It doesn’t matter who he says is his daddy.
Pedro Martinez is a first ballot Hall of Famer.
The 38-year-old from the Dominican Republic may not have the mid-90s fastball he once displayed, but he still has the prowess on the bump to take over a contest on the game’s biggest stage.
Just look at the way he navigated through Game Two against the New York Yankees on Thursday night.
Only breaking 90 MPH a handful of times, Martinez used his devastating changeup to set up hitters for failure, spotting his pitches beautifully on the black of the plate all night long.
I don’t know if you’re ever gotten a chance to see Pedro’s hands, but he has some unbelievably long fingers. This allows him to snap the ball off the end of his digits, getting maximum movement out of all pitches.
The use of his freak fingers was never more evident than last night, when even his fastball was biting hard—just ask Alex Rodriguez.
Sure, Mark Teixeira hit one on the screws, and Hideki Matsui did his best Phil Mickelson impression to golf a low breaking ball out to right field.
Yet despite taking a loss in Game Two, Pedro’s most recent performance further solidifies his position in the annals of all-time great pitchers.
Pedro threw 72 strikes on the night, and 23 of those were called strikes. That number of strikes looking was so high because he was making an All-Star lineup look like fools by keeping them guessing on what pitch was upcoming.
They had no idea what to expect, and Pedro had the Yankees baffled by his approach, resulting in them taking pitches at which they would normally swing.
How many pitchers can continue to stay that effective without their top-notch arsenal?
Not many, especially in the so-called “steroid era.”
Consider the following numbers Martinez has posted in his decorated career.
He has led the league five times in earned run average, twice posting marks below two, in addition to his 2.93 career ERA.
He is fifth all-time in career Cy Young shares, winning the award three times, and he also ranks sixth in career winning percentage (.687).
He averages more strikeouts per nine innings than Nolan Ryan.
He has the second best adjusted ERA in the history of the game, trailing only the immortal Mariano Rivera.
Those numbers are unwavering in the face of criticism, but if anyone is bold enough to question the résumé of Martinez, I have one more stat to throw your way.
Bill James developed a tool called the Hall of Fame monitor, and it tries to assess how likely it would be for an active player to make the Hall.
A number of 100 means there is a good chance the player will be voted into the hall; a mark of 130 signifies a virtual cinch for being elected.
Pedro’s number is 202.
That means if you divided his career amongst two players, both would still have a good possibility of making the Hall of Fame.
The interesting thing about his current situation is that any team could have had Pedro at the beginning of the season, but maybe it’s better that he enjoyed four months of time off to relax and prepare for the stretch run.
Perhaps if he had come back with the New York Mets in April, he would have suffered the same fate as the rest of the team, which is of course finding his way to the disabled list and seeing his career dwindle away into the sunset.
But I think Pedro made the right decision in waiting until the time was right.
As fans of the game, we don’t want to see falling stars burn out, and Pedro has prevented that from happening.
The man’s career has personified winning, and he knew that if he kept in shape and bided his time until late in the season, then he could help a high-caliber team capture a World Championship.
Sure, critics will look back on Thursday night and say that Charlie Manuel left in Pedro for an inning too long, just like in 2003 when he was with the Boston Red Sox.
Maybe they’re right. I still contend that Pedro had the stuff to get hitters out in that final hitting, and it was just a matter of execution that led to his exit. His release point was still OK, and he was still keeping the ball down in the zone, but the veteran Yankees hitters finally made the necessary adjustments to get the better of Martinez.
But remember what he did to that lineup.
Remember what he did to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS, tossing seven innings of two-hit, shutout baseball.
All of this was done with a diminishing arsenal, but his advanced knowledge of the game aided his arm through a brilliant postseason campaign.
If that was indeed the last time we see the immortal Mr. Martinez on the mound, then he couldn’t have had a more ideal send-off for a storied career.
Pedro left the Yankee Stadium turf in the seventh inning to a chorus of boos from the Bronx Zoo, and with him chuckling his way to the dugout after an altogether dominant performance, it may have been the perfect ending to a nearly perfect career.
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