It was thrilling enough to watch Pedro Martinez pitch against “his daddy” in the American League Championship Series.
But now, Pedro Martinez pitching at Yankee Stadium in the World Series? Really?
In what could be one of the most memorable games in baseball history, there could not be another player on the Philadelphia Phillies postseason roster that would want to beat the Yankees more than Martinez. Martinez has had his fair share of experiences against New York, as we all know. His performance in the 2003 ALCS led to his manager’s departure, and his performance in the 2004 ALCS led to a World Series appearance — followed by victory.
Let’s also not forget his episode with former Yankees’ coach Don Zimmer, who charged Martinez at full speed. In a story for Sports Illustrated, Lee Jenkins displays a quote which Martinez used to describe his initial thought when Zimmer began charging him.
“I thought he was going to just give me advice or something, just go ‘Pedro, you need to slow down or something.’ … His reaction was totally the opposite. He was trying to punch my mouth and told me a couple of bad words about my mom.”
Martinez may say some silly things, but that is what you will find with most professional athletes. Despite the drama surrounding him, he has been known as one of the best Latin American pitchers to ever climb a pitchers mound in the history of the game. With stints in Los Angeles, Montreal, Boston, New York, and now Philadelphia, Martinez has had memories on every corner of the western world.
The league-wide consensus in the mid-2000’s was that Martinez’s grip on dominance was slipping, but that he had some fuel left in his tank to at least make some memories with one other team. After he achieved what every player dreams of: winning a World Series, he had no problem leaving the Red Sox for another team to help wind down his career and collect a few extra bucks. By signing with the Mets, his popular image helped dig the team out of a deep hole by giving hope to a helpless franchise. By this point, he knew that if he didn’t win a World Series, it wouldn’t be the end of the world. But what happened in the second half of his four-year stay in New York changed the way he pitched forever.
Injuries to both his arm and leg at different times set Martinez back. Any player could have called it quits at that point, especially with the money he had and the life after baseball he has to look forward to. But Martinez fought harder than he ever had in his life and turned himself into a different pitcher, a better one.
Maybe his fastball wasn’t blazing in the mid-90’s, but his off-speed pitches were decent and the accuracy of his fastball helped keep hitters from shelling him. He was forced to become more creative as a pitcher, and after working as hard as he did, he changed his mind about the World Series desire.
He wanted to come back to the Mets following the expiration of his contract, but the team wasn’t buying into his injury-prone body. Teams kept him waiting until the middle of the season, when he finally received a call from a potential buyer: The Philadelphia Phillies.
What a perfect storm for Martinez. He could have the opportunity to get back at the team that no longer wanted him, the Mets, and stay in the National League and have the chance to win the World Series on a contending team. Staying in the National League also meant the potential of playing “his daddy” in the World Series.
After working as hard as he did, I would want to do all of that too.