Red Sox Legend Pedro Martinez Talks Past, Present, and Future With SB Nation

A few SB Nation Bloggers were given the chance to speak with Pedro Martinez on Thursday by Gillette as it continue its Gillette Fusion ProGuide Ultimate Summer Job tour. Thanks to Gillette for the opportunity, and for one of the cleanest stadiums in the country.

For Pedro Martinez, the park is divided into two worlds. "When you're inside the white lines, it's business, total business." Everywhere else, though "you're just a regular player, a regular human being, a regular fan. I think I was the biggest cheerleader the team ever had. I mean, not taking anything away from the fans, but I was a big cheerleader. I remember I used to tell everybody 'Everybody get your pom poms and let's go!'"

When he was between the lines, there were few better. In his prime perhaps the most dominant pitcher the game has ever seen, Martinez is a three time Cy Young Award winner (two second place finishes) who put up dead-ball era numbers in the height of the steroid era.

Still, Pedro's recorded accomplishments don't do the man justice. In 1995, for instance, Martinez pitched nine perfect innings against the Padres. What would normally have been a historical perfect game, however, was kept out of the record books as the Expos couldn't score in the first nine innings. He had a chance to close it out in the tenth, but gave up a single and was pulled from the game, ultimately earning the victory. Recorded or not, though, it's a perfect game to Pedro. "Yeah, in my heart, it was [a perfect game] because I went the extra mile. I wasn't supposed to be pitching in the 10th inning in that game. To me that's a fluke. It could happen to anybody."

Even his awards don't really cover the whole story. His 2002 second place Cy Young finish came despite leading the league in ERA and strikeouts. "I had all the credentials I needed to win the Cy Young, and because I was nice to give Josh Hancock one of my outings, so he didn't have to go through what my brother, Jesus, went through with the Dodgers. . . . it was given to [Barry] Zito." Jesus Martinez spent nine years bouncing around the minor leagues, never appearing in a major league game. With the Red Sox already effectively out of the playoffs, Pedro stepped aside to give Josh Hancock his first major league start, prompting some voters to accuse him of resting on his laurels, and possibly costing him the Cy Young race.

It's not just the Cy Young either. Pedro Martinez can lay some legitimate claim to the 1999 MVP award too, finishing in a close second place thanks to being left completely off the ballot by two writers who refused to vote for a pitcher-- an excuse that wouldn't hold up under scrutiny. "It was just two guys that said they weren't going to vote for pitchers that year. But those two guys I later on find out that they were voting for pitchers two years earlier." The two writers were LaVelle Neal of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and George King of the New York Post. Just one year before, King had voted for pitchers David Wells and Rich Helling.

In the end, though, it's all about career accomplishments for Pedro. He's not phased by not having a recorded no-hitter or perfect game, or about being snubbed for the MVP. "What you continue to do in your career is what really matters. How many guys have thrown no-hitters and they're nowhere to be found? . . .Many guys have got the MVP one year and that's it. What matters to me is the numbers I have accumulated and how I did it and how clean I did it and how proud I am about everything I did."

 

Pitching with the Red Sox from 1998 to 2004, Pedro experienced a golden age of the Red Sox - Yankees rivalry. But like many others before him, Martinez downplayed the animosity between the players. "I think that between players there's nothing. It's actually more of a tradition that there is between the Yankees and Boston and how badly Boston wanted to overcome the Yankees." Besides, Pedro points out, there's no need for a rivalry to spice up a game between two of baseball's best. "Just the fact that the two teams are so good is what makes everything interesting. The two teams that are tough, two good cities, great fans on either side, and just the fact that we're so close . . . makes it interesting."

In fact, the Red Sox legend wouldn't hesitate to throw on the pinstripes. "I would be really proud if I did [pitch for the Yankees]. Because I know how much tradition there is in the Yankees organization - one of the best organizations. . . Actually, as a kid, I was a big fan of Reggie Jackson. I was always looking forward to going to Yankee Stadium, and playing there. It would be a great experience and an honor to play for the Yankees." It almost happened last year, when Martinez returned for the second half of the season. Pedro says that Red Sox fans may have been saved this particular trauma thanks to a faulty scouting report. "The hold-up was, the first time, was my fault - I chose another team. But the second time, one of the scouts Brian Cashman sent over last year gave them the wrong report, saying I was 85-84 mph, and when I came back to pitch with the Phillies I was 90-94. I don't know who regrets it more."

Still, there was something special about taking down the Yankees in 2004. "When we did it 2004, we actually thought like we were unbeatable, after being down 0-3. We really got confidence and we knew that we could win anything else."

 

So what's left for Pedro Martinez the pitcher? He made it clear that he wasn't likely to be back anytime this year. "It would probably take for me to get bored doing what I'm doing right now, and I'm having a lot of fun. But y'know you can never say never. Right now I'm keeping the promise I made to my kids to spend some time with them and go on vacations." And even 2011 is, at this point, a question mark at best. "So far, I think I am going to stay like this, because I am liking what I'm doing and so far I don't regret taking the time off."

If he does return, though, we'll know before Opening Day. Martinez has no interest in another half-season stint. "The reason I'm not playing right now is because it'd be for half a year, and it's too late already. I've already committed to my kids, and they'll be expecting the same thing next year. They're gonna be expecting me to be home, if I'm not playing. If I am to do it, I'm going to do it for the full season." While Martinez wasn't willing to divulge any favorites, he did acknowledge that certain teams would definitely have the advantage in any attempt to lure him back to the majors, especially those with "a legit chance of winning." And for those hoping for a return to Boston for Pedro, he would accept being a reliever "if the situation was right."

 

There will always be a pitcher in Pedro Martinez. One that misses the thrill of the game, the competition, the lights, and the crowds. "That's the toughest part of not being baseball - being in there, competing and facing those challenges." But for now, Pedro Martinez the man is enjoying life away from all that, finding time for the other things that matter to him. "I have my hands full with my kids, and the vacations, and my foundation and helping out in the community. We have almost 1000 kids in the foundation that really need a father. I'm also having that fun with that. I'm keeping myself busy. Hoping to continue to do that and give my family the time I haven't been able to give them the past 18-20 years."

"To be honest, I haven't really stopped to think about what it would take but I really don't want to disappoint my kids ... and I wouldn't even try to think about it."

 

Check SB Nation Boston for more on the interview, as well as The Good Phight and Pinstripe Alley, who also participated in the interview.

 

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