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Martinez, Pedro (1971–)

Martinez, Pedro (1971–)

Born in Manoguayabo, Dominican Republic, on October 25, 1971, the fifth of six children of a single mother, Martinez is one of the outstanding Latin American pitchers in Major League Baseball. Despite his unimpressive height and physique, Martinez in his prime had a fastball that could reach up to 97 miles per hour. He had a changeup the equal of which teammate Johnny Damon said he had never seen, as well as a great curve ball. Combined with his pinpoint control and an aggressive approach toward batters who crowd the plate, he has been an extremely intimidating pitcher. Martinez's best years have been compared favorably to those of the best in the game—Sandy Koufax, for example. He has the highest all-time winning percentage of any starting pitcher with more than 200 decisions.

Martinez followed his brother Ramón, also a pitcher, into the major leagues. He was signed by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1988 and first pitched in the major leagues in September 1992 but was traded after the 1993 season to the Montreal Expos. By 1997 Martinez was one of the game's best, playing on one of the weakest teams, winning seventeen games that year with a league-leading 1.90 earned run average (ERA), a strikeout total of 305, and his first Cy Young Award. Despite these impressive achievements, it was during his seven seasons with the Boston Red Sox, beginning in 1998, that he became a star, compiling a 101-28 record with the team. He led the American League in ERA four times and won the Cy Young Award an additional two times. No pitcher before him had ever been a unanimous choice for the award two years running (1999 and 2000).

Over the next five years, he had the majors' highest number of victories. His most impressive individual statistics came in the 1999 season with the Boston Red Sox; in that year he had a 23-4 record and was named the most valuable player in the All-Star Game. He out-pitched Roger Clemens twice in the American League Championship Series in 1999 and 2003. In the 2003 postseason, he struggled when left in too long and could not hold a lead in the eighth inning of a game in which the Red Sox were ahead.

Martinez has not been as durable a pitcher as one might like, which explains, in part, why, in an age of specialization, he has only won twenty or more games in a season twice and why he rarely averages more than 200 innings per season. A rotator cuff injury cost him much of the 2001 season. The peak of his Red Sox career came in the 2004 season, when his team swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series. In his first and only World Series appearance, Martinez stifled the Cardinal offense in a 4-1 victory in the third game. Following the World Series championship, Martinez joined the New York Mets after they gave him a contract worth $54 million over four years. As of the beginning of the 2007 season he had a lifetime 206-92 record, 2,998 strikeouts, and a 2.81 ERA. Injuries kept him from pitching for most of the 2007 season; in his first game back on the 3rd of September, he recorded his 3,000th strikeout.

See alsoSports .

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Damon, Johnny, with Peter Golenbock. Idiot: Beating "The Curse" and Enjoying the Game of Life. New York: Crown Publishers, 2005.

Kisseloff, Jeff. Who Is Baseball's Greatest Pitcher? Chicago: Cricket Books, 2003.

Kolb, Elliott. Who's Better, Who's Best in Baseball? New York: McGraw Hill, 2005.

Mnookin, Seth. Feeding the Monster: How Money, Smarts, and Nerve Took a Team to the Top. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006.

                                Andrew J. Kirkendall

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