2005-09-30 / Sports

Pedro Martinez Proves He’s Worth Every Penny In 2005 Season

By Joe McDonald Sports Columnist

By Joe McDonald
Sports Columnist

FLUSHING, NY – Over their recent history, the New York Mets never really had tremendous luck in signing high ticket free agents. Generally the organization overpays and the player under performs. Vince Coleman and Bobby Bonilla come to mind and more recently Tom Glavine, Kevin Appier, even Carlos Beltran haven’t performed up to the dough New York shelled out for them.

So when the Mets announced the signing of Pedro Martinez last December, there was some skepticism on how the 34 year-old All-Star would perform in New York. After all, last season was his first over 200 innings pitched [217 IP not including the playoffs] since 2000 and he was coming off a World Series win, which could make one wonder about his health and motivation.

Pedro could have taken the Amazin’ payday and mailed it in on his way to the Hall of Fame. But nothing was further from the truth. Martinez came in and became the Mets first true ace since Dwight Gooden. He went 15-8 with a 2.82 ERA with 208 strikeouts. All the while, he was pitching with a hurt foot and back for more than half the season, which dropped his fastball down into the low 80s.

The right-hander’s play gave the fans what they were looking for since the team went into the doldrums at the end of the Steve Phillips/Bobby Valentine regime.

Stats don’t tell the story for Pedro. The minute he put on the Met uniform, he became a leader on the team. All the rumors and bad press he received in Boston was proven to be hogwash, since Martinez became a great teammate, teacher, lightening rod and a great quote. His gregarious personality loosened the Mets up and they played better because of the pitcher’s performance off the field as well as on. Pedro took younger players under his wing as he taught some of his tricks to the Mets younger pitchers. He also had a part in keeping Mike Jacobs on the team in late August.

Going into the season there were questions about Martinez’s relationship to the press. That also proved to be overblown, since the pitcher was one of the best and most engaging quotes in the clubhouse. Pedro quickly learned the New York media, even though larger, was nothing compared to the arrogance their counterparts in Boston displayed. Yes, the Mets shielded him at times, but he never was snippy with the press and would be very entertaining to interview.

So when he announced last Thursday he would probably shut it down for 2005, no flack should have been dished out to him. With a bad right foot and a smarting back, there was no reason to risk Martinez’s future in order to help the Astros win the Wild Card.

“When I have a reason - like a playoff hunt - big adrenaline drives me over,” Martinez said. “It’s now not the same drive, compared to being in the fight.” With the 2005 battle over, the pitcher looked to 2006, since he feels he may be pitching well into October.

Pedro said, “If we want to think about winning next year - and to my understanding we need very little to have a good compact team – they should think about the pitching. I am only here one year and I have four years [on my contract].”As previously mentioned, he is worth every penny.

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