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Pedro Martínez

Pedro Jaime Martínez (born October 25, 1971 in Manoguayabo, Dominican Republic) is a Major League Baseball starting pitcher for the New York Mets. He has won three Cy Young Awards and is considered to be one of the top pitchers of his era. At the time of his 200th win in April , Martínez had the highest winning percentage of any 200-game winner in modern baseball history (he has since slipped .006 behind Whitey Ford). In , Martínez became the 15th pitcher to reach 3,000 career strikeouts. Martínez, at 5 ft 11 in (1.80 m) and 193 pounds (88 kg), is unusually small for a modern-day power pitcher, and he is believed to be somewhat smaller than his officially listed height and weight.

Style of pitching

Martinez is atypical in that he has many "out" pitches upon which he can rely. His fastball, curveball and circle changeup are all well above average; combined with his historically excellent control, they prove to be an overpowering package. Martínez throws from a low three-quarter position that hides the ball very well from batters, who have remarked on the difficulty of picking up Martínez's delivery.

Early in his career, Martínez's fastball was consistently clocked in the 95-97 mph (153-156 km/h) range; used in combination with his devastating changeup and occasionally mixing in his excellent curveball, he was as dominant a pitcher as the game has ever seen. In recent years, as injuries have taken their toll, Martínez has made the adjustment to rely more on guile than power. His fastball now is usually in the 85-88 mph range, although he is still able to occasionally hit 90 mph on his fastball when the need arises. He now uses his curveball, circle changeup, and an occasional slider, along with his fastball. With his command of the strike zone, he continues to be a top strikeout pitcher even though he does not throw as hard as he once did. Baseball historian Bill James describes Martínez as being exponentially more effective than his pitching peers due to his variety of pitches, arm angles, pitch speeds, pinpoint control, and numerous modes of deception.

Describing his 2007 comeback with the Mets, columnist Filip Bondy wrote:

It is much more fun now to watch Pedro Martínez pitch than ever before. Minus the gross weaponry of power, we see only the high art form... We watch the brain and arm in harmonic convergence, disguising 85-mph fastballs as something far more fanciful than their velocity and arc... the radar gun never approache(s) 90. An 81-mph slider... an 83-mph fastball... a 76-mph changeup. These baseballs might not be pulled over for speeding on the Turnpike... If it is at all a struggle for Martinez adjusting to his own mortality, you would never know it from the fun this man has around a baseball park.|30px|30px|Filip Bondy, New York Daily News

Early years

Martínez's career started with Los Angeles Dodgers in 1992 as a relief pitcher. After a brief September assignment in 1992, he turned in a strong season as the Dodgers setup man in 1993, going 10-3 with a 2.61 ERA,119 strikeouts, in 107.1 IP in 65 games. Although Pedro's brother Ramón Martínez, then a star pitcher for the Dodgers, declared that Pedro was even better than himself, manager Tommy Lasorda believed that Pedro Martínez was too small to last as an effective starting pitcher at the Major League level. With the Dodgers in need of a second baseman after a contract dispute with Jody Reed, Martínez was traded to the Montreal Expos for Delino DeShields before the 1994 season.

It was with the Expos that he developed into one of the top pitchers in baseball. In 1997 Martínez posted a 17-8 record for the Expos, and led the league in half a dozen pitching categories, including a 1.90 ERA, 305 strikeouts and 13 complete games pitched, and won the National League Cy Young Award. Pedro Martínez was also the first right-handed pitcher to reach 300 strikeouts with an ERA under 2.00 since Walter Johnson in 1912.

The 13 complete games were tied for the second-highest single-season total in all of baseball since Martínez's career began (Curt Schilling had 15 in 1998; Chuck Finley and Jack McDowell also reached 13 in a year). However, this 1997 total is by far the highest in Martínez's career, as he has only completed more than 5 games in one other season (7, in 2000).

Red Sox years

Approaching free agency, Martínez was traded to the Boston Red Sox in November 1997 for Carl Pavano and Tony Armas, Jr., and was soon signed to a six-year, $75,000,000 contract (with an option for a seventh at $17 million) by the Sox general manager Dan Duquette, at the time the largest ever awarded to a pitcher.

In 1999, Martínez delivered one of the greatest pitching seasons of all time, finishing 23-4 with a 2.07 ERA and 313 strikeouts (earning the pitching Triple Crown), unanimously winning his second Cy Young Award (this time in the American League), and coming in second in the Most Valuable Player ballot.

