If there’s one thing Red Sox fans have learned, it’s that you want Pedro Martinez on your side.
Bringing Martinez back into the Red Sox organization as a special assistant — a move announced Thursday — is hardly going to make or break the Sox going forward, but there are some potential benefits that make the team’s decision a good one, even if the impact of having Martinez around isn’t quite as tangible as his illustrious Boston career.
Martinez dominated with the Red Sox, winning two Cy Young Awards and finishing in the top four in Cy Young voting in each of his six full seasons in Boston. He won 117 games in 201 starts, and his 1999 and 2000 campaigns will forever go down in baseball lore, especially considering his domination came in the midst of the now-dreaded Steroids Era. The icing on the cake came in 2004, when Martinez helped guide the Red Sox to their first World Series title in 86 years, even tossing seven shutout innings in Game 3 of Boston’s four-game sweep of St. Louis.
But you probably didn’t need to be told all that, and it’s in large part because Martinez not only carved out a special place in the hearts of Red Sox fans through his on-field success, but he also did so by demonstrating a certain kind of personality that’s unlike any the region has seen since.
You could say that there were two sides to Pedro Martinez in his playing career. There was the Pedro who would smile ear to ear for nine innings four days straight, and then there was the Pedro who was all business on Day 5 — the day he took the mound.
One would think that watching a guy who was 170 pounds soaking wet take the mound wouldn’t be all that intimidating of a scenario. But when that same beanpole could brush you off the plate with two fastballs in the high 90s, before then making your knees buckle with a hook from outer space, he suddenly commanded a great deal of respect. And that’s exactly what the Red Sox organization has for Martinez: respect.
Martinez has the potential to make an impact with the Red Sox beyond just shaking hands and kissing babies on Yawkey Way, though. And it’s that multifaceted nature of Martinez that makes this possible.
Despite his occasional zany antics, Martinez established himself as one of the most intelligent hurlers in baseball history. Sure, he had stuff that most pitchers drool over, but it was his baseball smarts that allowed him to seemingly toy with opposing hitters. Imparting just a fraction of that wisdom on Boston’s pitchers, especially those coming up through the system, could go a long way toward putting them in a better position to succeed.
Then, there’s Martinez’s infectious personality, which will serve him well if he’s called upon to occasionally play the role of clubhouse liaison. Martinez knows baseball, but he also knows people, and that can’t be overlooked when gauging his potential impact in his new role.
It’s also a safe assumption that Martinez’s engaging personality could come in to play when the Red Sox pitch themselves to young players outside the organization. The opportunity to rub elbows with a three-time Cy Young award winner is a bonus itself, and Martinez might actually be able to facilitate discussions with players in his native Dominican Republic, where he’s held in very high regard.
Having Martinez around isn’t going to completely shake up the Red Sox. In fact, we probably won’t hear many details about his role at all. But given the unique combination of wisdom, charm and attitude Martinez possesses, it’s safe to say that the Red Sox are a better organization when he’s part of it, even if we won’t have any accolades to back up that notion this time around.