Pedro Martinez Gets his Number Retired

You can say what you want about the Red Sox struggles on the field, but the one thing they can do is throw a ceremony. Whether it’s raising a championship banner, or honoring an ex-player as they did Tuesday night with Pedro Martinez, they do a very good job of throwing a celebration.

Last night it was Pedro Martinez’s turn to get honored after being formally inducted into the Pedro MartinezHall of Fame on Sunday. Before the game Tuesday night against the Chicago White Sox, the now-Hall of Fame pitcher had his number retired by the Red Sox. Pedro joins Ted Williams, Johny Pesky, Carlton Fisk, Joe Cronin, Bobby Doerr, Jim Rice, and Carl Yastrzemski as the only Red Sox players with their numbers retired. Illustrious company, to say the least, when it comes to Red Sox history. He also joins Jackie Robinson up there, who’s number 42 is retired throughout baseball.

As for the ceremony itself, which I was lucky enough to attend, it started with a countdown of career stats on the center field screen. This included, but not limited to, his career win-loss record, strikeouts, and much more. It also involved visits and presentations from ex-teammates Orlando Cabrera, Trot Nixon, Curt Schilling, Ralph Avila—who first discovered Pedro Martinez and his brother Ramon, and former Expos manager Felipe Alou who managed the team that Pedro first rose to prominence on. The best one, though, at least in my mind, was when Pedro called out Jason Varitek ahead of schedule. Varitek was supposed to come out to catch the first pitch, but Pedro called him ahead of schedule in very Pedro-esque fashion, stating that it was his party.

After his number was unveiled below the right field roof deck, the ceremony ended with a video highlight tribute, again shown on the center field screen, set to the song “Hall of Fame” by The Script, which was a great way to cap off another remarkably well put together ceremony by the Red Sox. It sure gave me chills, and it also succeeded in making me forget the struggles of the Red Sox at the present moment.

At least, that is, until the actual game started. The Red Sox ended up losing to the White Sox behind a 9-run outburst and a great outing by White Sox pitcher Jeff Samarzdjia. A late rally in the 9th would fall well short, but the Red Sox never really stood a chance, not with the way the team has been playing this year.

Oh, well. At least the ceremony for Pedro Martinez was worth the price of admission, even if the actual game wasn’t.

AL East Could Be Open Again

The Red Sox are doing it again – playing well enough to make me think they could go on a run. The Red Sox have gone 5-2 in their last 7 games against AL East opposition, and have won 3 of their last 4 series (8-5 overall). Which includes a series victory against the defending AL champs, the Kansas City Royals, by the way.

If they want to have any chance at making a run, Gordon Edes points out that they wouldAL East Red Sox 2015 have to go on a ridiculous tear worthy of what the 2004 Red Sox did. Hypothetically, if 90 wins were enough to win the AL East, the Red Sox would have to go 53-28 for the rest of the season. As Edes points out, the only time the Red Sox have been able to put together that kind of run since the schedule moved to 162 games in 1961 is when they went 54-27 down the stretch in 2004 en route to a World Series title.

Could they do it? Talent-wise, they might (key word being might!) be able to. In reality, though, probably not, given the way this season has gone. The problem, as Edes points out (and I agree with him), is that the 2004 team was loaded – they had Curt Schilling (still in top form), Pedro Martinez, the best 3-4 offensive combination at the time in David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez, and a Gold Glove infield, among other pieces. The 2015 team falls woefully short of that, to say the least.

They’ll have to make a few trade deadline deals and fill some of their holes if they want to have any shot of contending for the AL East this year, and I hope they do. If they can make a few moves without breaking their farm system while fetching good, major league-ready talent in return, then I’d be for it.

This could just be me starting to tell myself that there’s still hope where there is none, but I hope not. I’m sick of losing, and I would love to see the Red Sox at least make some kind of effort to get back into contention for the AL East. And hope some of the other guys

Hey, I can dream, can’t I? We’re only 6.5 out at the moment.

With New Red Sox Veteran Core, Prospects May Excel

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During the public autopsy on the disastrous 2014 Red Sox, plenty of theories were offered as to why the team just totally fell apart. Persistent injuries, under-performing coaches and World Series hangovers were all cited, but one important factor was often overlooked: Boston’s lack of a star veteran core.