The MVP result was controversial, as Martínez received the most first-place votes of any player (8 of 28), but was totally omitted from the ballot of two sportswriters, New York's George King and Minneapolis' LaVelle Neal. The two writers argued that pitchers were not sufficiently all-around players to be considered. (However, George King had given MVP votes to two pitchers just the season before: Rick Helling and David Wells; King was the only writer to cast a vote for Helling, who had gone 20-7 with a 4.41 ERA and 164 strikeouts.) MVP ballots have ten ranked slots, and sportswriters are traditionally asked to recuse themselves if they feel they cannot vote for a pitcher. "It really made us all look very dumb," said Buster Olney, then a sportswriter for the New York Times. "People were operating under different rules. The question of eligibility is a very basic thing. People were determining eligibility for themselves. The Times does not permit its writers to participate in award voting.

In the end, Pedro Martínez finished second to Texas Rangers catcher Iván Rodríguez, by a margin of 252 points to 239. Rodríguez had been included on all 28 ballots.

In 1999, Martínez became just the 8th modern pitcher to have a second 300-strikeout season, along with Nolan Ryan (6 times), Randy Johnson (third time in 1999, three more times since), Sandy Koufax (3 times), Rube Waddell, Walter Johnson, Sam McDowell, and J.R. Richard (Curt Schilling achieved the feat in 2002). An anomaly in power pitching annals, Martínez is the only 20th-century pitcher to notch 300 strikeouts in a season without being at least six feet tall.

Between August 1999 and April 2000, Martínez had ten consecutive starts with 10 or more strikeouts. Only three pitchers have had as many as seven such starts in a row, and one of those was Martínez himself, in April-May 1999. He averaged more than 15 strikeouts per nine innings during his record 10-game streak.

Martínez was named the AL Pitcher of the Month in April, May, June, and September 1999, an unprecedented feat for a single season. Martínez punctuated his dominance in the 1999 All-Star Game start at Fenway Park, when he struck out Barry Larkin, Larry Walker, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Jeff Bagwell in two electrifying innings. It was the first time any pitcher struck out the side to start an All-Star Game, and the performance earned Martínez the All-Star Game MVP award.

Martínez was a focal point of the playoffs against the Cleveland Indians. Starting the series opener, he was forced out of the game after 4 shutout innings due to a strained back with the Red Sox up 2-0. The Red Sox, however, lost the game 3-2. When the Indians also won the second game, it appeared that Martinez had thrown the last pitch of his wondrous 1999 season. Boston won the next two games to tie the series, but Martínez was still too injured to start the fifth and final game. However, neither team's starters were effective, and the game became a slugfest, tied at 8-8 at the end of 3 innings. Martinez entered the game as an emergency relief option. Unexpectedly, Martínez neutralized the Cleveland lineup with six no-hit innings for the win. He struck out eight and walked three, despite not being able to throw either his fastball or changeup with any command. Relying totally on his curve, Martinez and the Red Sox won the deciding game 12-8. Other than his 9 perfect innings in 1995 [see Memorable Games], this performance is often cited as Martínez's greatest.

In the American League Championship Series, Martínez pitched seven shutout innings to beat Red Sox nemesis Roger Clemens and the New York Yankees in Game 3, handing the World Champions their only loss of the 1999 postseason.

Following up 1999, Martínez had perhaps his best year in 2000. Martínez posted an exceptional 1.74 ERA, the AL's lowest since 1978, while winning his third Cy Young award. His ERA was about a third of the park-adjusted league ERA (4.97). No other single season by a starting pitcher has had such a large differential. Roger Clemens was the AL's runnerup in the category, with a 3.70 ERA, more than double that of Martínez. Martinez also set a record in the lesser known sabermetric statistic of Weighted Runs allowed per 9 innings pitched (Wtd. RA/9). Martinez posted a remarkably low 1.55 Wtd. RA/9.

Martínez's record was 18-6, but could have been even better. In his six losses, Martinez had 60 strikeouts, 8 walks, and 30 hits allowed in 48 innings, with a 2.44 ERA and an 0.79 WHIP, while averaging 8 innings per start. Martinez's ERA in his losing games was less than the leading ERA total in the lower-scoring National League (Kevin Brown's 2.58). The Yankees' Andy Pettitte outdueled the league's best pitcher twice; Martinez's other four losses were each by one run. Martinez's first loss of the year was a 1-0 complete game in which he had 17 strikeouts and 1 walk.

Martinez's WHIP in 2000 was 0.74, not only breaking a 87-year-old modern Major League record set by Walter Johnson, but also the former all-time Major League record set by Guy Hecker, who had a 0.77 in 1882. The American League slugged just .259 against him. They also had a .167 batting average and .213 on base percentage both establishing Major League Baseball records in the modern era. Martinez became the only starting pitcher in history to have more than twice as many strikeouts in a season (284) as hits allowed (128).

