The Boston Red Sox have spent the offseason rebuilding a beaten franchise. After more than a year of misery, General Manager Ben Cherington has cleaned out the cupboard and restocked the shelves. That includes a new manager, a new coaching staff, a new closer, four new starting position players, and several other pieces that will try to jump start an organization that hadn’t seen another last place finish in two decades. If all that reshaping wasn’t enough for Red Sox Nation to feel good about the team again, the return of a fan favorite might do it.
Special Assistant to the General Manager is an ambiguous role, but Pedro Martinez will be welcome back in Boston in any capacity. Pedro has been no stranger to returning to the city for various events since his retirement, but now he will do it to work for the organization with which he enjoyed incredible success. In fact, he may just be the best pitcher ever to wear a Red Sox uniform. In seven seasons in Boston, from 1998-2004, Martinez went 117-37, posted a 2.52 ERA, and averaged 240 strikeouts a season. He made four American League All-Star teams and won two AL Cy Young Awards.
Among his impressive accomplishments are one of the greatest single seasons ever by a pitcher in 1999, a 1.74 ERA in 2000, and the best ERA+ for a starting pitcher in MLB history. Some of his single game highlights include a 6-inning, no-hit relief performance with a bad back in Game 5 of the 1999 ALCS, a one-hitter in New York in 1999 that some considered the best game ever pitched in Yankee Stadium, and, of course, helping to lead the Red Sox to their first World Series title in 86 years by pitching seven shutout innings during the team’s Game three win. There was no shortage of moments that made his Red Sox career memorable.
What made Pedro stand out even more, though, was his infectious personality. Whether it was allowing himself to be taped to a dugout pole, standing up to the Yankees (“Who are you, Karim Garcia?”, “Wake up the damn Bambino and have me face him. Maybe I’ll drill him in the ass.”, forcing Don Zimmer to the ground in the 2003 ALCS), or making a pint-sized friend a ceremonial member of the Fenway clubhouse, he always endeared himself to Red Sox fans. He is a symbol of the happier days in Boston, those of The Idiots.
It is that part of Pedro’s return which is so intriguing. Gone is the culture of Josh Beckett, chicken, and beer. Pedro will bring a lighter, more fun presence to the Red Sox clubhouse which is needed now as badly as ever. And there are more high character players on the roster now to make an attitude change happen. Along with Jason Varitek, who holds a similar role with the team, the pair can re-establish a climate conducive to winning. They both know what it takes.
As for what his baseball duties will be, it appears they will vary. Cherington says, “Pedro will be involved in several areas, including the evaluation, mentorship, and instruction of young players in Spring Training and throughout the season.” It sounds like how much or little he can contribute will depend on his personal schedule. He has indicated he stills plans to spend a lot of time with his mother and children, so this will not be a full-time gig. But it does not need to be. That is what a manager and pitching coach are for.
Pedro, though, will still be an asset. Not only does his resume speak for itself, but he has a great baseball mind. As the Red Sox prepare to build for their future with their young prospects, the knowledge he can impart could be immeasurable. He is already close friends with budding star Rubby De La Rosa and one can only imagine that other up-and-comers will be clamoring to see one of the greatest pitchers of their generation. Surely, Boston brass will use that to their advantage.
Few organizations can say they have a teacher with credentials like Pedro’s on board and the Red Sox can, once again, boast that they do. Even though this is not a full-time, on-the-field, coaching position, he will still have an impact, especially for the younger players. But bringing him in continues to show Boston’s ownership’s need to change the narrative of the last 17 months. Pedro’s return shifts the attention to the glory years of the 21st century from the worst of them. At worst, the Red Sox learn Pedro is not as good an instructor as he was a pitcher. At best, he may help develop some young prospects into the leaders of future world championship teams.