ROXBURY, Mass. — Pedro Martinez is as confident about David Ortiz’s Hall of Fame chances as he is about striking out Karim Garcia: There is no doubt.
“Is David a Hall of Famer?” Martinez asks. “He’s a Hall of Famer.”
But while Martinez may not be ready to see “Big Papi” retire, he stressed that he is at peace knowing it is a decision that his former teammate made for himself.
“He’s the one choosing the time to go away,” Martinez says. “I don’t know that I would have liked him to go this year—maybe one more so that he could separate himself from any doubts of becoming a first-ballot Hall of Famer. That’s the only sad thing, but only David knows inside how he feels and why he’s doing it. As much as we love baseball, the other things that go away from the field also have some influence. Maybe David is tired of dealing with some other issues away from the game. I’m not saying that’s the truth, but you never know.
“After I lost my dad, I lost a little bit of interest. Who knows what’s happening with David, but I wish him well. We’re all sad to see him go, but everybody has a time, and baseball just keeps going.”
Yankees fans may disagree, but “Who’s Your Daddy?” has a much different meaning when it comes to the camaraderie between Martinez and Ortiz, who played together in Boston in 2003 and '04.
“I’m a proud papa,” Martinez says. “He has so much respect for me that I can say I’m almost like a father. I’m extremely happy that this moment has arrived [and] has found David in good shape, in good health, and hopefully he’s really sure about this decision.
“I wasn’t sure when I did it. But once I got home and I got a big hug from the family and [spent] time with the family, I was sure I didn’t want to come back. I just hope that it’s the same way for David, that he’s OK with it, and he learns how to leave. That was the toughest adjustment I had to make. The first two years were really difficult, so I hope he doesn’t miss it as much.”
Martinez gave his thoughts on Ortiz to a media throng at the Reggie Lewis Center in Roxbury to help launch a new girl’s baseball program at The BASE, a local sports nonprofit for kids, a day after sitting in on a class at Harvard University. Martinez, who works as a special assistant to the Red Sox and as an analyst for MLB Network and Turner Sports, then sat down with SI.com for a brief one-on-one interview. He admitted that he was aware Ortiz had contemplated retirement and that he was not surprised by the decision.
“I’m really close with David and I hear him every day saying, ‘Maybe I should go, maybe I should not,’” Martinez says. “I just made sure I told him, ‘David, the day you go away from the game, don’t do it like I did.’ I went out thinking I was just going to get a little rest, and then I would decide along the way whether I’d come back or not. I never had the chance to tell the fans, tell everybody, tell baseball how much I love them and how much I appreciate them. So I learned from my mistake and I was sure to tell David to make sure he announced it and make sure he has at least a year to say goodbye to everybody, to say goodbye to the memories, and say goodbye to baseball. I’m pretty sure David is going to do it on my behalf. And he’s going to say to all of you, including the media, who is sometimes in our face, thank you. Thank you to the fan base, the people that push us every day to become the best that we can become.”
Martinez’s heart beats so strong for Boston that he is not affected by the fans seemingly happy about Ortiz's impending retirement.
“The connection to Boston, from the first day to the last day—until the last day I live—it will always be there,” Martinez says. “If I can talk to Jesus Christ about Boston and the legacy and the fan base and the team, I'll do that.”
Martinez, whose natural charm and effervescent personality were on full display, believes that God is, in fact, a Red Sox fan.
“He must be, because he loves me dearly,” a smiling Martinez says. “And he loves these people here.”