Martinez 1999 or 2009?
I said at the time that I thought the Phillies were hoping he simply would be better than Jamie Moyer, whose 5.47 ERA was the second-highest in baseball. If Martinez wasn’t, the Phillies always could release him because they only guaranteed him about $900,000.
His salary has been a bargain to this point. Martinez went a combined 17-15 with a 4.75 ERA the previous three seasons with the Mets. He is 5-0 with a 2.87 ERA in seven starts with the Phillies, and 3-0 with a 1.66 ERA in his last three — despite the fact he had not pitched since last season and had one rehab start and two regular-season starts shortened because of rain. Like Rich Dubee said last week, Martinez has not had a lot of mound time.
But Martinez allowed six hits and two walks and struck out seven in eight scoreless innings last night in a 1-0 victory over the Mets. He threw 130 pitches. It was the first time he had thrown 130 pitches since May 1, 2001. It was just the 21st time he had thrown that many pitches in his career.
I had heard people say they hoped Martinez pitched well with the Phillies because he is good for baseball. I was not completely certain what they meant. Was it because he is one of the greatest pitchers in baseball history? Of course, but I learned it was more than that. He is a rare player who is bigger than the game. He is larger than life. I remember during his press conference after his first start last month at Wrigley Field. Somebody asked him if he could recapture his Cy Young magic and help this team win.
“I’ve been there,” he said. “For this club, what I’m lacking right now, I might give them at the end. Experience. A cold-blooded person that doesn’t matter how big the game is. I’m going to stand right there. And if anybody fails, they can always count on the old goat to go out there and kind of stand up. I might do that.”
You have to be a little bit of a bad a– to say that and mean it. Most players are uber conservative in what they say publicly, which is understandable. They’re superstitious to a degree. They know how quickly things can turn. Martinez knows those things, too. He has struggled, but he remains supremely confident and unafraid to speak from the heart. He believes when he is healthy, he is a cold-blooded killer on the mound. You say stuff like that then back it up? That is why he is good for baseball.
But can he keep it up?
“I know the toughest games are yet to come,” he said that night at Wrigley. “Come September and October, those are the games that I’m really setting my mind for.”