez started out with Los Angeles as an amateur free agent in 1988, making his MLB debut as a reliev pitcher in 1992. Manager Tommy Lasorda thought the then-135 pound pitcher was too small to start, and Martinez faced a $500 fine if caught running. Traded to the Expos in 1994, he quickly developed into a top pitcher. Montreal loved him, as you can see from this video that includes the famous brawl following a connecting brush-back pitch on the Reds’ Reggie Sanders. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zD5PsaihtH4
From 1997 until 2004, Martinez played for the Red Sox. Bleacher Report Senior Analyst Asher Chauncey summarizes his Pedro’s Sox career: “Simply put, no pitcher has ever been as dominant over a six year period as Pedro Martinez was with the Boston Red Sox from 1998 to 2003, ever. I doubt we’ll ever see anything like it again.”
The period included his performance at the 1999 All Star Game, where he struck out Barry Larkin, Larry Walker, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Jeff Bagwell in two innings.
There is no arguing Pedro Martinez has a world-class arm. After his selection by sportswriters as a 2015 HOF Inductee, he repeated, in a preview of his forthcoming autobiography, a years-old admission: he intentionally pitched into some players. In , he stated, “When I hit a batter, it was 90% intentional.”
Two pieces of needed context:
A. Martinez isn’t alone. He’s just honest. The subject of our previous HOF 2015 class profile (John Smolz) admitted the same. Baseball’s dirty little secret isn’t: pitchers exert a sort of discipline over the other teams’ players.
B. Watch the bench-clearing brawl that ensues after Martinez himself is brushed back while at bat and then charges the plate. Both Martinez and the Phillies pitcher decided to ignore the umpire’s warning to both pitchers. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDA85mcVSxU
So Martinez’ response to George Steinbrenner on the matter provides an interesting glimpse into mindset of such a winning pitcher:
“…Yankees owner George Steinbrenner suggested that Major League Baseball launch an investigation into my evil ways. I told reporters, “Georgie Porgie, he might buy the whole league, but he doesn’t have enough money to buy fear to put in my heart.”
There is both likable ‘every-man’ bravado and gentle humility to Martinez. And not just because he played big brother to Manny Ramirez. Remember the 1999 strikeout feat at the MVP game? Martinez said the game was memorable because he got Ted Williams’ autograph and was able to meet the MLB Major League Baseball All-Century Team (including Warren Spahn, Christy Mathewson, Lefty Grove Honus Wagner, and Stan Musial).
No pasarán! indeed.
And much, much more.