There are two kinds of players in modern baseball: Those who have been tied to performance-enhancing drugs and those who are considered clean.
My friend Frank posed an interesting question to me today: "Is Pedro Martinez the best pitcher of all time? Is Mariano Rivera? Given the steroid era, you could make a case for both."
He's right, I can. I intend to, in two separate pieces, make my case for both men.
Pedro Martinez has been regarded as a clean pitcher during the steroid era—an era that witnessed men hit 60 and 70 home runs during a season. Muscles bulged to proportions seen previously only by professional wrestlers, brother.
Longer, faster, harder, further, stronger—all were adjectives that easily can commemorate Major League Baseball in 1980s through the early 2000s.
Through it all stood 5'11", 170lb Pedro Martinez. I think both attributes are generous, especially during his early years. Yet, here he was, a man of small stature with big game capabilities.
Pedro Martinez was a man not afraid to give to throw high and inside, just to prove a point. The plate was his.
During his 18 seasons in the Majors, Martinez was an eight-time All-Star. His performance in the 1999 All-Star game at Fenway Park was easily his most notable. Martinez struck out Barry Larkin, Larry Walker and Sammy Sosa consecutively in the first inning.
Then in the top of the second inning, he struck out Mark McGwire as well. He completed the second inning without giving up a run.
Is Pedro Martinez the greatest pitcher of all time?
Martinez is a three-time Cy Young Award winner. He was a runner-up twice while placing third and fourth once, respectively.
In 1999, Martinez won the Triple Crown of pitching with 23 wins, a 2.07 ERA and 313 strikeouts.
He has also won the 1997 NL TSN Pitcher of the Year, 1999 ML AS MVP, 1999 AL TSN Pitcher of the Year and the 2000 AL TSN Pitcher of the Year.
His career ERA is 2.93 with a 1.054 WHIP with a record of 219-100. He struck out 3,154 batters with a 10.0 K/9 ratio.
In short, Pedro Martinez was dominant.
In 1999 he led the league in WAR with an 8.3, while leading WAR for pitchers three times: 1997 (8.2), 1999 (8.4) and 2000 (10.1).
During his career, he led the league in ERA five times, WHIP six times, strikeouts per nine innings five times and strikeouts in general three times.
There were not many batters that Pedro Martinez could not figure out: The man was ruthless and imposing.
He managed to put up numbers of this caliber while competing against players like Greg Maddux, Roger Clemens, Tom Glavine, Kevin Brown, Mike Mussina, David Cone and Tim Hudson—to name a few—while opposing batters like Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez, Jason Giambi and Jim Thome.
While it is impossible to compare a player from one generation effectively against a player from an earlier time, I am hard-pressed to find too many pitchers that are greater all-around than Pedro Martinez. His impact on, most notably the Boston Red Sox, will never be forgotten.
Surely, Martinez will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.
On the flip side, could Mariano Rivera be the greatest pitcher of all time?