Pedro Martínez … in a Yankees uniform?
As surreal as that thought is, the possibility of Martínez pitching for the Red Sox’s biggest rivals might have come true -- in an alternate timeline. The Hall of Fame pitcher confirmed as much Tuesday during an AMA (ask-me-anything) session with Bleacher Report, admitting that he asked to be traded to the pinstripes on several occasions during the early days of his career with the Dodgers and Expos.
In response to a reader’s question asking if Martínez ever thought about playing for the Yankees, he responded, “Yes, all the time. I asked to be traded to the Yankees three times before I got to Boston. I was always in trade talks for three straight years. I was the last one left on [the] rotation, and when I was asked where I wanted to be, at that exact moment [the] Yankees were taking off. I wanted to be somewhere I could win.
“This is New York, where most of the Dominicans are,” Martínez continued. “I wanted to play for a team like that. They were always in the front line winning, they were a contending team. I asked to be traded to Cleveland, the Orioles, and I think San Francisco in the [National League] because Atlanta didn’t need me.”
Martínez began his career with the Dodgers, pitching alongside his older brother Ramón in Los Angeles until he was traded to the Expos in November 1993 for second baseman Delino DeShields. The right-hander blossomed into a star with Montreal, capturing his first NL Cy Young Award with a 1.90 ERA and 305 strikeouts in 1997, but he was a source of trade rumors on several occasions during his tenure with the club. The Expos eventually did trade Martínez to the Red Sox in November 1997, and the rest was history: The right-hander won a pair of AL Cy Young Awards with two of the most dominant pitching seasons ever in ‘99 and 2000, and helped the Red Sox capture their first World Series title in 86 years in ’04.
Martínez was at the center of several of the most famous moments of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry, of course, making his early career trade requests even more interesting in retrospect. He struck out 17 Yankees in the Bronx in one of his most dominant starts in 1999, was involved in a famous tussle with Yankees bench coach Don Zimmer during a game at Fenway Park in Game 3 of the 2003 ALCS and was at the center of a controversy concerning Red Sox manager Grady Little in Game 7 of that series. Martínez finished with an 11-11 record and 3.20 ERA across 32 career regular-season starts against the Bronx Bombers.
Martínez had several other notable answers in his Tuesday chat. He named 2019 Hall of Fame inductee Edgar Martínez as the hitter he least enjoyed facing, picked Aaron Judge as the hitter he’d like to strike out most (“He’s so imposing and so good,” said Martínez, “it would be a good rivalry”) and detailed what it was like to face Barry Bonds in his prime.
“It was different,” Martínez said. “Barry Bonds was perfect; you’re hoping for a mistake if you were going to challenge Barry Bonds. I did want to challenge him, keep him in the park, but I had be almost perfect in order to achieve that and get some outs [and] get some strikeouts. He was different that anyone else that played the game, the most complete player I ever faced.”