It is amazing the amount of reflection that takes place when your team (yes, I apply ownership to my favorite teams) is in the middle of getting trounced 20-2. You reflect on what has gone wrong this year, what could have been done differently, and how this season’s failures are an extension of last season’s meltdown. When all of that is done and the calm returns, you start to reflect on the past because it is the memories of days gone by that keep us coming back to this game year in and year out, triumphs and failures aside.
It was during this calm when everything seemed to coalesce for me; the past and the present. It was then that I knew just what the Red Sox needed during last night’s beat down.
They needed Pedro Martinez to jog in from the bullpen, jheri curl flapping in the breeze and all.
Of course, I am hearkening back to the good old days when Pedro was dominant and exciting to watch. Oh, and when Pedro was still in a Red Sox uniform. Specifically, I want the Pedro back from October 11, 1999. He is exactly what the Red Sox needed during that shellacking by Oakland on Friday night. He would have righted that ship.
On the night of October 11, 1999, Pedro Martinez was in all his glory. The swagger was real and deserved, and his stuff was absolutely filthy. The high-90’s fastball was still there, offset by change-up that fell of the table and was 10 MPH slower. Oh, and the curve ball. Boston has not seen a curve ball as sharp as Pedro’s for year. Martinez was unhittable and he knew it. More importantly, the other team knew it.
As usual, Martinez was coming off of another stellar season, one in which he’d win the second of three Cy Young Awards over a four-year period. He finished he season with a career-high 23 wins, 313 strike-outs, and an amazing 13.2 strike-outs per nine innings pitched. 19 of those 31 appearances resulted in 10 or more strike-outs, including 6 starts of 15 or more.
Like I said, unhittable.
However, Martinez had left game 1 with an injury after just 4 innings due to a back injury. The Indians would win the game, and then go on to win game 2 as well. After the Red Sox made a statement in games 3 and 4 to even it up, the series came down to game 5. The Indians quickly chased Bret Saberhagen for the second time in the series and then dispatched with Derek Lowe soon after, setting the stage for Martinez.
The sight of Pedro warming up in the bullpen in what was a 8-7 Cleveland lead, was a glimmer of hope for the Red Sox faithful. When Jimy Williams summoned him in, no one knew what to expect given the nature of his back injury from game 1. Martinez responded with a performance for the ages.
For 6 innings, Martinez was every bit the dominant pitcher he had been throughout the season. During those 6 frames, Pedro did not allow a single hit, while walking 3 and striking out 8. Spurred on by that performance, the Red Sox would score 5 unanswered runs and win the game 12-8, taking the series in the process. The appearance simply added to the mystique and legend of Pedro Martinez.
Fast forward 13 season, and the days of Pedro Martinez in a Boston uniform have long since passed. The Red Sox, in all of their current glory, lack that spark, the fire that Martinez brought to the mound. They do not have a stopper to turn to that would electrify the crowd and take the bull by the horns, willing the team to victory. This team sorely needs that presence, that one person that would go out and say, “hit this” and make them miss everything. Unfortunately, Pedro Martinez is not going to job in from the bullpen and save the day.
But it does not stop one from wishing, for just one day, that he was still back there, willing to take the ball and turn everything around.