When Pedro Martinez stormed into Boston in 1998, the Red Sox pitcher energized the team and its fans, setting Fenway on fire with spectacular performances. Hopefully, his return — as special assistant to the general manager — can have a similar impact on a team that’s struggling to emerge from a deep funk.
Martinez, whose playing career ended in 2009, won 117 games over seven seasons with the Sox, but the numbers alone don’t do him justice. Martinez played at the height of the steroid era, pitching against drug-enhanced opponents, and surely would have had even stronger numbers on a level playing field. And Martinez’s golden statistics don’t reflect the impact of his mercurial personality on both fans and teammates. In the clubhouse, he was a colorful, fun-loving presence. A Martinez start at Fenway Park circa 1998, with a sea of fans waving Dominican flags, looked a lot different than a buttoned-down game in 2012.
“I’ll say the atmosphere on the field will be my biggest legacy,” Martinez said of his Red Sox days. “It was not just the mix of the players, but of the fans. It’s like a good bar. When it opens, it’s more fun than any other place. That was the atmosphere in Boston.”
If the moribund Sox are seeking to rekindle that atmosphere after two woeful seasons, they’ve picked the right man.