Pedro Martínez


Pedro Martínez : biography

October 25, 1971 –

In 1999, Martínez delivered one of the greatest pitching seasons of all time, finishing 23–4 with a 2.07 ERA and 313 strikeouts (earning the pitching Triple Crown), unanimously winning his second Cy Young Award (this time in the American League), and coming in second in the Most Valuable Player (MVP) ballot.

The MVP result was controversial, as Martínez received the most first-place votes of any player (8 of 28), but was totally omitted from the ballot of two sportswriters, New York’s George King and Minneapolis’ LaVelle Neal. The two writers argued that pitchers were not sufficiently all-around players to be considered. (However, George King had given MVP votes to two pitchers just the season before: Rick Helling and David Wells; King was the only writer to cast a vote for Helling, who had gone 20–7 with a 4.41 ERA and 164 strikeouts.) MVP ballots have ten ranked slots, and sportswriters are traditionally asked to recuse themselves if they feel they cannot vote for a pitcher. "It really made us all look very dumb", said Buster Olney, then a sportswriter for the New York Times. "People were operating under different rules. The question of eligibility is a very basic thing. People were determining eligibility for themselves." The Times does not permit its writers to participate in award voting. Martínez finished second to Texas Rangers catcher Iván Rodríguez, by a margin of 252 points to 239. Rodríguez had been included on all 28 ballots. When asked about the result by WEEI radio in January 2012, Martínez said, "I’m not afraid to say that the way that George King and Mr. LaVelle Neal III went about it was unprofessional."

In 1999, Martínez became just the 8th modern pitcher to have a second 300-strikeout season, along with Nolan Ryan (6 times), Randy Johnson (third time in 1999, and three more times since), Sandy Koufax (3 times), Rube Waddell, Walter Johnson, Sam McDowell, J.R. Richard, and Curt Schilling; Schilling would later add a third 300-K season. An anomaly in power pitching annals, Martínez is the only 20th-century pitcher to notch 300 strikeouts in a season without being at least six feet tall.

Between August 1999 and April 2000, Martínez had ten consecutive starts with 10 or more strikeouts. Only three pitchers have had as many as seven such starts in a row, and one of those was Martínez himself, in April–May 1999. He averaged more than 15 strikeouts per nine innings during his record 10-game streak. During the 1999 season, he set the record for most consecutive innings pitched with a strikeout, with 40. For his career, Martínez has compiled 15 or more strikeouts in a game ten times, which is tied with Roger Clemens for the third-most 15-K games in history. (Nolan Ryan had 27, and Randy Johnson had 29.)

Martínez was named the AL Pitcher of the Month in April, May, June, and September 1999, an unprecedented feat for a single season. Martínez punctuated his dominance in the 1999 All-Star Game start at Fenway Park, when he struck out Barry Larkin, Larry Walker, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Jeff Bagwell in two electrifying innings. It was the first time any pitcher struck out the side to start an All-Star Game, and the performance earned Martínez the All-Star Game MVP award.

Martínez was a focal point of the playoffs against the Cleveland Indians. Starting the series opener, he was forced out of the game after 4 shutout innings due to a strained back with the Red Sox up 2–0. The Red Sox, however, lost the game 3–2. Boston won the next two games to tie the series, but Martínez was still too injured to start the fifth and final game. However, neither team’s starters were effective, and the game became a slugfest, tied at 8–8 at the end of 3 innings. Martínez entered the game as an emergency relief option. Unexpectedly, Martínez neutralized the Cleveland lineup with six no-hit innings for the win. He struck out eight and walked three, despite not being able to throw either his fastball or changeup with any command. Relying totally on his curve, Martínez and the Red Sox won the deciding game 12–8.