You’d have to go back a long time to find a pitcher in Phillies pinstripes who had a better career resume than Pedro Martinez. In his day, he was as dominant as any right-handed pitcher ever to play the game.
So even though he would turn 38 during the playoffs, and even though his previous three seasons could best be described as “injury-riddled” or “mediocre,” the Phillies, in a scene straight out of a thousand movies, talked him into giving it one last spin.
And you know what? In 12 starts, counting the postseason, he wasn’t too bad. It was obvious that this wasn’t the turn-of-the-century Pedro who was so dominant he looked bored half the time. But he maintained his impeccable control (4.63 K/BB ratio for the regular season), changed arm angles, and could still reach back for a low-90s fastball a couple times a game.
All in all, what turned out to be a low-risk deal for $1 million plus incentives paid off quite well. By the time he signed in mid-July, the Phillies had, for months, trotted out a finally over-the-hill Jamie Moyer and a parade of fringe veterans and AAA kids who might not have quite been ready. Pedro stepped into the fifth starter’s spot and pitched well enough that he warranted three outings in the playoffs. And that’s where this gets complicated.
In his first start, Game 2 of the NLCS, Pedro looked like he had been cryogenically frozen after the 1999 season and the Phillies had decided to decant him for the occasion. Seven shutout innings, only two baserunners allowed, 23 batters faced, only 87 pitches thrown. Of course, the Phillies eventually lost when Chase Utley started throwing to an imaginary fifteen-foot high first baseman.
But Uncle Cholly was impressed enough to throw Pedro back into the fray for Game 2 of the World Series at Yankee Stadium. He didn’t pitch badly, even amid a chorus of “Who’s Your Daddy?” chants. He struck out eight Yankees in six innings, but he took the loss when either A.J. Burnett had the game of his life, or the Phillies hitters just forgot to show up.
Game 6 was a different story. All I’ll say about that game is that Andy Pettitte didn’t pitch that great either, and while Pedro could have saved the series by throwing a three-hit shutout, I don’t know if it was reasonable to expect him to do that.
So for a good half-season, an up-and-down playoff run, and the best Jheri curl since Michael Jackson’s Thriller album cover, I thank you, Pedro Martinez, and wish you well.
2009 numbers: 5-1, 3.63 ERA, 44.2 IP, 37 K, .276 BAA, 1.25 WHIP, 4 HBP
Grade: 5.5/10—Let’s face it, he was an average pitcher for half a season, and that World Series Game 6 was something of a stinker. But an effective and entertaining starter in July on a “Why not?” signing is worth at least a golf clap.