THE 3,000 STRIKEOUTS OF PEDRO MARTINEZ
On September 3, 2007, exactly 10 years ago today, Pedro Martinez, pitching for the New York Mets against the Cincinnati Reds, in his first start of the season, struck out opposing pitcher Aaron Harang for the 3,000th strikeout of his career. He became just the 15th pitcher in baseball history to reach the 3,000 strikeouts mark and would end his carer with 3,154, the 13th highest total in all of baseball history.
Of course, there is a good chance that Nolan Ryan’s record of 5,714 career strikeouts will never be broken but Pedro achieved his 3,154 in just an 18 year career, while Ryan had a 27 year career. In fact, of the 15 pitchers who have reached 3,000, only the St. Louis Cardinals great Bob Gibson did it in a shorter career, pitching for 17 years.
In his amazing seven years with the Red Sox, from 1998-2004, Pedro struck out 1,683 batters an average of 244 per year and won 117 games while losing just 37, a .760 won loss percentage.
To put that percentage in perspective, Spud Chandler, of the Yankees, holds the highest career won loss percentage in modern baseball history of .717 and Clayton Kershaw, the Dodgers Ace, holds the second highest at .695. Pedro’s career record of 219 wins and 100 losses gave him a career percentage of
.687, fourth highest in modern baseball history. Beside Chandler and Kershaw, only Yankee great Whitey Ford had a higher percentage at .690.
Pedro had been signed by the Mets in 2005, as a Free Agent, after he helped lead the Red Sox to the pennant and their first World Series win in 86 years in 2004, winning 16 and losing 9 with a 3.90 ERA and 227 strikeouts in 217 innings. He also won Game 3 in the Red Sox sweep of the World Series, shutting out the Cardinals for seven innings in the Sox 4-1 win. He was made a Free Agent after the 2004 season and signed with the Mets on December 17, 2004.
Born in Manoguyabo, Dominican Republic, on October 25, 1971, Pedro was signed as a Free Agent by the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 18, 1988, at 17 years old. He played in the Dominican in 1989 and was with the Great Falls Dodgers in the Rookie Pioneer League in 1990.
In 1991, at age 19, he began the season with the Class A Bakersfield Dodgers, where he was 8-0 with a 2.05 ERA, moved up to the AA San Antonio Missions, where he was 7-5 with a 1.76 ERA and then to the AAA Albuquerque Dukes where he was 3-3 with a 3.66 ERA. In that year, he won 18 and lost 8 with a 2.28 ERA in the minors.
He spent most of 1992 with Albuquerque, winning 7 and losing 6 with a 2.25 ERA, and was called up in September and got into two games with the Dodgers. In 1993, he was 10-5 with the Dodgers with a 2.61 ERA, pitching in relief with just two starts.
On November 19, 1993, he was traded to the Montreal Expos, where he won 55 and lost 33, with a 3.06 ERA, in four years. In 1997, he won 17 and lost 8 and posted a 1.90 ERA to win the Cy Young Award. On November 18, of that year, he was traded to the Red Sox for Carl Pavano and Tony Armas.
In his first year with the Sox, 1998, he won 19 and lost 7 with a 2.89 ERA. In 1999, with a 23-4 record and a 2.07 ERA, he won his second Cy Young and, in 2000, he won his third with an 18-6 record and a 1.74. He led the league in strikeouts in 1999, with 313 and, in 2000, with 284. The Sox went to the Playoffs in 1988 and 1989 and he was 3-0 in three starts with a 1.13 ERA.
In 2001, he missed two months with a rotator cuff tear and was just 7-3 but, in 2002 he was 20-4 with a league 2.26 ERA and a league leading 239 strikeouts and finished second in the Cy Young balloting.
In 2003, he was 14-4 with a 2.22 ERA and the Sox met the Yankees in the American League Championship Series. In Game 3, in addition to losing the game, he was charged by Don Zimmer in a brawl and ended up throwing Zimmer to the ground. The image of that incident, which even Zimmer admitted was his fault would follow him the rest of his career.
Going into the eighth inning of the seventh game of that series, after the Yankees had come back from a 3-0 deficit in games ahead 5-2, Grady Little left Martinez in the game and he gave up the tying runs that led to an 11 inning game won on Yankee Aaron Boone’s infamous home run off Tim Wakefield in the 11th.
After leaving the Sox, he spent four years with the Mets, winning 32 and losing 23, with a 3.88 ERA and was made a Free Agent at the end of the 2008 season. He was not signed as a Free Agent until the Phillies picked him up on July 15, 2009.
He signed a one year contract with the Phillies for one million dollars and went 5-1 with a 3.63 ERA helping the Phils to the NL East pennant. In Game 2 of the Division Series, he pitched shut out ball for seven innings in a game the Phillies blew. In the World Series, against the Yankees, he started Game 3 and gave up just three runs in six plus innings but lost 3-1. In Game 6, he gave up four runs in four innings in the Yankees series clinching 7-3 win.
After the 2009 season, he retired, and his SABR biography quotes him as saying ‘ After achieving what I achieved in baseball, I felt like if I was going to go through all of that just to achieve a little more, I would rather not.’
He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2015 and was perhaps the best right hander ever to pitch for the Red Sox.
On another subject:
Is there anyone out there who saw the Toronto Blue Jays’ center fielder Kevin Pillar’s amazing catch on Monday night to rob Boston Red Sox star Mookie Betts of an extra base hit that does not realize that it has to be one of the greatest catches of all time? Does anyone need to have Statcast tell them that the ball was traveling at 100.1 miles per hour when it left the bat, that Pillar was traveling at 29.8 feet per second when he left the ground, that he covered 82 feet in 4.6 seconds to get to the ball or that the ‘catch probability’ was 38%?
Do we need that information to appreciate that Pillar has the ability to get to balls like this and make spectacular, seemingly impossible, Superman-like catches, time after time? Can’t we just enjoy it and wonder how this incredibly gifted outfielder does it without trying to analyze it to death?
I saw Kevin Pillar race to his left in pursuit of a seemingly uncatchable ball, leap high in the air from a dead run, without regard for his own safety, extend his body and arm as far as he could and snatch the ball out of the sky before crashing to the ground and banging his head against the wall while still holding onto the ball. I have seen it over and over and over and can’t see it enough times.
I don’t care how far he ran, how fast he leaped or whether the ball was catchable. I do know that he made one of the most spectacular catches of the year, perhaps one of the best in baseball history, and all the statistics in the world will not add to or detract from the entertainment value and awe provided by that moment in time. Why can’t they just let us enjoy it?