By Gerard Lombardo – @wickedlinedrive
Oranges. Although commonly known as a form of sustenance, they’re incredibly entertaining to watch a dog play with. Roll one in your pup’s direction, and thank me later. An even more impressive use for them, if you can believe one exists, is how a young Dominican born child utilized the citrus fruit in the 1970’s. Because when Pedro Martinez was growing up, living in a dirt-floored hut with five brothers and sisters, their parents budget made no room for the purchase of baseballs; Pedro, instead, had to improvise.
He threw oranges.
Not to gloss over the early days of Martinez, but the real meat and potatoes of the stud pitcher’s lifetime thus far, (from a fan’s perspective) has undoubtedly taken place between the years 1998-2004, when he donned the Boston Red Sox apparel, forever changing the way Bostonians watched baseball. This is not in an effort to disparage Roger Clemens’ first 20 strike out performance, or any superb start made by him. Clemens simply wasn’t “much watch baseball” despite his powerhouse performances. But Pedro Martinez’s starts were, and every fifth day, no matter how poorly the lineup was hitting, you simply couldn’t not watch. To say he fooled batters would be a gross understatement; he controlled them, as if they were puppets on a string. On any given day his changeup would roll off the table, his fastball would top out at 99 with a last millisecond wrinkle, or his knee buckling curveball could bend hitters backwards, only to softly fall into the safety of the strike zone. Advanced saber metrics have proven Martinez to statistically be one of the best pitchers in the history of Major League Baseball, as if winning three CY Young awards in five seasons (finishing runner up in the two others) isn’t proof positive. Or his still untouched 313 strikeout season, which Sale could not reach due to a string of poor starts; therefore burying the “is Sale as dominant as Pedro?” argument that manifested earlier in 2017.
The accolades, honors, and numerical anomalies that the 5’11” power pitcher compiled are legendary. They range from his 1999 All Star Game performance in front of the Fenway crowd, to his six shutout innings in an ALDS relief appearance, after entering the game in an 8-8 tie with a bad back, and only a changeup working in his favor. Dan Duquette might legitimately be functioning off a lesser count of brain cells than some, as evident by his belief that Baltimore was a contender even with a league worst ERA and no method of manufacturing runs outside of ding dongs, but his Pedro trade and signing turned the Red Sox franchise around. A then record $75 million pact for a pitcher was reached after the underwhelming duo of Tony Armas Jr. and Carl Pavano were exchanged for the Montreal ace, which led to a revival of the Sox, where post season runs became the norm, and the now-seldom mentioned drought came to a long awaited conclusion.
Following the 2002 season, David Ortiz was released by Minnesota. With a child on the way, the slugger formerly known as Arias bumped in Martinez at a coffee shop in their home country. Theo Epstein was urged via a Pedro phone call to give future Papi a chance, even with the glut of first baseman the Sox currently hosted; a move that worked out fairly well for Boston. To no end has the former ace helped our proud franchise, whether it be as a pitcher, salesman, or an executive of the front office.
And now, the infamy of Pedro lives on, as his 17 year old son, who’s listed at 6’2″ and growing, is formally a member of the Detroit organization, as a third baseman nonetheless. Can you blame the Michigan based franchise for making the move? Of course not, given that the Boston right hander went 6-0 in his career vs. them, averaging nine strikeouts per start. Maybe they’re looking to harness some of that Martinez magic. And to think that in the year 2000, which seems not too long ago, Martinez was masterminding his opponents in his first start after the birth of his son, is especially entertaining now that Pedro Martinez Jr. is grabbing news headlines as a young acquisition by the Tigers.
We’ll never see the father son matchup of Martinez vs. Martinez Jr., nor will we ever definitively know if millennial Pedro learned the skills of the game by way of a Rawlings baseball, or a vitamin enriched snack. But after reading of the young player’s signing, it only made sense to me to honor Martinez Sr. and hope his front office skills, and tutelage of the young Red Sox arms can propel Boston to a fourth championship in 13 seasons.
How do you like them oranges.