Much has been made of Boston’s Opening Night Ceremonies last Sunday night. Most of it has revolved around five-year-old Joshua Sacco and his recitation of Herb Brooks’ speech from the movie “Miracle.” More specifically, the part where Brooks says “I’m so sick of hearing about what a great [hockey, replaced with baseball] team the [Russians, replaced with Yankees] have. Screw em!” But a far more meaningful moment came via the ceremonial first pitch. From behind an American flag, and walking on to the song “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins, emerged former Red Sox superstar Pedro Martinez. He walked to the mound slowly and jovially, drinking in the moment. He then tossed a not particularly aggressive pitch to his former teammate, catcher Jason Varitek. The signature drum bit of “In the Air Tonight” blasted, and the moment was complete.
Pedro Martinez last played at Fenway Park on June 28, 2006, during his tenure with the New York Mets. He was summarily defeated, giving up seven hits and six earned runs in just three innings of work. After the game, he reflected that while he enjoyed the experience of returning to Fenway, he would’ve preferred not to have played the game in the first place. It was a mediocre epilogue to what was a brilliant career with the Red Sox, one that included Cy Young awards, an All-Star Game MVP, and a world series ring. Bringing Pedro back to Fenway one last time was a nice way of reminding us how good a pitcher Pedro Martinez was, and what a quintessential Red Sox member he was as well.
This is not to say that he should be brought back. Pedro was a great pitcher, but the emphasis is on the word “was.” He attempted a comeback in 2009 with the Philadelphia Phillies, and he DID pitch well that season. However, injury prevented him from having a true season with the team. His longevity and durability are gone at this point. Also, he pitched in the National League. He did quite well, but against the New York Yankees in the World Series he went 0-2. Martinez struggled to beat the Yankees during his final season with the Red Sox as well. And considering they’re in Boston’s division, there is a significant danger to bringing in a pitcher who in all likelihood won’t win any of his starts against the primary rival of the Red Sox. Even if the rotation struggles, Pedro Martinez, another aging pitcher with durability issues, is not the answer. There will always be something either in Triple-A or on the trading block. It may not be vintage Pedro (what ever could be?), but it will likely be something that will be more than just a stop-gap measure for Boston.
Pedro Martinez may not realize it, but he has a golden opportunity to end his career on a high note. He pitched well for the Phillies, helping them get to the World Series, even if he couldn’t help them win it. He might have the strength left for a mediocre partial season, but he should resist the urge to try for it. Instead, he should just retire. Let him enter the Hall of Fame with dignity, not as a washed-up has-been who stayed in the league far too long. And let his final moment be one in a Red Sox uniform, the team with which he enjoyed the greatest period of his career.