In the span of 1999 and 2000, Martínez allowed 288 hits and 69 walks in 430 innings, with 597 strikeouts, an 0.83 WHIP, and a 1.90 ERA. Some statisticians believe that in the circumstances — with lefty-friendly Fenway Park as his home field, in a league with a designated hitter, during the highest offensive period in baseball history — this performance represents the peak for any pitcher in baseball history.

Though he continued his dominance when healthy, carrying a sub-2.00 ERA to the midpoint of the following season, Martínez spent much of on the disabled list with a rotator cuff injury as the Red Sox slumped to a poor finish. Martínez finished with a 7-3 record, a 2.39 ERA, and 163 strikeouts, but only threw 116 innings.

Healthy in , he rebounded to lead the league with a 2.26 ERA, 0.923 WHIP and 239 strikeouts, while going 20-4. However, that season's American League Cy Young Award narrowly went to 23-game winner Barry Zito of the Oakland A's, despite Zito's higher ERA, higher WHIP, fewer strikeouts, and lower winning percentage. Martínez became the first pitcher since the introduction of the Cy Young Award to lead his league in each of those four statistics, yet not win the award.

Martínez's record was 14-4 in 2003. He led the league in ERA for the fifth time with 2.22, and in WHIP for the fifth time at 1.04, while finishing second to Esteban Loaiza by a single strikeout. Martinez came in third for the 2003 Cy Young Award, which went to Toronto's Roy Halladay. He went 16-9 in 2004. Despite an uncharacteristic 3.90 ERA, Pedro helped the Red Sox win the American League Wild Card and pitched effectively in the playoffs, leading to the team's first World Series win in 86 years. Martinez again finished second in AL strikeouts, and was fourth in the Cy Young voting.

The seven-year contract he received from the Red Sox had been considered a huge risk in the 1997 offseason, but Martinez had rewarded the team's hopes with two Cy Young Awards, and six Top-4 finishes. Martinez finished his Red Sox career with a 117-37 record, the highest winning percentage any pitcher has had with any team in baseball history.

Mets years

After Boston's World Series triumph in , Martinez became a free agent and signed a 4-year, $53 million contract with the New York Mets. In , his first season as a Met, Martinez posted a 15-8 record with a 2.82 ERA, 208 strikeouts, and a league-leading 0.95 WHIP. It was his sixth league WHIP title, and the fifth time that he led the Major Leagues in the category. Opponents batted .204 against him.

Martinez started the 2006 season at the top of his game. At the end of May, he was 5-1 with a 2.50 ERA, with 88 strikeouts and 17 walks and 44 hits allowed in 76 innings; Martinez's record was worse than it could have been, with the Mets bullpen costing him two victories. However, during his May 26 start against the Florida Marlins, Martinez was instructed by the umpires to change his undershirt. He slipped in the corridor, injuring his hip, and his promising season curdled. The effect was not immediately apparent; although Martinez lost the Marlins game, his following start was a scintillating 0-0 duel with Arizona's Brandon Webb. But after that, beginning on June 6, Martinez went 4-7 with a 7.10 ERA in a series of spotty starts interrupted twice by stays on the disabled list. A right calf injury plagued him for the last two months of the season. After Martinez was removed from an ineffective September 15 outing, television cameras found him in the Mets dugout, apparently crying. Subsequent MRI exams revealed a torn muscle in Martinez's left calf, and a torn rotator cuff. Martinez underwent surgery which sidelined him for most of the 2007 season.

On November 3, 2006, Martinez stated that if he could not return to full strength, he might end up retiring after the 2007 season. "It's getting better, and progress is above all what is hoped for," Martinez told the Associated Press. "To go back, I have to recover, I have to be healthy. But if God doesn't want that, then I would have to think about giving it all up." Martinez added, "It's going to be a bitter winter because I am going to have to do a lot of work. The pain I feel was one of the worst I have felt with any injury in my career." But by December 30, 2006, Martinez was more optimistic: "The progress has been excellent. I don't have problems anymore with my reach or flexibility, and so far everything is going very well. The problem has to do with the calcification of the bone that was broken with the tear, and that had to be operated on. You have to let it run its course." Martinez also reported bulking up as part of his recuperative regimen: "I've put on about 10 pounds of muscle, because that's one of our strategies.

