Pedro Martinez is one of the best pitchers in baseball history. He may even be the best pitcher in the history of a Red Sox franchise that has seen names like Roger Clemens, Cy Young, Lefty Grove and Luis Tiant toe the rubber. But that was the Pedro of the 1990s. Ten years removed from his last Cy Young, is Martinez a worthy target for the Red Sox' front office this winter?
The question, of course, would have seemed extraordinarily silly if it were asked a week ago. But with the former ace going on Boston radio and professing his love for the city and his desire to pitch another season, it's only somewhat silly.
"Boston was probably the No. 1 team in the American League that I would consider," he said on 98.5 The Sports Hub. "Boston has always been in my heart. I love Boston, I miss everything about Boston. Having the opportunity to finish there, it was always my dream."
He said the Red Sox were one of the teams to send him an offer "too late" for the 2010 season, as Martinez promised to spend time with his children. He went on to say he is fully healthy and that he's looking to pitch one more full season in the majors.
Given the unspectacular crop of starting pitchers expected to be available via free agency, Martinez may be an avenue worth exploring.
For many fans, it's hard to forget Martinez's 2007 season with the Mets, when he was limited to just five games and looked to be washed up. He rebounded with 20 starts and a 5.61 ERA in 2008 and was all but forgotten by the beginning of the '09 season.
Then, the Pedro renaissance was born.
Martinez went 5-1 for the Phillies as they marched toward the playoffs, posting a solid 3.63 ERA while managing a 37-to-8 strikeout-to-walk ratio. He then turned in a pair of memorable postseason performances — limiting the Dodgers to two hits and no runs over seven innings in the ALDS and then striking out eight Yankees over six innings in Game 2 of the World Series — before running out of gas in Game 6.
On Tuesday, Martinez said he had a bad flu after that World Series, but he's returned to full health. The only thing keeping him out of baseball in 2010 was his promise to his family. In 2011, he appears to be all systems go.
Whether the Red Sox go after him will depend on several factors. First and foremost, do they really want him? He'll be 39 years old in October, and the days of racking up the strikeouts are history. If they get Martinez, they won't be getting anything remotely similar to the player who pitched in Boston from 1998-2004. Given that he's been out for so long, there's no guarantee he'll even be similar to his 2009 self. That's what will ultimately decide whether the Sox send another offer his way, and that we cannot know.
The second-most pressing issue would be the roster. With Josh Beckett, John Lakcey, Jon Lester, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Clay Buchholz all returning in 2011 (barring any surprising/borderline shocking moves), the rotation is a pretty busy place. With the way Martinez sounded on Tuesday, he doesn't seem to be looking for part-time work. That discord could be enough to derail any negotiations before they really get going.
Then there's the risk. The Sox have watched 43-year-old Tim Wakefield go 3-10 with a 5.27 this season. Wakefield's older, but perhaps in knuckleballer years he's about 39. There's also the history. Pedro said he holds no grudges with Theo Epstein, Larry Lucchino and John Henry, but when a pitcher of his caliber leaves in the manner he did, there will always be memories of the departure.
At the very least, a reunion between No. 45 and Boston would be fun to watch. Martinez, along with Nomar Garciaparra, was a major part of why the Red Sox are as huge as they are these days. He genuinely appreciates the time he spent in Boston, and he at least seems open to the idea of finishing his career in the place he became a true superstar.
Should the Red Sox go for it?
Share your thoughts below.
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