I don't think it's any surprise that I chose to write about Pedro Martinez. In this time of darkness (the 2010 Parade of Carnage), it's nice to reflect upon the good old days when the Red Sox were on top and Pedro was king.
Of course, these two things were simultaneously true for just a few months: the Sox won it all in October, 2004, and Pedro would sign with the Mets that same December, but DAMN did it feel good while it lasted.
Pedro was the best pitcher in baseball for a number of years leading up to 2004, including a 1999 season that MLBNetwork has dubbed the best single-season performance by a pitcher in the history of the game. Unfortunately for me, I was nine years old at the time, and so on the rare occasion that I had control of the television for baseball, I did not appreciate the historic nature of Pedro's utter dominance.
The speculation that Pedro Martinez felt slighted by the Sox' acquisition of Curt Schilling has been brought up before, but there's no way that team was winning without both of them on the roster (neither of them, by the way, were fathered by the Yankees, despite the unoriginal and obnoxious chants that follow Pedro to the Bronx). It is interesting to note that statistically speaking, Pedro Martinez's most similar player is Curt Schilling, according to baseball-reference.com (that is a better argument for Schill's HoF eligibility than any obscure statistic, in my opinion).
But even beyond the dazzling numbers and dominating performances, Pedro was a character, delivering memorable one-liners like "One of these days Buckner's gonna catch that grounder," proving that he was as indoctrinated as the rest of us in RSN, and sick and tired of that damned replay.
My personal favorite Pedro quote has to be from 2001, when he seemingly grew tired of answering questions about a certain slugger of yesteryear: "I don't believe in damn curses," he said. "Wake up the damn Bambino and have him face me. Maybe I'll drill him in the ass." This would have been comical if it were possible... Just imagine the undersized Pedro hitting the Babe, then trying to defend himself from the Bambino's superior bulk when the fiery Ruth charged the mound.
Of course, the best images of Pedro are those that show his character, both on the mound and in the dugout:
This might be my favorite Pedro picture. Being at Opening Day (Night?) this year and seeing him embrace Johnny Pesky was amazing. I'll admit to tearing up.
Obviously, Pedro Martinez meant a lot to hundreds of thousands of people. He was one of the only great players on some teams full of scrubs for a few years in the late-90's; he was proof (before Dustin Pedroia) that the short guy can succeed; he was fun-loving and competitive. Pedro Martinez was always dynamic and dominating... I don't know about you, but this year I miss him more than ever.
P.S. Don't forget Pedro's "lucky charm:"
"My friend is Nelson. His name is Nelson. He's 36 years old. He's from the Dominican Republic and very funny character, and very animated. Everybody's happy with him. He's our lucky charm now. Now a days. The guys are falling in love with him."