On September 3, 2007, Martinez returned from the disabled list with his 207th career win, allowing two earned runs in five efficient innings and collecting his 3000th career strikeout. "I thought I was going to have butterflies and like that," said Martinez, "but I guess I'm too old." Martinez's comeback was considered a great success, as the right-hander went 3-1 in five starts with a 2.57 ERA. But his last start was a crucial 3-0 loss to St. Louis in the final week of the 2007 Mets' historic collapse; Martinez provided a good pitching performance (7 IP, 2 ER, 7 H, 1 BB, 8 K) but his teammates failed to score.

Martinez became just the fourth pitcher to reach 3,000 strikeouts with fewer than 1,000 walks (in Martinez's case, 701). Ferguson Jenkins, Greg Maddux and Curt Schilling had previously done likewise. Martinez also joined Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson to become the third 3,000-strikeout pitcher to have more strikeouts than innings pitched, and is also the first Latin American pitcher to have 3,000 strikeouts.

His unexpectedly strong finish in 2007 raised hopes, but 2008 was a lost season for Martinez. He was injured just four innings into his first game of the season, an April 1 no-decision against the Florida Marlins. He later told reporters he'd felt a "pop" in his left leg. Martinez was diagnosed with a strained hamstring and did not return to action for more than two months. Following his return, his fastball typically topped out in the 90-91mph range, a lower velocity than he'd had during his prime but slightly higher than in recent seasons. Martinez finished the season on a low note, losing all three of his decisions in September en route to a 5-6 record, the first losing record of his career. (Martinez was 0-1 in two appearances in 1992.) His 5.61 ERA and 1.57 WHIP were also Martinez's worst ever, and for the first time in his career, he failed to strike out at least twice as many batters as he walked (87-44).

During his four-year Met contract, Martinez was 32-23 in 79 starts, with a 3.88 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP.

Memorable games

• On April 13, 1994, in his second start as a Montreal Expo, Martinez lost a perfect game with one out in the eighth inning when he hit Cincinnati's Reggie Sanders with a pitch. An angered Sanders charged the mound, and was later ridiculed in the press for assuming that a pitcher would abandon a perfect game in order to hit a batter intentionally. Martinez allowed a leadoff single in the ninth inning, breaking up his no-hitter, and was removed for reliever John Wetteland (who loaded the bases, then allowed two sacrifice flies, thus saddling Martinez with a no-decision).Three years later, in 1997, Martínez had another one-hitter against the Reds; that hit came in the 5th inning.

• Martínez has come about as close to throwing a perfect game as possible without actually getting credit for one. On June 3, 1995, while pitching for Montreal, he retired the first 27 Padres hitters he faced. However, the score was still tied 0-0 at that point and the game went into extra innings. The Expos scored a run in the top of the 10th, but Martínez surrendered a double to the 28th batter he faced, Bip Roberts. Expos manager Felipe Alou then removed Martínez from the game, bringing in reliever Mel Rojas, who retired the next three batters.However, Martínez officially recorded neither a perfect game nor a no-hitter. Until 1993, the rules would have judged it differently; however, a rule clarification specified that perfect games, even beyond nine innings, must remain perfect until the game is completed for them to be considered perfect. This retroactively decertified many no-hit games, including Ernie Shore's perfect relief stint in 1917 and Harvey Haddix's legendary 12 perfect innings from 1959 (lost in the 13th).

• Martinez was selected as the starting pitcher for the American League All-Star team in 1999. The game, on July 11, 1999, was at Fenway Park, Martinez's home field. Martinez struck out Barry Larkin, Larry Walker, and Sammy Sosa consecutively in the first inning. He then struck out Mark McGwire leading off the 2nd, becoming the first pitcher to begin an All-Star game by striking out the first four batters. (The National League's Brad Penny matched the feat in 2006.)

• Martínez also came close to the feat on September 10, 1999, when he beat the New York Yankees 3-1. He faced just 28 batters while striking out 17 and walking none (Martinez hit the game's first batter, Chuck Knoblauch, but he was then caught stealing). Only a solo home run by Chili Davis separated Martínez from a no-hitter. The Davis home run came in the second inning, eliminating any suspense, but this may have been Martinez's most dominant day on the mound. Sportswriter Thomas Boswell called it the best game ever pitched at Yankee Stadium.

On August 29, 2000, Martinez took a no-hitter into the 9th against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, losing it on a leadoff single by John Flaherty. Martinez had begun the night by hitting the leadoff batter, Gerald Williams, in the hand. Williams charged the mound, managing to punch Martinez in the face before being tackled by the catcher, Jason Varitek. Martinez then retired the next 24 hitters in a row, and after Flaherty's single, finished with a one-hitter. He had 13 strikeouts and no walks in the game; the Flaherty single would have broken up a perfect game, if not for the leadoff hit batsman. Pedro Martínez has never thrown an official no-hitter. He has professed a lack of interest in the matter: "I think my career is more interesting than one game."

