Two thousand and six was — by far — the worst year of Pedro Martinez’s bejeweled career. His year-end line: 9-8, 132.2 innings pitched, a 4.48 ERA, 137 K’s. For those of you keeping track at home, that’s Pedro’s worst ERA ever. The only season in which he’s had less strikeouts was 1993…his rookie year. His two-year totals with the Mets are 24-16, 345 Ks, and a 3.55 ERA. That would have put him eighth in NL ERA this year.
Pedro did, to be sure, display flashes of the brilliance that has made him one of the best pitchers ever to play the game. Even with his miserable performances of the last several weeks, his .220 BAA would have placed him third in the league (behind Chris Young and Carlos Zambrano) had he pitched enough innings to qualify. And during the season’s first months, he showed, perhaps more than ever before, that he’s a brilliant pitcher and not just a fireballer.
But the Pedro Martinez who finished the year looked a lot different from the one that sauntered into Boston on June 28 for his first start at Fenway since he left the Sox after 2004. At that point, he was 7-3 with a 3.02 ERA, and there was lots of moaning about how the Sox should have done more to re-sign Pedro when he hit free agency. There were stories in the press about how Pedro wanted to come back, but the Sox just wouldn’t pony up.
That, to but it bluntly, is a pile of crap. I pointed that out at the time and got no small amount of grief. There might have been circumstances in which Pedro would have come back to Boston, but he gave every indication that it was not his first choice.
And as painful as this season was, it would have been more painful if Pedro had been another one of the walking wounded populating Yawkey Way. Pedro never was quite able to accept Curt Schilling taking over the mantle as the best pitcher on the Sox’s staff. He griped about it before the ’04 season, he griped about it during the ’04 season, and he griped about it after he signed with the Mets. As Peter Gammons said two years ago, it was “preposterous” that Pedro didn’t bother to show up in New York for Game 6 of the ’04 ALCS…a game Schilling happened to be pitching. With all of the drama and all of the soap operas swirling around Fenway this year, can you imagine what it would have been like to add a hurt, jealous Pedro Martinez to the mix?
Finally, after two years in which Pedro cost the Mets a million bucks a win (which is, granted, slightly less than what Matt Clement has cost the Sox thus far), there’s a decent chance that the $26 million he’s costing the team for ’07 and ’08 will be pretty much sunk costs. If the Red Sox want to continue trying to compete with the Yankees, there’s two things they can’t do: make poor decisions (more on that later) and spend tens of millions of dollars on players in, ahem, the twilight of their careers.
I’ve said many, many times that Pedro is one of my all-time favorite players. I got chills when he returned to Fenway. Watching him strike out 17 Yankees in 1999 is one of the highlights of my baseball-watching life. But it should be clearer than ever that the Red Sox — whether that be Theo, Larry, or whomever — made the right move in not ponying up more than 50 million for a 33-year-old pitcher who is generously listed as being 5-11 and has had a history of shoulder problems.
(More year-end wrap-ups and report cards — as well as a look back at the free-agent pitching class of 2004 — in the days to come.)