Pedro Martinez made the obvious official yesterday morning; announcing his intention to retire from professional baseball in style – a very Pedro-esque series of parties in the Dominican Republic and Boston in the coming months (with possible stops in Montreal and Philly.)
As is its wont, Twitter turned into straight-up Pedro porn as baseball people, Red Sox and Yankees fans alike, started spouting mind-bending stats from Pedro’s heyday as baseball’s best pitcher. A title he held for a long time. Perhaps the highest-performing pitcher in the game’s history, when his era is considered.
Everybody has a favorite Pedro feat of strength but the single greatest Pedro memory — the one we should all take with us forever — is Game 5 of the 1999 ALDS. We may never see anything like it again.
The Boston Red Sox won the 1999 Wild Card with relative ease. Though the Sox finished 4 games behind the division winning Yankees, the Red Sox won 94 games to claim the Wild Card by 7 games. Pedro Martinez, in the middle of arguably his finest season, was instrumental in this achievement.
Over Pedro’s final 8 starts of the season, Pedro pitched 62 innings, allowing 8 walks, 2 home runs, and 10 total runs. He struck out 107 batters over this span while plunking three hitters. That’s right, he allowed more HBPs than home runs over a 62 inning stretch. His game by game strikeout totals? 11, 15, 11, 15, 17, 14, 12, 12. Yeesh.
The Red Sox rolled into the playoffs to face the Central Division-champions from Cleveland, who won their division with 97 victories but were the only Central team to finish above .500. Pedro started Game 1 on regular rest but left with a back injury. His status for the rest of the series was in doubt.
The Red Sox and Tribe series went five games without any further contribution from Pedro Martinez. He was unable to start game four or five due to injury, forcing the Red Sox to go with Bret Saberhagen, who quickly gave up five runs in his single inning of work. Derek Lowe came on to work the next two innings but he couldn’t slow the Tribe’s juggernaut offense1 either, allowing three runs in his two innings.
With the game tied at 8 heading to the bottom of the fourth inning, the bullpen gates opened and Pedro Martinez emerged.
Six innings of no-hit relief. Eight strikeouts. With the season on the line. Good. Lord.
Take some time to spin through Pedro’s BR or Fangraphs page a little this morning. He hit the highest heights while providing all sorts of secondary entertainment for his entire career. There is no limit to the kind of hysteria that would accompany 1999 Pedro if he existed in the world of Twitter and MLB.tv. The nerd in all of us would burst from our skin every five days as we invented new superlatives to describe what we all saw in real time.
We’re all better having seen him pitch though we’re all worse for him now being done for good. Thanks, Pedro. You were the best.
1 – Cleveland scored 1009 runs in 1999. One thousand and nine.