Career Statistics: 2827.1 IP, 409 GS, 10.04 K/9, 2.42 BB/9, 2.91 FIP, 87.1 fWAR (16th among pitchers all-time)
Years Active: 1992 - 2009
Position: Right-handed starting pitcher
Time on the Ballot: First
For the second part of this series on members of the 2015 Hall of Fame ballot and their connections to the New York Yankees, we look back at the career of Pedro Martinez.
Martinez was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers as an amateur free agent in 1988, and made his major league debut in 1992 as a relief pitcher. Then-Dodgers ace and Pedro's brother Ramon would assert that Pedro was the better pitcher in the family, but Los Angeles didn't think the 5"11', 170 pound Pedro had enough size to carry a starter workload. After a solid 1993 coming out of the bullpen, Martinez was traded to the Montreal Expos where he was given an opportunity to join the starting rotation. Pedro took his chance and ran with it, to a tune of 3.4 fWAR in the strike shortened season as he was a big part of the Expos having the best record in baseball that year. Martinez continued to develop as a starter, winning a Cy Young in 1997 after a remarkable year–305 strikeouts with a 1.90 ERA and 8.6 fWAR.
With the looming likelihood of losing Martinez to free agency, Montreal traded Pedro to Boston before the 1998 season where he was signed to what was a record contract of 6 years, $75 million. Martinez had already established himself as a top-tier pitcher in Montreal, but it was in Boston that he became a superstar; pitching a very solid 1998 and only being relegated to second in the Cy Young because of former Red Sox and fellow member of the 2015 ballot Roger Clemens having an exceptional season in Toronto. In 1999, though, Pedro could not be denied his American League Cy Young to match the NL version he'd won as an Expo.
Pedro Martinez, in 1999, pitched his way to the fourth best single season by fWAR in history, a list where four of the other five top-six single seasons date back before 1900. Even if fWAR isn't your statistic of choice, by any measure Martinez's 1999 was astounding. He won the Triple Crown with 23 wins, 313 strikeouts and an ERA of 2.07. Impressive as that ERA is, his FIP was an even more tiny 1.39, accounting for the offensive nature of Fenway Park. Martinez came back in 2000 with an encore, lowering his ERA to 1.74 and WHIP to a liveball record of 0.74; winning his third Cy Young award. After an injury-hit but still impressive 2001, Martinez continued to perform at a high level in 2002 and 2003. This stretch from 1997 to 2003 - considering he spent the bulk of it pitching his home games in a hitter-friendly ballpark harsh on right-handers, in the most offensively charged era in history, in the heavier scoring American League - is one of the greatest stretches of dominance any pitcher has ever had.
Martinez was a part of the 2004 World Series winning Red Sox, part of a freakish rotation where none of the five missed a start all year. Following the breaking of the curse, Martinez became a professional free agent for the first time in his career, and signed a four year, $53 million contract with the New York Mets. Pedro was Pedro for the first year and a half of that contract, but then it all started to unravel. He had a series of poor performances, sandwiched between trips to the disabled list and ultimately his season ended when the Mets medical staff found a torn rotator cuff. The ensuing surgery and rehabilitation led to him missing most of 2007, returning in September and pitching well even as the Mets were collapsing around him, blowing a 7 game lead with 17 to play. Pedro limped through his final year with the Mets in 2008 as injuries continued to take their toll, causing him to miss extended time and sapping him if his velocity and best stuff when he did take the mound. Martinez signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in the middle of the 2009 season, coming back into the major leagues in August and serving as a key part of their postseason rotation.
"I just tip my cap and call the Yankees my daddy"
Pedro Martinez - September 2004
Martinez's games pitched in Yankee Stadium were often events in themselves, and there were days when he thoroughly dominated the Bronx Bombers. Never more so September 10th 1999 when Martinez faced 28 batters, striking out 17 and coming within a Chilli Davis home run of a no-hitter. To accurately assess how dominant Pedro was, consider how virtually every member of the Dynasty Yankees called it at least as great as any pitching performance they had ever seen, including David Cone who had pitched a perfect game only two months prior.
New York got in their share of shots as part of the rivalry, of course. The 2003 American League Championship Series featured two duels between Clemens and Martinez, and the Yankees came out ahead in both. First in game three, now more remembered for the brawl that culminated in Pedro throwing Now York's 72 year old bench coach Don Zimmer to the ground. The 2003 ALCS ultimately went the full seven games, with Martinez and Clemens starting the decider in Yankee Stadium. Boston took a quick 4-0 lead and were up 5-2 in the eighth inning, when Grady Little went to the mound, but was famously talked out of making a pitching change by the tiring Martinez. The Yankees tied the game against Martinez, setting up Aaron Boone's iconic walkoff home run.
Late in the 2004 season, after a regular season loss to the New York Yankees, Martinez delivered the above quote, calling the Yankees his daddy and admitting to wanting to face any team other than them at that point. This line was lorded over Pedro by the New York fanbase during his game two ALCS start in Yankee Stadium. Martinez had the last laugh that year though, as his Red Sox became the first team in MLB history to come from 3-0 down to win a postseason series. New York faced Martinez far less in his declining years, which were spent in the National League. However, perhaps fittingly, Pedro's final game of his professional career was in Yankee Stadium. New York did their part to give the day a turn-of-the-century feel, winning as they so often did, to take the 2009 World Series.
Pedro Martinez in his prime was three Hall of Fame caliber pitchers rolled into one. He had a fastball to match Roger Clemens, an array of 'out' pitches that was almost a rival of Mike Mussina, and control as good as anyone this side of Greg Maddux. His spell of dominance was shorter than most inductees though, and some voters might choose to keep him off their ballots for that reason especially with fellow first-year candidate Randy Johnson having far superior counting stats. However, Pedro should still sail through induction in his first time of asking.
Congratulations on an incredible career Pedro Martinez.
Likely Cap if Elected: Boston Red Sox