Reflections on Pedro Martinez’s Expos’ Career
By Ricky Keeler
On Tuesday afternoon, the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals found out that they would have a fourth player make it to the Hall Of Fame that once played for their franchise. He joins Gary Carter, Andre Dawson and Tony Perez. Pedro Martinez was elected as part of the four-player class for the 2015 Hall of Fame that will be inducted at Cooperstown, New York in July. He received 91.1% of the vote, which was second behind Randy Johnson’s 97.3%.
When the name Pedro Martinez comes up to any baseball fan, he is always remembered for his time with the Boston Red Sox. In fact, according to a recent article by Christian Red of the New York Daily News, the ace didn’t want to be a part of Montreal when he saw other players from those early 1990’s Expos’ teams going to other teams and winning:
"“I saw John Wetteland, Marquis Grissom, Larry Walker go to different teams. But the one that ended up winning most of the time was the Yankees.” (h/t NY Daily News)"
The article also mentioned that Martinez was almost traded to the New York Yankees “more than once.” He was eventually traded from Montreal to Boston in November of 1997 for a package that ended up being pitchers Tony Armas Jr. and Carl Pavano. However, let’s take a look back at Martinez’s career in Canada that saw him go 55-33 in four seasons with a 3.06 ERA.
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Pedro’s Expos’ career began when he was traded from the Los Angeles Dodgers in November of 1993 for second baseman Delino DeShields. He had spent two seasons with the Dodgers, but only made three starts out of his 67 appearances.
In Martinez’s four years in Canada, the team was over .500 twice, including the infamous shortened season in 1994. ’94 was Martinez’s first season with the Expos. During that year, he went 11-5 with a 3.42 ERA in 24 games (23 starts). He was second on the team in both wins and ERA behind Ken Hill (16-5, 3.32). He made his Expos’ debut on April 8, 1994 vs. the Cubs, and even in a loss, gave up just one run on three hits in six innings of work while striking out eight.
He didn’t get to pitch in the postseason that year despite Montreal’s 74-40 record, but he was tied for sixth in the National League in wins, fourth in K’s per nine innings, sixth in innings pitched, and fifth in strikeouts. In that shortened season, Pedro was 10-3 in his final 18 starts.
In 1995, Martinez went 14-10 with a 3.51 ERA in 30 starts, but his innings increased to 194.2 innings and the strikeout total went up by 32 to 174. Even with just 14 wins, Pedro was fifth in the NL in wins, three behind Hall-Of-Famer Greg Maddux and sixth in WAR for pitchers (4.6). He was fifth in K’s, fourth in K’s per nine, and top ten in innings pitched. Plus, his 30 starts were one short of the National League lead. Keep in mind, this was on an Expos’ team that finished 66-78.
In 1996, the Expos finished 88-74, but missed out on the Wild Card, falling two games behind the Los Angeles Dodgers. Martinez went 13-10 with a 3.70 ERA in 33 starts. He was second on the team in wins behind Jeff Fassero’s 15. In fact, he tied Fassero with 222 K’s and trailed him in innings pitched (231.2 for Fassero to 216.2 innings for Pedro).
Those strikeout totals were tied for third in the National League, behind Hideo Nomo and Hall-Of-Famer John Smoltz. However, Martinez’s end of 1996 wasn’t exactly his best as he went 6-7 over his final 15 starts after being 7-3 in the first half of the season.
Finally, we get to Martinez’s historic 1997 NL Cy Young season, the first of his three Cy Youngs. In that year, Pedro went 17-8 with a 1.90 ERA, which included 13 complete games and four shutouts! He had the best WAR of any starter (9.0) that year and the third best WAR of any NL player behind Hall-Of-Famer Craig Biggio and Larry Walker. He had the best ERA and K’s per nine in the NL, fourth in innings pitched, and second in K’s (305) behind Phillies’ starter Curt Schilling.
Even though Montreal finished 78-84 that season and fourth in the NL East, they had two of the best pitchers in terms of complete games and shutouts with Martinez and Carlos Perez, who threw eight complete games and five shutouts.
When you dissect Martinez’s historic 1997 season, keep in mind that he received 0-2 runs of support in 12 of those starts and he was actually a slightly better pitcher away from Olympic Stadium (8-3, 1.78 ERA) as opposed to at home (9-5, 1.99). In that voting, he received 25 of the 28 first place votes. Greg Maddux received the other three votes.
He had 14 K’s in one start back on June 14, 1997 against the Detroit Tigers in a complete game, 3-hit shutout. As far as the strikeouts go, he had 13+ K’s in five of his starts and double digit K’s in 18 of his 31 outings, during which the team went 19-12.
So, while Martinez will likely don the Red Sox cap in Cooperstown this July, it does not mean that his four years with the Expos should not be forgotten. Especially, since he gets inducted on the same day that Dawson got elected five years ago.