Column originally published Jan. 7, 2015.
It always was a no-brainer – Pedro Martinez, a Hall of Famer.
Despite his relatively short career, at least compared to the Suttons, Blylevens and Ryans, guys that seemingly pitched with grandkids at home, there was never any doubt when you ask the “Is he a Hall of Famer?” question about Pedro.
If you have to think about it, if a guy (or gal) is one of the sports greatest of their generation, then there is a debate. And there will be as many that say “no” as say “yes.”
There is no such debate with Pedro.
He was the best.
He was a “three-tool” pitcher:
In his prime with the Red Sox, Pedro threw a 96-97 mph tailing fastball. His curveball ranked among the best, not only for the hard break but because of its command. And his changeup, like his fastball, was second to none thanks to some very long fingers (see Game 5 of ‘99 series with Indians when he threw six no-hit innings of relief with only a changeup to understand how good).
He was smarter than everybody on the field. He was the master, according to his former catcher during two of his greatest seasons in 1999-2000, Jason Varitek, at setting up hitters inside and out better than any pitcher he ever saw. He knew pitching mechanics better than his coaches, which helped him adjust on the run.
This is, in my mind, what separated him from the other greats in his era. He hated his competition. He found a way to hate opposing hitters and it drove him to a semi-unhealthy competitive level. We saw Roger Clemens turn into a “hate” machine, but Pedro “hated” more. It really was must-see pitching, when he had that look.
Honestly, the 170-pounder scared the life out of some of the biggest, muscle-heads in baseball.
When put those three “tools” together, you get one of the greatest of his generation and maybe one of the greatest that ever lived.
He gave baseball geeks their numbers (He was 119-37, 2.21 ERA from ‘97-’03), one of the most dominating runs for a pitcher ... and he did it in the Steroid Era.
He also got that much-needed World Series ring, pitching at about 70 percent of his prime, throwing seven shutout innings in Game 3, in the 4-1 win en route to the sweep.
The Red Sox have had their fair share of pitching legends with Cy Young (511 wins), Lefty Grove (300-141), Smokey Joe Wood (117-57, 34-5 in 1912) and Roger Clemens (192-111, 3.06 ERA with Sox). And the gap before Clemens was a few decades between the last semi-great pitcher.
But Pedro (117-37, 2.52 ERA with Sox) was immediately after Clemens and he not only carried the torch, but he arguably carried it farther.
The writers got this one right, leaving no debate that Pedro’s body of work, especially the best part, was simply the best ... maybe ever.