When Pedro Martinez was among the four legends to be inducted into the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame yesterday, it allowed fans a chance to look back and reflect on the marvelous career he had with this franchise. Red Sox history is overflowing with talented players, but none of them are quite like Pedro. In fact, there's a compelling case to be made that Martinez is the best pitcher in franchise history.
Pedro spent 7 seasons in Boston after being acquired from the Montreal Expos (the best of many great moves former GM Dan Duquette ever made). While he doesn't have the longevity of some of the other all-time greats that have put on a Red Sox uniform, his time here was filled with memorable moments. He pitched in 4 All-Star games during his time in Boston, including when he was named the starter for the 1999 Mid-Summer Classic at Fenway Park and struck out 5 of the 6 batters he faced. He struck out 17 batters in Yankee Stadium during a 1-hitter in September of '99 that will be remembered as perhaps his most dominant performance. We'll never forget the time he battled a back injury to emerge from the bullpen to finish Game 5 of the ALDS by holding the Cleveland Indians hitless over 6 innings. Then of course he was a key factor in Boston breaking the Curse by capturing their first title in 86 years, tossing 7 shutout innings in Game 3 of the World Series.
Martinez won back-to-back Cy Young awards over one of the most dominant two year stretches you'll ever see. In 1999 he won 23 games with a 2.07 ERA (which believe it or not is higher than it should have been according to his 1.39 FIP) and struck out 313 batters in 213.1 innings. He finished second in MVP voting that season and many fans will tell you he should have won it. Pedro then followed that up with another brilliant season where he posted a league leading 1.74 ERA, 0.73 WHIP and 284 strikeouts.
While those were the only years he was the winner of the Cy Young award, he finished in the top 5 in voting in 6 of his 7 seasons in Boston. 2001 was the lone exception – when injuries limited him to only 116.2 innings. That's fitting, considering the award is named after the guy near the top of most records in franchise history. Cy Young is tied for the franchise record in wins with 192, while Pedro is 6th on that list with 117 (while playing in far less career games in Boston). Pedro's 2.52 ERA during his time in Boston is 7th in franchise history, but everyone ahead of him on that list made their major league debuts at least a century ago – including Young. Pedro pitched in a much different era, in a league deeper in talent, while doing his best work during the height of the steroid era. Not only did he have to pitch in a league that featured lineups with a DH, but he also faced chemically enhanced sluggers. He led the league in ERA+ (adjusted for league and park effects) four times while with the Red Sox and his career 154 Adjusted ERA+ is the second best in major league history. His 10.95 K/9 ratio remains the best in franchise history and he's third on the team's list of total strikeouts.
Another pitcher near the top of the franchise leader boards is Roger Clemens, who was also honored by the team at yesterday's ceremony. The Rocket spent his first 13 seasons in Boston, so he has Martinez beat in some of the categories that favor longevity. He's tied with Cy Young for wins and has the most total strikeouts of anyone in team history. He also won three Cy Young awards and an MVP during his time in Boston. However, unlike Martinez, he never won a championship with this team. Clemens had a lot of great moments, including a pair of 20-strikeout gems, but also had a couple of mediocre seasons with an ERA north of 4.00. Pedro didn't have bad seasons while he was here. While Pedro has always been beloved in Boston, Clemens parted on unfavorable terms and angered a lot of fans when he took on the role of a hired mercenary by signing with the rival New York Yankees. He later soiled his reputation with a PED scandal. Clemens is still among the best pitchers in franchise history and is deserving of the honor of being inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame. But he's no Pedro.
Anytime Pedro was scheduled to start, it was unlike anything you've ever experienced at a baseball game. It was always a huge event – often described as being compared to a heavyweight prize fight. When Pedro took the mound, Red Sox Nation took notice. The atmosphere at Fenway was electric, buzzing with fans on the edge of their seats, eager to see him throw his next gem. It's rare to find any player that garners that kind of excitement.
When he was scheduled to pitch, Martinez came in with laser sharp focus. The other four days between starts, it's like he was a completely different person. He was always laughing and keeping the team loose in the clubhouse. He was so full of life, with a glowing personality that lit up a room whenever he entered. That's part of what sets him apart from other legendary players. He wasn't just an incredibly talented pitcher, he was also a great teammate.
There are a lot of great pitchers that have played for this franchise and many more still to come, but there will only ever be one Pedro Martinez.
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