Thursday, January 21, 2010

Red Sox A-Z: M is for…

Martinez, as in Pedro

Scalpers had it easy. It didn’t matter who the opposing team was. It didn’t matter who the other stars in the game were. It didn’t matter who the opposing pitcher was. If Pedro Martinez was on the mound, that’s all that mattered. Pedro made it a must-see game. If Pedro was pitching, you scheduled your day around the game. I’ve never seen anything like it.

I’ve mentioned before that the Red Sox have been blessed with quite a few talented pitchers in recent years. Roger Clemens, Josh Beckett, and Curt Schilling have all toed the Fenway rubber. Pedro was just different. I’ve always wondered how unique the feeling was to Pedro. Did any other pitchers invoke the same feelings? How much better than everyone else was he?

Take Josh Beckett. He’s a great pitcher. He’s the ace of the staff, and would be the ace of most staffs. When I look at the schedule, and see he’s supposed to pitch I feel good about the game. I know that the Sox should have a shot to win. I check the opposing team. If it’s the Yankees, I know it will be closer. If it’s the Royals, I feel even better. I check the opposing pitcher. If it’s Pettitte, I feel better about his chances. If it’s Grienkie, I feel much worse. But with Pedro, I didn’t do any of that.

If I looked at the schedule and saw Pedro listed, I knew the Sox would win. Not have a shot at winning. Will win. If I saw it was the Yankees, I assumed it would be a closer victory. If I saw it was the Royals, I wondered if Pedro would finally get his no-hitter. I felt bad for the opposing pitcher. If it was a poor pitcher, he was about to get thumped. If it was another ace, he was about to lose a close game where it probably wasn’t his fault. He just ran into Pedro. The only time I’ve felt even close to that was Josh Beckett during the 2007 playoffs. He was dominant. When the Sox trailed in the ALCS, I knew that they would at least win Beckett’s start. It wasn’t a should. It was a will. Beckett gave me that feeling for a couple weeks. Pedro’s lasted a few years.

When Pedro was on the mound, you started counting for records in the first inning. If the first guy made an out, it was only 26 more for the perfect game. If he struck out one guy in the first inning, he was a bit off pace to get to 21. I’ve mentioned before that I didn’t even know Derek Lowe had a no-hitter going until the sixth inning. With Pedro I would have known. I would have been tracking it for six innings by then.

Pedro has ruined other pitchers for me. How can Beckett be an ace? He had like 16 wins. How can Lester be having a great game? He’s given up two runs already. Pedro has set the bar so high, nobody can ever reach it.

So I need to ask fans from other teams and generations. Did other pitchers give such a feeling of confidence? When Clemens was on the mound, did you mark down the win before the game started? Does it matter to Phillies fans who Cole Hamels is facing? When Cliff Lee or CC Sabathia pitched for Cleveland, did you need to check the other line-up? If Tim Lincecum gives up a run in the first inning, is it cause for concern or par for the course? The Red Sox have had three other 20-game winners in the last ten years. None of them gave me the Pedro feeling of confidence. If they didn’t do it, does anyone?

M is for Martinez, Pedro.


  1. I felt that I needed to point out that Pedro was 11-11 in his career v. the Yankees (not counting playoffs). Sample size of 216.2 innings over 32 games. I did not automatically count it a loss if he was on the mound against the Yanks, because they often found a way to win.

    Another interesting fact: Pedro had 17 HBP against the Yanks, almost twice as much as 2nd team. Coincidence.... I think not!

    Who's your Daddy Petey!?!

  2. The only other pitchers that felt Pedro-like to me (in this generation) were Randy Johnson and Greg Maddux. Legendary pitchers.

    As for Beckett, I think he is overrated. His playoff success endears him to many, but his 3.79 lifetime era is the real Beckett. An above average pitcher. He isn't even a Curt Schilling.

  3. I'm hoping Halladay gives me that feeling in '10!

  4. I haven't seen the breakdown, but I imagine many of those Yankee losses came post 2002. From 98-2002, I certainly expected a win if Pedro was on the mound vs NY. After all, he handed the Yankees their only loss of the 1999 postseason.

    I didn't see a lot of Johnson or Maddux...but I can imagine that they'd create that feeling, especially Johnson with the D-Backs. I would agree that Beckett may be overrated, but it depends as what you rate him as. Is he a top ten starter? 15? Having watched both Schilling and Beckett win 20 with the Sox, I'd take Beckett any day of the week. They both get an inflated jump because of their postseason numbers, so that's a wash. Neither one was Pedro, though.

    As for Halladay, I hope he gives you that feeling in '10 too...except, of course, May 21-23, and June 11-13. Wait a second. Two series against the Phillies? How did the Phills-Sox become a "natural rivalry"? Did they just switch it so the Sox would have to play the best NL team twice while the Yankees play the Mets?

  5. 1998 1-2 3GP
    1999 2-0 2GP
    2000 1-2 4GP
    2001 1-2 6GP
    2002 2-1 4GP

    Total 7-7 19GP

    So Pedro won 37% of the games that he faced the Yanks.

    2003 1-1 4GP
    2004 1-2 4GP

    Total 9-10 27GP

    He had a losing record against the Yanks in his Sox career. He won exactly 33% of his starts v. the Yanks.

    You may have expected a win, but you were not looking at the facts as they presented themselves. The Yankees have always had relative success against him. There is no doubt that he was a great pitcher. Great pitching should beat great hitting, but in this case study it was a wash.

    The Yankees have continually had Petey's number, and as a fan I never feared facing him. The Yanks won more than they lost against one of the best.

  6. Yogi Berra once said, of Sandy Koufax's 1963 season, "I understand how he won 25 games. What I don't understand is how he lost five."

    That's Pedro's Red Sox career. I know how he won 117 games. What I don't get is how he lost 37.

  7. He lost 10 (almost 30% of total Red Sox loses) by facing a dynamic offensively gifted team with solid starting pitchers that won 3 World Championships over that time period.

    Pedro was great, but the Yanks had his number and it speaks to just how great those Yankee teams were.

    My guess is that Yogi would have realized this. That is why he mentioned Koufax, not Pedro.


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