Thursday, May 22, 2008

Martinez retirement talk premature

First Mike Piazza retired. Then Pedro Martinez said he might retire after this season to be with his ailing father. Now he says he'll pitch another two years:

"I feel great physically and for the record I haven't considered retirement. Retirement would only take place if my arm is badly hurt and if I have to face surgery or something near that nature," Martinez told while visiting his father, Pablo Jaime, who has a form of brain cancer.

I hope Pedro sticks around as long as possible. Here's what I wrote about him in the 2000 edition of my book:

“I am a pitcher because I like the challenge of being responsible for the game, of being in charge of the action. If the shortstop makes an error, I am responsible. I let the batter hit the ball,” Pedro Martinez once said, explaining the attitude that propelled him to the top of baseball.

Winner of three Cy Young Awards, Martinez had possibly the best combination of power (a 97-mph fastball) and control of any pitcher ever, and he ranks first all-time among modern pitchers in his ratio of strikeouts to walks.*

During his historic 1999 season, Martinez rarely allowed hitters to touch anything. While leading his Red Sox to the wild card title, he won 23 games (vs. just 4 losses), posted a 2.07 ERA (in Fenway Park, no less), and struck out 313 hitters to set a major league record with 13.2 Ks per nine innings (since surpassed by Randy Johnson). He followed that up with another Cy Young Award in 2000. In all, he has finished in the top five in Cy Young balloting seven times.

Over the past few years, age and injuries limited him to just six or seven innings per start, or around 100 pitches. But for those 100 pitches, he’s about as good as there ever was.

That was before he went on to finish in the top 3 in Cy Young Award balloting two more times, and help pitch the Red Sox to a World Series. His career post-season record is now 6-2, 3.40 ERA, with 80Ks in 79.1 innings.

Fans in the 1960s had their Sandy Koufax, the brilliant lefty. As fans in the 90s and early 2000s, we have our Pedro. He won't win as many games as Clemens or Maddux, but if you ask most modern fans who they would want in their prime for a single must-win game, I think Pedro would be their choice.

*Curt Schilling has passed Martinez in that category now.

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