Losing His Fastball--And More With beanballs and threats, an ebbing Pedro Martinez tossed away his reputation

October 19, 2003

The most sacred rules in baseball, the ones that engender the
severest consequences, are the unwritten ones. Those rules of
engagement are clear on the matter of brushback pitches: Any
pitch thrown near the batter's head is a serious breach of honor.
So when one of the most successful pitchers of our time,
righthander Pedro Martinez, violated the code last Saturday in
Game 3 of the American League Championship Series, Bob Watson,
baseball's disciplinary czar, was the least of his concerns.
Martinez's stature inside the game, just like the stuff he had
brought to the mound that day, was diminished. Worse, he had lit
a fire under the New York Yankees.

Not even Martinez's Boston Red Sox teammates defended him after
he whistled a fastball behind the right ear of Yankees outfielder
Karim Garcia in the fourth inning. Later he made what was thought
to be a threatening gesture--pointing to his right temple--during
a shouting match with Yankees catcher Jorge Posada.

"I'm going to be egotistical here," Yankees special adviser and
Hall of Fame outfielder Reggie Jackson said of Martinez after the
game. "If he's going to be one of us, one of the Hall of Famers,
you don't do that. Gibson, Palmer, Hunter, Seaver, Koufax,
Clemens--and yes, Clemens is right there with them--they don't do
that, pointing at your head. It's sad to see."

The Red Sox had handed Martinez a 2-0 lead, but he didn't have
the ammunition to protect it and ended up the loser in the
Yankees' 4-3 win. The Yankees took aggressive swings, including
one by Hideki Matsui in the fourth that resulted in a ringing RBI
double to break a 2-2 tie. Martinez's next pitch whizzed toward
Garcia's helmet and hit him on the back of his left shoulder. "He
was absolutely trying to hit me," Garcia said. "He's got good
control, and all of a sudden he throws at my head."

The next day Martinez offered this alibi: "I was just trying to
make sure I got a fastball up and in....I just held on to the
ball too long." As for his gesture to Posada, Martinez said he
had objected to the language the Yankees' catcher had used and
pointed to his head because "I told him in Spanish, 'I will
remember what you said.'"

The Yankees, however, saw frustration and desperation in
Martinez. "He was throwing 88 miles an hour, without life on the
ball," lefthander Andy Pettitte said.

The idea of a hittable Martinez scares Boston more than the
notion that he's a renegade. One Boston front-office source
suggested after Game 3 that Martinez may have a small tear in his
shoulder that "he should get fixed....I think he knows his stuff
isn't the same, and it scares him. But what he did today, it
disappointed me. I can't rebuke what the Yankees said." --T.V.