Previous Red Sox teams always had a nucleus of superstars on which to rely for Red Sox Veteranleadership. In 2004, it was Schilling and Martinez. In 2007, Ortiz and Ramirez took center stage. In 2013, how about Pedroia and Lester? Traditionally, these Red Sox veteran players provided a cornerstone around which the front office could build; a bedrock in which fans could believe; and a framework to which rookies could adhere. In essence, they were the heartbeat of the Boston Red Sox.

However, once Lester was traded and Pedroia got hurt last year, The Olde Towne Team found itself short of bona fide stars for the first time in living memory. Yes, Big Papi was still around, launching homer after homer, but even the most ardent sentimentalist must admit he is no longer among the elite. Thus, the Sox found themselves in a bind.

The lack of star power not only hurt the team commercially, but also in philosophical and leadership sense. After years of consistently developing homegrown Major League stars, the system spluttered somewhat in 2014, with Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., Will Middlebrooks and Anthony Ranaudo all struggling to adjust to the big leagues. This, I believe, can be largely attributed to the lack of a robust veteran core in Boston for the first time since the 1990s.

Previously, raw rookies could venture to the Majors and blend into the background somewhat, growing acclimated while the established Red Sox veterans—stars—soaked up attention and carried the burden of production. For instance, when Pedroia was promoted, Josh Beckett, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz were there to inform and advise, promote and protect. Similarly, Jacoby Ellsbury felt less pressure due to the presence of Jason Varitek, JD Drew and Kevin Youkilis. In both cases, the young guys weren’t expected to be immediate superstars, because the Sox already had that covered.

However, last year, who could Bogaerts learn from? Who could Bradley Jr. look to for advice and guidance? Aside from an increasingly surly Papi and an increasingly injured Pedroia, there was nobody to teach the neophytes, nobody to deflect the overbearing scrutiny, and nobody to lead a rudderless ship.

Thus, in 2014, the Sox had a galaxy of homegrown stars but, unlike years gone by, there was no sun about which it could orbit. Accordingly, the planet fizzled and died a horrid, 91-loss death.

Therefore, it was pleasing to see the Sox address their dire need for star power this winter, acquiring Hanley Ramirez and Pablo Sandoval to effectively re-grow the Red Sox veteran core and erect a new frame of reference for the team’s philosophy. Now, with genuine superstars attracting much of the attention and doing a majority of the heavy lifting, perhaps Bogaerts, Betts and Swihart will be afforded a little more breathing room. Liberated from the instant need to provide leadership and create drama, perhaps they’ll finally flourish as prospects, becoming stars in their own time and fashion, just like Ellsbury and Pedroia before them.

Why the Red Sox Need an Ace

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The Red Sox’ lack of a discernible ace has been one of the most hotly-discussed issues this spring. Whilst some fans have shown considerable frustration, a disproportionate amount have tried to glorify what is, essentially, the messy result of blowing negotiations with Jon Lester, crediting the front office for concocting a genius master plan that somehow wound up with Clay Buchholz likely taking the mound on Opening Day. Ultimately, if the Red Sox are serious about making, never mind lasting deep into, the postseason, I believe they need an ace. Right now, they don’t have one, which is a major problem.

John Farrell doesn’t see it that way. The manager has typically been very vocal in need an acebranding his rotation ‘underrated’ and expressing pleasure at his new found ability to send a proven Major League starter to the mound every day. Similarly, the media has, by and large, defended the Sox’ decision not to acquire an ace, pointing to the recent success of the ace-less Orioles and reminding people that none of the past 26 Cy Young Award winners have led their team to a World Series championship in the same year.

I understand that view. I respect that view. I just do not agree. Yes, specialized, hard-throwing bullpens and depleted offenses have diminished the need for elite starting pitching, but that need hasn’t entirely disappeared. In my opinion, every team still needs that one reliable warrior; that one defiant horse; that one true stopper anchoring the rotation. Right now, the Red Sox simply don’t have that guy.

With a 4.30 career ERA and a 1.359 career WHIP, Rick Porcello is the quintessential third or fourth starter. Wade Miley will eat innings, but his 4.34 ERA and 1.401 WHIP last year are less than inspiring. As for Buchholz, Joe Kelly and Justin Masterson? Well, nobody truly knows what to expect. They could be great; they could be horrible. There’s no way to tell.

What we do know is that none of those guys will overwhelm a rival lineup; none of them will throw the ball past opposing batters with consistent regularity; and none of them are likely to have an ERA below 3.00. In short, none of those guys is an ace befitting the Boston Red Sox.

