Pedro Martinez is the only Montreal Expos pitcher to win a Cy Young Award; he was immediately traded to the Red Sox for Carl Pavano and the infamous PTBNL. Bowie Kuhn would have had a field day with that one. Pedro won two more Cy Young Awards for Boston, on his way to 219 career wins and a 2.93 ERA. He led his league in ERA five times, and struck out 3154 batters in his 18-year career.
by Pedro Martinez and Michael Silverman
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015
Growing up, Pedro Martinez was always an underdog. He was smaller than the other kids, shorter, not as strong. His brother Ramon Martinez was a dominant pitcher, a highly prized prospect for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Pedro was often seen as nothing more than Ramon’s little brother. Despite success in the Dodgers’ farm system, he never got the respect he believed he deserved. It was not until he was traded to the Montreal Expos that Pedro was finally seen as his own man, as he dominated National League hitters north of the border.
In his autobiography, written with Michael Silverman, Pedro relates his experiences as a young man in the Dominican Republic who looked up to his big brother Ramon, wanting to follow in his footsteps to the major leagues. Pedro surpassed all expectations by becoming a Hall of Famer.
Pedro is not a game-by-game breakdown of his career, but a general overview of his seasons with some highlights sprinkled in. He deals with his reputation as a headhunter, sometimes referred to as “Senor Plunk.” He also talks about how he felt overlooked in the the 1999 MVP race and the 2002 Cy Young voting, though he does admit Ivan Rodriguez and Barry Zito had stellar years as well.
In a short chapter dealing with steroids, Pedro expresses disappointment but not resentment toward those who used performance enhancing drugs. He says he was tempted in 1992 when he was in the minor leagues, calling himself “the perfect candidate to take steroids,” but declined after learning the side effects, and states that once he reached the major leagues he was never offered steroids. For those looking for dirt on formerly unnamed users, Pedro does not go there. All of the names mentioned in the chapter are already widely known.
There is so much more that Pedro writes about: learning from Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale, “fighting” with Don Zimmer, his gameday routine and the art of pitching. Pedro is an entertaining autobiography, as the pitcher does not hold back in sharing his opinions of teammates, managers, and opponents. Fans will enjoy the behind-the-scenes look that Pedro offers, though it is not a dirt-digging, tell-all book.
Growing Up Pedro
by Matt Tavares
Candlewick Press, 2015
Following excellent books about Hank Aaron and Ted Williams, the latest subject of a Matt Tavares children’s baseball biography is new Hall of Famer Pedro Martinez. Tavares tells young readers the story of a young boy who grew up watching his brother Ramon Martinez pitch in the Dominican Republic, dreaming of playing together in the major leagues. The author and illustrator follows Pedro’s journey pitching with his brother in Los Angeles, to becoming the best pitcher in baseball in Montreal, to a World Championship in Boston.
Tavares is in top form as his illustrations help tell the story of one of the greatest pitchers of the past thirty years. The book is aimed toward 8-12 year olds, and the text is certainly written on that level, but the artwork can be appreciated by baseball fans of any age. Tavares’ illustrations perfectly depicts Pedro’s intensity.
Time is fast approaching for the Hall of Fame Class of 2015 to be announced. On Tuesday, January 6, the results of the BBWAA voting will be announced, with at least three players expected to be ushered into Cooperstown. The intimidating Randy Johnson, the dominant Pedro Martinez, and lifetime Astro Craig Biggio should all share the stage this summer. But who else might join them?
Early ballot tracking shows John Smoltz receiving a lot of support, and will likely be the fourth man inducted in July, joining teammates Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine and manager Bobby Cox, all who were immortalized in 2014. I’m not going to debate whether Smoltz was better than Mike Mussina or Curt Schilling; regardless of who was better, I believe all three should have plaques in the Hall of Fame. But allowing Smoltz in on his first appearance on the ballot should create more conversation about Mussina and Schilling, whose career statistics are very similar, and hopefully we will see support for them increase next year.
What about Mike Piazza? He was one of the greatest hitting catchers of all-time, but he is now in his third year of eligibility. Suspicions about steroid use create a dark cloud over his candidacy, but there has never been a shred of solid evidence or a Jose Canseco allegation against him. With 109 ballots revealed, Piazza is barely over the 75% threshold, but as Tuesday approaches that number is expected to drop. It would be nice to go ahead and get him in the door to clear room on the ballots of those who like to check off the full ten names allowed.
Same for Jeff Bagwell, who currently has just under 75% support. The steroid suspicions are in the minds of many writers, but Bagwell has vehemently denied using and his numbers merit induction. How fantastic would it be to see six men standing on the stage in Cooperstown on induction day?
The next name on the list is Tim Raines, who has seen a steady increase in votes with the exception of last year, when his percentage dropped from 52.2% to 46.1%. The early numbers show him at 63.3%, still far short of the required 75%, but giving hope to fans of the Rock that he will climb the rest of the way by the time his eligibility ends. 2015 is Raines’ eighth year on the ballot; a new rule allows a player’s name to be listed for ten years instead of fifteen (with the exceptions being those who were already past the ten-year mark when the rule was enacted this year).
After Raines comes Schilling and Mussina, then the PED posterboys Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. I don’t expect (or want) those two to ever receive enough support from the writers or the Veterans Committee. Designated hitter extraordinaire Edgar Martinez is next, followed by four guys that I believe should be given more consideration than they have received so far: Alan Trammell, Fred McGriff, Lee Smith, and Jeff Kent. Sadly, none of them have any shot of election in 2015.
The big names in danger of falling off the ballot after this round include Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, along with first-timers Gary Sheffield, Nomar Garciaparra, and Carlos Delgado. Yankee superstar Don Mattingly is on the ballot for his fifteenth and final time.