May 3, 2012

Farewell to Boston - Number 4 - Petey

The countdown of my favorite Boston sports memories continues. Yesterday probably several months ago, I broke down my Super Bowl 39 experience, culminating in the apex of the NFL's most recent dynasty. Today, we take a walk down Yawkey Way to remember the most dominating pitcher in Boston Red Sox history.

Él hablará el golpe. Él entrará en su cabeza. Él le hará loco. Y luego él le tachará. Él es Pedro, El Conquistador.*

As you'll probably notice over the course of the week, I've been very spoiled as a sports fan. Growing up in Boston let me witness the Patriots establish a dynasty and flirt with perfection, the Red Sox finally break the supposed “Curse of the Bambino”, plus the Celtics and Bruins return to relevance with titles of their own.

But I’ll be honest. Prior to 2001…they all sucked.

Yet there was one saving grace. Pedro Martinez.

I'd seen highlights of Larry Bird. I'd grow up to watch Tom Brady tear the NFL apart. And from 1998 through 2003, Martinez was easily in their class...if not above it.

It defied logic. Pedro was listed at 5'10 and 170 lbs. And that was only if he was soaking wet and sporting an afro. Yet he was regularly lasering in fastballs at 95-97 mph coupled with an equally devastating changeup and curveball in his prime.

His stats? Beyond ridiculous. Just look:

1998: 19-7, 2.89 ERA, 251 K, 1.09 WHIP
(2nd in AL Cy Young Award)

After year one (following Boston acquiring Petey from Montreal), we all thought we had seen greatness. Lucky for us...we hadn't seen sh*t.

1999: 23-4, 2.07 ERA, 313 K, .923 WHIP
(AL Cy Young, 2nd in AL MVP)

Domination. Pedro led the majors in all of the above, earning the Cy Young and coming in second in the AL MVP race...despite receiving the most first place MVP votes of any player (8).

He was snubbed from the ballots by two dumbasses: Lavelle Neal of Canada Minnesota (and understandable due to being a Canadian), and George King from New York. Both claimed that pitchers were ineligible because they weren't all around players.

Maybe a legitimate argument from Neal. But not from King, who had given Rick Helling and his amazing 4.41 ERA and 164 strikeouts an MVP vote just the year before (and gave another vote to David Wells). What a dumbf*ck.

Back to Pedro. He also won AL pitcher of the month in April, May, June and September, started the All-Star game for the American League at Fenway (more on that later), threw one of the greatest games in the history of Yankee Stadium (more on that later), and dominated in the post-season (more on that later).

2000: 18-6, 1.74 ERA, 284 K, .737 WHIP, 4 Complete Game Shutouts
(AL Cy Young, 5th in AL MVP, and number 1 in all the stats above)

Think he was pissed off by getting snubbed? All Pedro did was respond with what is likely his most dominant season ever. The next highest AL ERA was Roger Clemens...with a 3.74. Cool story bro. And his WHIP? Only the best...EVER...breaking an 87 year old record.

NOTE: Through 1999-2000, Martínez allowed 288 hits and 69 walks in 430 innings, with 597 strikeouts, an 0.83 WHIP, and a 1.90 ERA. With hitter friendly Fenway Park as his home field, in a league with a designated hitter, during the highest offensive period in baseball history...this was pretty f*cking good.

2001: 7-3, 2.39 ERA*
(Missed most of season with rotator cuff injury)

2002: 20-4, 2.26 ERA, 239 K, .923 WHIP
(2nd in AL Cy Young, led AL in all of the above)

Idiocy struck once again this season, as Barry Zito and his 23 wins took the AL Cy Young. That despite a lower winning percentage, fewer strikeouts, and a higher WHIP and ERA.

2003: 14-4, 2.22 ERA, 211 K, 1.039 WHIP
(3rd in AL Cy Young, led AL in all of the above)

Unfortunately...this season wrapped up with then manager Grady Little leaving Pedro on the mound too long in game seven at Yankee Stadium. That of course led to this only up close and personal experience of Bostonian losing.

Gross. Now that I'm done puking...back to Pedro.

Petey was probably more awesome off the mound than he was on it. The guy was one of the greatest quotes you'll ever find. Check out some of these gems:

And the best...

He also seemed to piss off...well...everyone. Which made him that much more likable to me.

Whether it was throwing down old men...

Or ticking off sh*tty players on baseball's worst team...

...then proceeding to retire 24 straight batters...striking out 13.

The stats? Great. The quotes? Better. The fear and hatred he brought out of rivals? Unforgettable. But his Hall of Fame moments (most of which happened in 1999) will give me goosebumps. Forever.


Fenway Park. Ted Williams was there. And Pedro was on the mound for the AL...where he proceeded to annihilate all batters. He struck out 5 of the 6 he faced, including 'Roids Row (Sosa, McGwire, and Bagwell). Yeah the game didn't count, but that was the only All Star Game that's ever been good. Ever.


For all the rah rah rah about the Yankees "owning" Pedro (11-13 against Petey while he was with the Sox) the dude had his moments. For example:

That season, Pedro would give those '99 Yankees their only post-season loss:

The next year, on May 28th at Yankee Stadium, Martinez out-dueled Roger Clemens in a complete game 2-0 zip win (thanks to a little help from Trot Nixon).



 The above moments were great...but none were as legendary as his relief appearance in the '99 ALDS. I still get chills remembering watching, then secretly listening on the radio under my covers while feigning sleep, as a 10-year-old awestruck kid.


He was far from the old Pedro in 2004 (16-9, 3.90 ERA). But after mowing down batter after batter for years with the Sox, there was no one on "The Idiots" who deserved a World Series Crown more.

That was his last moment with the Red Sox. It is a moment Sawx fans will cherish forever.

*I speak zero Spanish and used a English to Spanish online dictionary. Thus, this is probably extremely non-sensical.

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