On October 11, 1999, Martinez threw six hitless innings in relief to win the final game of the ALDS, a performance detailed above.

On May 28, 2000, Martinez and Roger Clemens had a dramatic duel on ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball" telecast. The two pitchers both shone, combining to allow only 9 hits and 1 walk while striking out 22. A 0-0 game was finally broken up in the 9th inning by Trot Nixon's home run off Clemens. In the bottom of the ninth, the Yankees loaded the bases against a tiring Martinez, but New York could not score, as Pedro completed the shutout.

In the testy Game 3 of the ALCS, after allowing single runs in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th innings, Martinez hit Yankees right fielder Karim Garcia near the shoulders with a pitch, sparking a shouting match between Martinez and the New York bench. Directing his attention at Yankees catcher Jorge Posada, Martinez jabbed a finger into the side of his own head, which some interpreted as a threatened beanball, including an enraged Yankee bench coach Don Zimmer. Emotions remained high in the bottom of the inning, which was led off by Boston slugger Manny Ramírez. Ramirez became irate over a high strike from Roger Clemens, and both benches cleared. During the ensuing commotion, the 72-year-old Zimmer charged towards Martínez; Martínez deflected Zimmer's charge and Zimmer fell to the ground. Later, Martinez claimed that he was not indicating that he would hit Posada in the head, but that he would remember what Posada was saying to him.

Martínez was also on the mound for Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS versus the Yankees. With the Red Sox ahead 5-2 at the start of the 8th inning, a tiring Martinez pitched his way into trouble. He was visited on the mound by manager Grady Little, but was left in to pitch, in a controversial non-move. The Yankees tied the score against Martinez in that inning on four successive hits, leading to a dramatic extra-inning, series-ending victory for New York.

After a comparatively lackluster season in 2004 (though still a solid season by general standards), Pedro Martínez pitched one of his most memorable games in Game 3 of the World Series. He shut out the St. Louis Cardinals through seven innings, recording his final 14 outs consecutively.

With the Mets on August 14 2005, against the Dodgers, Pedro pitched 7⅓ hitless innings, but ended up losing the no-hitter and the game.

In June 2006, the Mets played an interleague series against the Red Sox, which was Martinez's first appearance at Fenway Park since leaving the team. The Red Sox gave their former ace a two minute video tribute on June 27, but showed no courtesies to Martinez the following night. In his June 28, 2006 start, Martinez lasted only 3 innings, and was rocked for 8 runs (6 earned) on 7 hits, losing his worst game as a Met just before going onto the disabled list. The Red Sox are the only Major League team against which Martinez does not have a victory.

Martínez has thrown 15 or more strikeouts in a game ten times, which is tied with Roger Clemens for the third-most 15-K games in history. (Nolan Ryan had 27, and Randy Johnson has had 29.)

Quotes and controversy

Martínez is a very controversial pitcher, both on and off the field. He refuses to yield the inside part of the plate, and has a high number of batters hit as a result. His career rate for hitting batters is historically high, particularly for a pitcher otherwise noted for his exceptional control.

In 2000, in a game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, Pedro hit Gerald Williams in the elbow with a pitch. Williams then charged the mound leading to a bench-clearing brawl. After the game, Pedro said, "There's no crying in baseball. If he wants to cry, let him cry."

When asked about the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry, he responded: "I'm starting to hate talking about the Yankees. The questions are so stupid. They're wasting my time. It's getting kind of old ... I don't believe in damn curses. Wake up the damn Bambino and have me face him. Maybe I'll drill him in the ass, pardon me the word."

After a Red Sox loss to the Yankees late in the 2004 season, Martínez remarked in a press conference, "They beat me. They're that good right now. They're that hot. I just tip my hat and call the Yankees my daddy". The New York media publicized the quote heavily, and whenever Martínez pitched at Yankee Stadium in the 2004 American League Championship Series, fans chanted "who's your daddy?"

Following the Red Sox' win in the 2004 World Series, Martínez dedicated part of the win to the fans of the Montreal Expos, his former team. Martínez said they deserved recognition after having the 1994 World Series taken away from them, and their team taken away in 2004. The Expos had an MLB-best 74-40 record at the time of the strike; the Montreal franchise was relocated to Washington D.C. following the 2004 season.

Martinez faced criticism in 2008, after a YouTube-linked video made known his involvement at a cockfighting tournament two years earlier. The event had taken place in the Dominican Republic, where cockfighting is legal.

See also

References

External links


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