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Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Celebrating Pedro and the Tragedy of Nomar

Pedro Martinez was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame yesterday getting almost 92% of the votes. He becomes the first pitcher to be inducted into the Hall of Fame who spent the majority of his career with the Red Sox.

I wish I would have appreciated him more. I was a Roger Clemens fan from an early age and Dan Duquette was public enemy number one for me when he let Clemens walk after the 1996 season. Pedro showed up in 1998 as the new ace and I was reluctant to accept him. Clemens was my boyhood hero and as great as Pedro was, I would never give him his due.

I criticized his lack of endurance and how he threw Grady Little under the bus after the 2003 ALCS. Criticisms that were and are valid, but are far outweighed by his dominance.  His dominance can be summed up by looking at two stats, his won/loss record while with the Red Sox and his career ERA+. His record with the Red Sox was 117-37. That is just ridiculous! His career ERA + is the best in MLB history. It stands at 154 which means that his ERA was 54% lower than the league average while he pitched.

Then there is Nomar Garciaparra, my favorite all time player for the Red Sox. He passed Jim Rice and he passed Roger Clemens for me not too long after he broke in with the Red Sox in 1996. He was on pace to be a Hall of Famer and then it all changed. Nomar received 5.5% of the vote which means he will remain on the ballot. It is tough to admit that he is not HOF worthy. He just didn't do it long enough. His peak seasons were a different story.

Nomar has the highest career OPS among all shortstops who have had at least 5,000 at bats. The problem is Nomar barely had over 5,000 at bats while a guy like Derek Jeter had over 11,000.

Nomar is just one of six shortstops to have 6 seasons with 6+ WAR. The problem is that Nomar only had those 6 amazing seasons and not much after. Nomar appearing for the first time on the ballot brings all of this back and it makes it all very bittersweet.

Pedro and Nomar will always be linked. They were the stars of the Red Sox in the 90s. It is fitting that they both appeared on the Hall of Fame ballot together. It would have been much more fitting if they were being inducted together.

They shared many great days and nights. None were more special than October 11, 1999. It was the deciding game of the ALDS against the Indians. Pedro was hurt but was said to be available if the Sox needed him, maybe for a couple of innings. Nomar was battling a sore wrist and had to miss a game earlier in the series. Nomar was a monster in 1999, in that series and especially that night. He homered in his first at bat, was walked intentionally his next at bat and Troy O'Leary hit the next pitch for a grand slam.

Nomar was intentionally walked again in the 7th inning and O'Leary once again responded with a homer. In Nomar's last at bat they pitched to him, he drove in a run with a screaming double off the left field wall. I will never forget the look on the face of Mike Hargrove after the double. It was a look of pure defeat.

As for Pedro, he entered the game in the 4th inning of an 8-8 game that was out of control. Charles Nagy had been lit up for the Indians while Bret Saberhagen and Derek Lowe had been lit up for the Sox. The sore shouldered Martinez went the rest of the way. He faced 21 batters, struck out 8, walked 3 and did not allow a hit, The Red Sox would win the game 12-8 and the series 3-2. They would go on to face the Yankees in the ALCS. Nomar and Pedro were the two greatest players on the planet that night. They were sure-fire Hall of Famers that night, unfortunately the fire was extinguished prematurely for Nomar.

Here is the box score of that incredible game. On a side note, Kenny Lofton was injured in the game and his replacement was a guy named Dave Roberts. I wonder what he would be doing five years later...

If you have a couple of hours to kill, the entire game is available to watch. Here you go. You're welcome!



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