Simply put, Pedro Martinez gets it. He got it then, and he gets it now. He knows what it takes to play baseball and succeed in Boston, which is no easy task.
The former Red Sox ace was a guest on Grantland baseball writer Jonah Keri’s podcast recently, and as always, Martinez was open and honest. Perhaps the most interesting tidbits centered around his time in Boston.
After Martinez was acquired from the Montreal Expos in 1997, he signed a six-year, $75 million contract extension that made him baseball’s highest-paid player at the time. With that, the expectations skyrocketed, and Martinez embraced that challenge in a way few have done in Boston.
Martinez recalled a game in which he allowed four home runs to the New York Mets, and he claims that was the only time when he was booed by Red Sox fans. He said he completely understood where the fans were coming from — under one exception.
“They booed me so hard that day,” he recalled on the podcast. “I remember one gentleman — I can see his face now, and he still goes to Boston and sits in the same seats — and he says, ‘Is this the kind of crap we’re going to get for this amount of dollars that we’re paying?’ And I looked at him and I realized I had to do a lot more but at the same time I realized that if I didn’t do my job, it was going to be a long five years in Boston.
“I totally understood and I took it respectfully. I said, you know what, they can boo me as much as they want if I don’t perform because yes I’m making the money I’m making. It’s the deal. I’m committed to these people. They’re right to boo me because I didn’t do my job today. At the end of the season, when the season is over, I would like them to also realize what I’ve done for the city and for the team.”
Martinez also talked about his legendary performance in Game 5 of the 1999 American League Divisional Series against the Cleveland Indians. The pitcher came in out of the bullpen after injuring his lat in Game 1 and pitched the Red Sox to victory. It was a gutsy performance that almost cost him his career.
“I went out there and I did it. I risked my career. From 84-86 (mph) that I was probably throwing in the first inning, I went up to 94 again, but at the end of the game I was dying. I’ve never been in more pain than that day. The next game in Boston, in the playoffs, where they matched us up — Roger (Clemens) and I — it was even worse.
“Everybody knew that I was also reluctant to give away an opportunity. … When I came into relief, it was to see if I could do it. Once I figured out I could do it at less capacity, it was over. You weren’t going to take it away from me. I just went with the passion, with desire, with heart, guts, out there. I just wanted to pretty much do what I was supposed to do for my teammates, for my team, for my city. At the same time, allow myself to win a championship.”
See much, much more in the video below.