Part 44 of our 50-year Mango tree...
What makes it interesting: YUCK! the '04s were bad enough, so of course Topps went out and made it even worse when they vomited up this '05 crapfest. Rather than the team name on top, they've emblazoned the player name across the top (which is especially bad when your last name is "ISRINGHAUSEN" or "MIENTKIEWICZ"), and topped off this shit stew with sideways names on the side. Awful, awful awful all around.
The Mets were pretty awful, too, when Pedro Martinez signed with them on December 17th, 2004. After already establishing himself as a Hall of Fame-caliber talent and a Met Killer in his days with the Expos, Pedro Martinez was fresh off being a part of the Red Sox first World Series Championship in 86 years. A multiple Cy Young Award winner, Pedro was still capable of being the dominant badass he was for so many years when he was healthy. Problem was, he wasn't always healthy. Though just 33, Pedro had plenty of mileage on his arm. The 4 year contract he received was risky. But it was worth it. By going the extra yard for Pedro, Pedro brought his star to the Mets and new General Manager Omar Minaya, and opened the door for other big-name Free Agents to want to join him. Within two seasons, Minaya had re-made the Mets roster from also-rans into frontrunners, and Pedro's arrival was what kicked it off.
The Mets got off to a disastrous 0-5 start in 2005 before Pedro threw a complete game to beat the Braves for their first victory. The next day, fans at Shea Stadium for the Home Opener greeted him with a minute-long standing ovation. Later that day, a mechanical sign in Center Field got stuck while displaying a photo of Pedro. Cameras then caught Pedro in the dugout laughing and dancing and hamming it up. Pedro was a magnificent showman just as much as he was a magnificent pitcher. Pedro's starts were met with the kind of enthusiasm not seen since the days of Dwight Gooden. In one stretch in June, Pedro was on the mound when the sprinklers went off mid-game at Shea, he then nearly no-hit the Astros, and then threw 8 innings en route to beating the Yankees. In September, Pedro also shut out the Braves. Pedro stayed healthy all year in 2005, and the end result was 15 wins (that could have been more), a 2.82 ERA, a league-leading WHIP of 0.95 and 208 strikeouts in 217 innings. Mets fans were in love.
2006 started off just as well for Pedro. He won his 200th career game in April, and started the season 5-0. But unfortunately, though the Mets stayed hot, Pedro seemed to fizzle out with a number of no-decisions. He pitched well, though, and his efforts included a duel with Arizona's Brandon Webb that remained scoreless until the 13th inning. Pedro was selected to another All Star Game that year, but by that time he found himself on the DL after injuring his hip in Florida. Martinez found himself on the DL again in August, and over the second half of the season had generally been ineffective. Nonetheless, most figured he'd be around come the playoffs. But this was not the case. After three very poor starts in September, Martinez was diagnosed with a torn Rotator Cuff, ending his 2006 season, and putting his 2007 season in serious jeopardy. This was the kind of injury the Mets feared when he was signed, but nonetheless, it remained a risk worth taking. The loss of Martinez loomed large, as the Mets scrambled to line up their starting rotation through the Postseason.
Without Pedro in 2007, the Mets got off to a hot start and then sputtered their way through the Summer. Pedro didn't make his season debut until September 3rd, and only made 5 starts. But he made them count, going 3-1, only losing his final start to the Cardinals after pitching his heart out for 7 innings while his teammates could score no runs.
After the dust settled from 2007, Pedro was still around for one more season. With Johan Santana aboard, Pedro was no longer counted on to be the Ace, which was probably a good thing since Pedro just wasn't at that level anymore. Nonetheless, an aging Pedro was still better than most, and Pedro was more than happy to be 1A to Santana's 1. But the real question was if he could just last the season. Turned out, he couldn't even last his first start, injuring his hamstring in the second game of the season and not returning until June. Valiantly, Pedro finished out the season, often making it through starts with less than his best stuff and relying on his guts and his brain rather than his stuff. This mostly resulted in losses and no-decisions, often because the Mets porous bullpen would cough up the lead that he'd leave with. As the season wore down to its frustrating end, Pedro was on fumes. He lost three straight games in September before his final start on September 25th. With the Mets in desperate need of a win on a rainy Thursday Night, Pedro took the mound for what would ultimately be his Swan Song with the Mets. Though he gave up 3 runs in the 1st inning, he eventually settled down and gutted his way into the 7th inning, long enough for the Mets to tie the game. With 2 men on, Pedro was removed from the game. As he always did, Pedro tapped his chest and pointed to the sky as he walked off the mound. The fans, sensing that this might be the last time they'd see him with the Mets, rose in appreciation. As he approached the dugout, Pedro held his arms high and waved them around Shea, saluting the fans who had been so appreciative of him and everything he brought to the team in his 4 years here.
Then, Ricardo Rincon came into the game and gave up a 3-run Home Run on his first pitch. But the Mets won the game. But we know how it all ended.
In his 4 seasons with the Mets, Pedro Martinez was 32-23 with 3.88 ERA and 464 Strikeouts. But his contributions to the Mets clearly went far beyond the stat sheet. Bringing Pedro Martinez in made the Mets relevant again and signaled the beginning of one of the more interesting, if ultimately unfulfilling eras in Mets history.