The Major League Baseball all-star game is, year after year, the most memorable of the season. But thinking back on the last decade’s worth of all-star games, it’s amazing how many times Pedro Martinez stood head and shoulders above every other pitcher in either league, and how few times he actually pitched in the Midsummer Classic.
Let?s put it this way: If Mount Rushmore had been dedicated to great Steroids Era pitchers instead of great Presidents of the United States, Pedro Martinez’s stone visage would be getting credit for at least a fourth of the tourism dollars flowing into Keystone, South Dakota.
Look back at the 1999 game, when Martinez struck out Barry Larkin, Larry Walker, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Jeff Bagwell. Matt Williams was the only member of the NL?s top six to get enough wood on a pitch to put the ball in play.
The six outs he got were good enough to secure MVP honors for Martinez, making him the first pitcher to win the Arch Ward trophy since Roger Clemens in 1986.
In the 1999 playoffs, Pedro, robbed of his blistering fastball and devastating changeup by a back injury he sustained during the first game of the series against Cleveland, entered Game 5 with the scored tied 8-8 in the third inning.
Relying almost exclusively on his curve ball, Pedro threw six no-hit innings, striking out eight, winning by a score of 12-8.
His line against the Yankees in Game 3 of the ’99 ALCS: no runs on two hits in seven innings with 12 strikeouts and two walks. It was the only game the Yankees lost during that entire post-season. The losing pitcher was Roger Clemens.
In 2000, Martinez became the only pitcher in baseball history to record more strikeouts (284) than hits allowed (128).
Taken together, these two seasons are perhaps comparable to the very best 2-year spans in baseball history: Walter Johnson’s 1912-13 and Lefty Grove’s 1931-32.
Certainly the Dead Ball Era guys were doing much more than throwing beanbags at telephone poles, but Pedro was overpowering during the biggest offensive explosion in baseball history. That he did it without PEDs makes his stats shocking.
He might as well have been nicknamed Blind Zeus back then: he was throwing lightning bolts and almost no one got a hit.
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Watching the Legion Post 366 team in Marion this weekend was fun, but I got sumburned pretty badly on Sunday. I’m only cooked on the one side, but it’s red enough that my barely-pink left hand has been making like Frank Burns, sending telegrams to the ghost of Joe McCarthy and trying to get my red right ankle blacklisted.
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For what it?s worth, the other faces I?d put on Steroids Era Pitchers Rushmore are (with apologies to Randy Johnson) Clemens, Greg Maddux and Mariano Rivera.
Two of those might be debatable, maybe. But Clemens career stats and place at the center of the post-Mitchell Report spotlight assure him a spot on the mountain. The issue is whether he?s the George Washington or the Teddy Roosevelt of the monument, and that depends greatly on whether history accepts or rejects his many vehement (if dubious) denials of the s-word accusation leveled at him by his closest friends and confidants.