When Pedro Martinez takes the mound Sunday for the Phillies, facing his former team, the Mets, he'll be looking for his fifth straight win in a 2009 season that has showcased the revitalization of his career at 37.
Ultimately, what he'd like is a championship. He's pitching for a Phillies team that has surged to the top of the National League pack, and he's poised to celebrate his 38th birthday this October by bringing home a second ring.
But luckily, he'll never forget where he won his first one.
Last week, Pedro sat down with "Answer Man" David Brown of Yahoo Sports, and the two discussed baseball, culture, history, spirituality, even botany. They also touched on the subject of the pitcher's potential plaque in the Hall of Fame someday. Would Pedro, the greatest pitcher of his generation and possibly of all time, be remembered as a member of the Red Sox when all was said and done?
Pedro wants to be remembered here in Boston "as a player who enjoyed every single moment he spent there. Someone that's really proud of being in that organization," he said. "I want to be remembered as one of the 25 that won it for Boston for the first time in 86 years."
There's no doubt that he will be remembered that way. As long as the Red Sox exist, 2004 will be a meaningful year in the franchise's history. And because Pedro was the best pitcher in the game for so many years, dominating American League hitters from 1998 to 2004 in a Red Sox cap, it's only fitting that wearing a Red Sox cap is how he's remembered in the end.
"Assuming you get there," the Answer Man asked Pedro, "would you wear a Red Sox cap on your Hall of Fame plaque?"
Pedro's response was calculated, political, even hedging his bets a little bit. But what he really wanted was clear.
"I have no idea, he said, "but I would love to. Either that one or a Montreal hat. It's not up to me, it's up to the league, but I think Boston without a doubt. I'll take it."
He thinks Boston without a doubt.
So does anyone that knows baseball.
Of his 18 seasons in the major leagues, Pedro Martinez has spent two with the Dodgers, four with the Expos, seven with the Red Sox, four with the Mets and now one with the Phillies. He won 117 games in Boston, struck out 1,683 batters and maintained an ERA of 2.52 in the American League at the height of the Steroid Era. The numbers are godly — by the numbers alone, Pedro should be considered a Boston legend for life.
But this isn't just about the numbers. Far from it. It's about the way he changed Red Sox history forever. Pedro, Manny Ramirez, Curt Schilling, Johnny Damon — these are the names that will never lose their connection to Red Sox history. No matter where they go, they'll carry it with them.
Writers vote for Hall of Fame candidates based on their numbers. The wins, the strikeouts, the ERAs, all those figures that help us compare, contrast and differentiate. With Pedro, nobody's questioning those numbers. His are among the best ever — he's a mortal lock.
But once in the Hall, players are remembered for their contributions to history. They're remembered for the great teams they played on, for the great moments they were a part of.
That's what makes Pedro a Red Sox for life.
This debate is still a long way from relevance. Pedro is going strong in 2009 — and if all goes well with the Phillies this year, he may decide he's still got a few more seasons left in the tank. And after that, we've got five more years to wait. But inevitably, he will someday be on his way to enshrinement in Cooperstown, and that's when we'll know.
If the cap fits, wear it. In Pedro's case, there's no doubt that it will.
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