Thursday, August 13, 2009

Yo! Pedro! Philly's What Your Plaque Should Show

With three Cy Young Awards, five ERA titles, and the highest winning percentage of any 200-game winner of the modern era, Pedro Martinez is a mortal lock for the Hall of Fame. He dominated batters in a Koufaxian run from 1997 to 2003 with a combination of power and finesse that decimated opponents' batting averages. And after a decade of mediocrity, the Boston Red Sox finally began their ascendancy when they acquired Pedro in 1998, culminating in the 2004 World Series championship, the franchise's first in 86 years.

Sure, Martinez's greatest years were spent in Beantown, where he tossed more than half of his career victories and won a bewildering 76% of his decisions. A Red Sox cap is the logical choice for Pedro's Hall of Fame plaque. And yes, Pedro initially achieved superstardom in Montreal, where he snared his first Cy Young Award, set numerous franchise records, and pitched a perfect game for nine innings before surrendering a hit in the 10th. Hence, perhaps a sentimental case can be made for immortalizing him as an Expo. So, although the Baseball Hall of Fame selects the induction plaque's logo "based on where that player makes his most indelible mark," I urge Martinez to choose—and the Hall of Fame to permit—Pedro's plaque to feature a Philadelphia Phillies cap.

After all, for a pitcher whose lowest career winning percentage with a franchise is .582, Martinez now sports a perfect 1.000 for the Fightin' Phils. But more than mere statistics, Martinez should go into the Hall of Fame as a Phillie—even if he never wins another game—because baseball needs to ensure the continuation of scandal and controversy. Our national pastime has seen plenty of ignominy in the last few decades—from the Pete Rose imbroglio to the cancellation of the 1994 World Series to the continuing steroid fiasco. Major League baseball has taken a bigger black eye than Tony Conigliaro thanks to the sordid doings of Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Raphael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Miguel Tejada, Jason Giambi, Jose Canseco, Kirk Radomski, Brian McNamee, Bud Selig, and many others.

But these disgraces won't last forever. Baseball has taken steps that have virtually rid the sport of current steroid use, and although steroids has irrevocably distorted the record book, fans seem to have forgiven and forgotten. Baseball needs scandal and controversy—each successive generation thrives on its layer of sludge that sullies baseball's history: the Black Sox, Steve Bartman and Jeffrey Maier, Hall of Fame cronyism, cocaine and amphetamines, the designated hitter, the spitter, interleague play, the 1951 Giants' sign-stealing, 1992's The Babe, and on and on...

What would we fans do without scandal? Take scandal out of baseball and what have you got? A bunch of guys running after a ball hit with a stick—an act dangerously close to that borefest known as golf. So if Pedro Martinez's plaque is mounted in the Hall of Fame Gallery displaying a Phillies cap, a juicy brouhaha is guaranteed circa 2016. And it won't come a moment too soon, sandwiched between the inevitable uproar over robot pinch-runners and the discovery that 600-HR slugger Manny Ramirez had been corking his dreadlocks.

I further suggest that the official language of Pedro's plaque read:

Los Angeles, N.L., 1992-1993
Montreal, N.L., 1994-1997
Boston, A.L., 1998-2004
New York, N.L., 2005-2008
Philadelphia, N.L., 2009

A promising pitcher who reached peak late in career, winning a seven-run blowout in Phillies debut. Debut victory for Philadelphia saw him achieve ERA 0.07 less than 46-year-old teammate he replaced. Garnered several major awards and a World Series title earlier in career, but most of the opposing batters had stayed out late the night before or had flu. Brilliant tenure with Phils vaulted team from 1st place to 1st place and made him one of the most beloved figures in Phillies history to wear No. 45. Made as many hits in first game with Philadelphia as he had in seven years with Boston. Debut victory gave Philadelphia 63rd win of season, enabling team to later achieve 64th—a feat impossible without his victory.

(Graphics wizardry courtesy of Mount Drinkmore's Dave.)

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