I know we live in a highly analytical age, where an opinion unsubstantiated by sabermetric proof is scoffed at by the masses, but, quite frankly, I still believe there is a lot of value in the tangible, human, element of the game. Without doubt, there is value in having at least one starting pitcher everybody else is petrified of; one pitcher who opposing teams hope to avoid when they roll into town for a four-game series. Every great Red Sox team has had that scary warrior, that fire-breathing ace, from Roger Clemens and Pedro Martinez, to Curt Schilling, Josh Beckett and, most recently, Lester. Essentially, this current crop just isn’t in the same class, which is a sad departure from tradition.

All of the aforementioned legends were extremely adept at stopping regular season losing streaks, and each wrote a brilliant legacy in the postseason, when the value of an ace becomes truly apparent. We saw it last October, when Madison Bumgarner, a thoroughbred leader, put the Giants on his back and carried them to a third World Series title in five years. After watching such an incredible display, every baseball fan asked “who can do that for us?” With the season less than two weeks away, the Red Sox are still to provide an answer.

Pedro Martinez Elected to Hall of Fame

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On Tuesday, the voting results for the 2015 Major League Baseball Hall of Fame ballot were released and four players got in. Three of them were pitchers and first ballot Hall of Famers while the other was a third ballot and a utility player.
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Getting into the Hall of Fame this year included Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio. Martinez was a member of the Boston Red Sox for seven of his 18 big league seasons— longer than he spent with any other team in his career.

pedro martinezIn his prime, Pedro Martinez was one of the best pitchers in MLB history. Luckily for Boston Red Sox fans, all but one of his best seasons came as a member of the Red Sox.

From 1997 to 2003, Pedro Martinez was a robot. He was unreal. Winning 118 games while losing just 36 in that time span, Pedro made 201 appearances in that time frame, 199 of which were starts and struck out 1761 batters in 1408.0 innings while tossing 11 shutouts in the regular season. He won three Cy Young Awards in that span, all of which were well-deserved. Not to mention he kicked Don Zimmer’s ass in the 2003 ALCS.
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Although 2004 was not his best season (not by a long shot), he was a valuable contributor to the World Series Championship team. Going 16-9 on the year, he posted a 3.90 ERA in 33 starts and struck out 227 batters in 217 innings. In his lone World Series start, the then number-two starter tossed seven shutout innings in game three and struck out six guys while allowing just three hits and two walks in all.

In one of the best trades in Red Sox history, the team dealt away Carl Pavano and Tony Armas Jr. for the Hall of Famer in a deal they would do again 100 out of 100 times. That deal alone makes up for them trading Curt Schilling and Brady Anderson to the Baltimore Orioles and Jeff Bagwell to the Houston Astros.
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Congratulations to Pedro, he earned it.

Reflecting: 2004 ALCS 10 Years Later

Ten years ago tonight was a turning point for me personally as well as Red Sox Nation. 2004 world seriesSo, where should I begin this story?

2004 was a year of change. After serving 8 years in the U.S Marine Corps, I became a civilian once again and I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life as a civilian. Biding my time while I figured out life as a civilian, I continued selling programs at Fenway Park. Little did I know that my life would intertwine with the Red Sox to bring me to the point I’m at today in 2014.

It was a cold, crappy night in the Bronx. Some Sox fans told me that had seen Curt walk in and that he was warming up. I couldn’t believe my eyes, as I huddled around a  hot chocolate; sure enough, Curt Schilling was warming up to start game 6 of the ALCS.

As the game started and the innings rolled on, all of the screens in the stadium showed “the sock”, and this is all anyone was talking about. Fans on both sides expected the curse to rear it’s ugly head. But it never did and “Big Game Curt” came through. The Red Sox beat the Yankees 4-2.

Later that night, as I left the park, the media used words like “courage”, “strength”, “heart”. It was at that time that I learned what it really meant to be a Boston Red Sox fan.

When you’re in the moment, you don’t stop to smell the roses. When you’re in the big spot light, you don’t think, “What’s this gonna be like in 10 years?” You just roll with the punches. Looking back on it, I can’t believe how important that game, and the entire ’04 post season, was for me both personally and professionally. It was the start of something great for a company called Beantown Collectibles and, many years later, Yawkey Way Report.It was also the start of something great for Boston. No one suspected that it was the beginning of a string of World Series trophies for the BoSox (a total of three in the last 10 years), with a total of eight Championships in eleven years in Boston. No other city in the world can make that claim.

This truly is Title Town, USA.

10 years ago tonight— true grit and the bloody sock—what a ride it’s been for Red Sox Nation and for me.