Well, since we don’t have any more games to help us choose a player of the week for the next couple of months, one of our staff writers, Sam Maxwell, recommended we choose a random Mets player to highlight each week throughout the winter. So, to continue our Rising Apple Player of the Week segment, I decided to highlight former Met Pedro Martinez this week; not only because he’s awesome, but he celebrated his 41st birthday yesterday.
Before Pedro made his way to Flushing for the 2005 season, he was already a superstar. He’d played 13 years in the Major Leagues with the Expos, Dodgers, and Red Sox and put together quite a career prior to taking his talents to Queens. He not only earned the 1993 NL Rookie of the Year Award, but he appeared in 6 All-Star games, was in the top-5 for Cy Young voting 7 times (winning three times), led his respective league in wins once (two 20-win campaigns), ERA five times, strikeouts three times, and WHIP five times, along with one World Series ring. I’d be remiss not to mention one of the greatest pitching seasons of all-time, which happened in his Cy Young season of 1999 for the Red Sox. Martinez was the epitome of an ace, going 23-4 with a 2.07 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and 313 strikeouts.
Boston decided not to bring him back after the 2004 season because at the age of 33, the front office felt Martinez wanted too much money and too many years, and Omar Minaya jumped at the opportunity to bring in one of the best pitchers in the game. His 2005 season was his first as a Met and his best, as it was the only year during his four with the organization that he posted more than 30 starts and double-digit wins with a 15-8 record, 2.82 ERA, 208 strikeouts, and a league-leading 0.95 WHIP. After that, it was an up-and-down ride for the right-hander.
He spent the majority of his next three seasons in Flushing on the disabled list with various injuries, and wasn’t able to help the Mets during their playoff run in 2006. Once he threw his last pitch as a Metropolitan in 2008, Pedro finished his career with the organization with a 32-23 record, 3.88 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, and 464 strikeouts in 486.2 innings pitched. Did the four-year/$53 million contract he signed end up being worth it? On paper, maybe not, but this signing meant much more to the franchise than just on-the-field results.
After making it to the World Series in 2000, the Mets had dealt with some tough times; we saw Bobby Valentine get the axe and Art Howe, who looked like a genius in Oakland, come in to take over the team. If you’ve seen the movie Moneyball, then you know the success he had out in California wasn’t really because of him. So, we endured three straight losing seasons, including two consecutive 90-loss campaigns, which led to his firing. Minaya brought in Willie Randolph, and with that hiring, he wanted to start changing the culture back to winning in Flushing. Previously, coming to play at Shea wasn’t an attractive option, until Pedro Martinez decided to join the Mets. It was so influential that it helped Minaya nab the most sought after free agent that winter in Carlos Beltran.
After this rough patch, Randolph was able to lead New York back to winning ways with a 83-79 record, moving the organization in the right direction. So, I credit the signing of Pedro Martinez being the main contributor towards putting the Mets back on the map, just how the trade for Mike Piazza did the same thing a few years earlier. Plus, Pedro was so fun to watch on and off the mound, it was tough not to love him. Every time he started a game at Shea, it was an event; people came to the park specifically to watch him pitch. He was the perfect balance of being a serious veteran with playoff experience, while also acting like a jubilant child who loved playing the game.
So, happy birthday, Pedro! Know that you’re missed in the Mets starting rotation, but your personality in the clubhouse is missed even more.